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Chapel Hill board antics catch accreditor’s eye

RALEIGH (February 8, 2023) – UNC-Chapel Hill will soon be asked to explain its Board of Trustees’ move to create a new program without consulting its faculty, the president of the University’s accrediting agency said yesterday.

“We’re waiting for them to explain that, because that’s kind of not the way we do business,” Belle Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), told a panel studying ways to improve governance of the UNC System.

Wheelan said her agency – which accredits colleges and universities in 11 Southern states – started asking questions after reports that the UNC-Chapel Hill board pushed to create a new School of Civic Life and Leadership without first consulting with the university’s faculty or administration.

Specifically, the board’s resolution “requests that the administration of UNC-CH accelerate its development of a School of Civic Life and Leadership, potentially nested within an existing college or school.”

But Wheelan said development of new programs is the responsibility of the faculty.

“The institutions hire faculty because they are the experts in the curriculum,” she said. “That’s why we think new programs should come from the faculty.”

The accreditors have questions of UNC-Chapel Hill’s board: “How come you’re in the curriculum when you have a faculty?” Wheelan said.

If SACSCOC doesn’t receive adequate answers, she said, it could send a team to help the university deal with governance issues or place the institution on “warning” status.

WHEELAN MADE HER COMMENTS as part of a broader discussion of the proper role for board members with the UNC Governance Commission appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper after multiple instances of poor governance in the UNC System.

The UNC Board of Governors is appointed by state legislators, and the Board of Trustees at each of the 17 campuses is appointed by the legislature and the Board of Governors.

Board members’ role is to hire an executive, and if necessary, fire that executive; and to ask questions, Wheelan said.

“Eyes in, hands off,” she said.

In a slide entitled “What a Board Member is NOT,” she listed:

Solver of all problems;
One who is able to decide – only the full board can make decisions; or
One who runs the institution.

When a board member hears complaints, “You should not try to fix it. Your first response should be, ‘Have you talked to the president?’” Wheelan said. “That’s why you have a president.” 

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Goldstein and Snider: How not to start a new School of Civic Life at UNC-Chapel Hill

By Buck Goldstein and William Snider

CHAPEL HILL (February 2, 2023) – On Jan. 26, the chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees announced plans to launch a college within a college called the “School of Civic Life and Leadership” with 20 new faculty devoted to the effort.

To say the UNC community was surprised is an understatement. Neither the faculty, administration or even the UNC System office had heard of this plan to create a new school out of whole cloth. The trustees’ actions tear up longstanding, well codified principles of university governance and replace civil discourse with secrecy and confrontation. Their tactics make the proposal, in its current form, radioactive at best and possibly dead on arrival.

As Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at a Jan. 30 Faculty Executive Committee meeting, plans for new academic initiatives are generated by faculty in response to needs in emerging areas of knowledge. Example: the new school of Data Science and Society at UNC. Establishing it has been a major undertaking over several years with multiple faculty committees identifying needs of students and N.C. employers, defining a body of knowledge to be taught, coordinating proposed courses across departments, establishing requirements for degree completion, and planning recruitment of faculty.

In contrast, the trustees’ approach concerning the School of Civic Life seems almost an act of self-sabotage. 

Great universities are about open and transparent dialogue and debate, just what the trustees claim to support. But the resolution announcing the new school was kept a secret. No one on campus, including the Chancellor, Provost or Chair of the Faculty knew anything about it. Even UNC System President Peter Hans was kept in the dark.

The inevitable conclusion from this veil of secrecy is that the resolution was an attempt to wrest control of academic decision making from the faculty.

To make matters worse, Board of Trustees chair David Boliek implied without evidence that faculty do not have the ability to facilitate civil discourse in the classroom because they are typically registered Democrats or Independents. His remedy is to hire 20 faculty he calls “right of center.” Rhetoric belittling faculty is not a great way to introduce the idea of a new school to those who likely must approve and implement its creation.

The well-orchestrated campaign to vet the new school in the media was an approach that only adds to the toxicity that surrounds it. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial, with quotes, supporting the new school only hours after the trustees’ resolution was approved. The next day Boliek provided an interview on Fox News where he stated that most faculty are left of center and this new school aims to balance that out by hiring faculty who are right of center. 

Introducing a political element in hiring faculty may play well on Fox, but it is toxic to the concept of academic freedom.



NC’s on a roll – but 31,000 graduates short

RALEIGH (February 6, 2023) – North Carolina’s economy is on a roll. But we’re still 31,000 graduates short of where we need to be to fill the jobs rolling into the state,  according to a goal state leaders set in 2019.

“When we talk to the CEOs … the three most important issues that they want to talk about are workforce, workforce, and workforce,” Gov. Roy Cooper told attendees Monday at an event sponsored by myFutureNC.

The nonprofit is a coalition of business, education, nonprofit, religious and political leaders that adopted a goal of 2 million North Carolinians ages 25-44 with a college degree or credential by 2030.

Cooper noted dramatic vacancies this year among K-12 teachers, bus drivers and early-childhood instructors. One-quarter of early-education teachers don’t even have health insurance, he said. And the state ranked 34th in teacher pay in 2020-21.

“We’ve got to make sure that we invest, pay them, and treat them like the professionals they are,” Cooper said. He added that educators must embrace the whole child – including children who don’t know whether they’ll sleep in a safe place from one night to the next.

“We’ve got to have the resources to do it,” he said. “We’ve got to stop with the tax cuts to the wealthy. The math doesn’t add up.

“We need to stop it. We don’t need (tax cuts) for economic growth and development. They are coming – they are coming in droves.”

Business leaders are lobbying the state for investments in both early-childhood education and higher education, an animated Cooper said, “but business leaders know you’ve got to be able to pay for it.”

AFTER ANNOUNCEMENTS from Apple, Google, Toyota, Boom Supersonic and Wolfspeed in the past year, employers do indeed seem to be flocking to the state. And the state was ranked No. 1 in the country for its business environment by CNBC last year.

Yet North Carolina now ranks 50th among the states for the percentage of its GDP it devotes to education.

And out of 100 of today’s 9th-graders, only 28 will become a college graduate:

“Twenty-eight out of 100 is not nearly enough to meet the 2 million jobs” that will require a credential or degree by 2030, said Cecilia Holden, President and CEO of myFutureNC. “We need 440,000 more people with degrees or credentials to meet 2 million by 2030.”

At the end of 2022, the state was 31,000 graduates short of the number it needs at this point to fill those jobs, Holden said.


RALEIGH – NC needs 5,000 more teachers; vacancies up almost 60%
CHAPEL HILL – What’s next after UNC board proposed School of Civic Life? Here’s what we know.
WINSTON-SALEM – Our view: Speaking of 'echo chambers'
RALEIGH – UNC Trustees: We want to fix higher ed, starting in Chapel Hill
RALEIGH – At UNC, conservatives claim they’re oppressed, so they’re oppressing the faculty
GREENVILLE – ECU faculty chair raises concerns about policy on political activities
NC POLICY WATCH – David Rice of Higher Ed Works discusses challenges facing North Carolina public education
NC POLICY WATCH – NC ranks 48th in school funding. Education advocacy group says it's high time for lawmakers to fix that problem.
RALEIGH – Draughon Draws: What about the right to a quality education?
RALEIGH – NC bill to make State Board of Education elected — not appointed — passes committee
RALEIGH – There’s a shortage behind the NC teacher shortage, and it’s a crisis for our schools
RALEIGH – What makes a good school? NC school leaders eye new way of measuring school quality
CHAPEL HILL – Journalism society co-founded by Nikole Hannah-Jones announces move from UNC
NC POLICY WATCH – Conservative commentator endorses loony suggestion for the UNC system
RALEIGH – Eastern Wake may get more magnet schools. But will that lure families out of charters?
RALEIGH – North Carolina surges to No. 4 in nation for tech occupations, new report finds
RALEIGH – Cheating or working smarter? How colleges, universities and school are coping with students using AI technology for writing assignments
RALEIGH – NCSU researchers propose fourth signal color for autonomous vehicles
GREENSBORO – GTCC to host info sessions about new advanced manufacturing program
ASHEVILLE – Cecil estate provides $3.1 million gift to Rural Community Scholarship Program for WNC high school seniors
FAYETTEVILLE – Need money for school? FTCC may have a scholarship solution
CULLOWHEE – WCU and Central Piedmont CC sign memorandum of understanding for automatic admission
SHELBY – Tom Campbell: Why NC needs rural hospitals and health clinics
THE NEW YORK TIMES – ‘Bad apples’ or systemic issues?
THE NEW YORK TIMES – The College Board strips down its A.P. curriculum for African American Studies
RALEIGH – Doomsday author’s law: ‘Even when something must obviously happen, people often refuse to do it’
FAYETTEVILLE – How Fayetteville’s Joshua Williams can make history with Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl

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