‘A Carolina Calling’
In his opening remarks, Chairman John P. Preyer emphasized the importance of the University’s leading American higher education on many fronts, including research, teaching, athletics, the arts, debate, and democracy.
“It stands to reason that America’s first public university should also be the first in freedom of thought, view, conscience, speech, and, most especially, civil discourse,” Preyer said. “In a time of stark division of perspective and opinion, oftentimes highly contentious, we have a historic opportunity to lead our nation through a first-of-its-kind school and curriculum: the School of Civic Life and Leadership. … The stakes are enormous; the promise is immense. Public higher education has no greater purpose – and Carolina is leading the way. This unique endeavor is truly a ‘Carolina Calling.’
“…People across this country are watching closely to see what Carolina does with this calling. They know that we are uniquely positioned to offer real academic leadership in civil debate backed by institutional courage to show the country how it can and should be done. Our country – and many places around the world – desperately need this right now. We all need to learn how to listen better so that we can understand each other better and, through that exercise, build respect and trust with one another while embracing each other’s differences.”
In remarks a bit later, Chancellor Guskiewicz thanked Chairman Preyer for his observations. “I couldn’t agree more,” Guskiewicz said. “Carolina must continue to lead in all of these areas.”
The Chancellor also welcomed new trustees Bradford B. Briner and Vimal P. Kolappa to the Board. “I know I speak for my leadership team, and we very much look forward to working alongside you and this entire Board to lead this great university that we love. I look forward to spending a little more time over the next few weeks with you as well.”
Israel and Gaza
Chancellor Guskiewicz also addressed concerns on campus about the war in Israel and Gaza.
“As I said in a campus message last month, we will not stand for acts of violence on our campus,” the Chancellor said. “While we have a commitment to allow groups to express their opinions under the First Amendment, we all deserve to live and work on our campus safely, without fear of being targeted by hate speech. Twice this semester, we’ve shared information with our campus to make sure our community understands how to exercise these rights within our policies and laws. And I’ll be honest with you, and I know I speak for others in the room today: I have been disappointed by some of the messaging that we’ve seen on our sidewalks and in social media posts that target and is hurtful to members of our community. It’s not helping us to build our community together and to better understand the complexities of the conflict in the Middle East. We’ve just sent another message to the campus this morning, reminding everyone of our expectations.
“Having said that, I’m very proud of the ways that so many people are responding to support our community: members of our leadership team, the Provost’s Office, deans. I’ve met with and listened to so many students, student organizations, faculty, staff, members of the surrounding community representing a variety of perspectives and concerns. And I’ve appreciated all of you who have reached out and talked to me and members of our leadership team about what you’re hearing and what we could be doing better to support our community. We have focused on direct engagement to listen and ensure members of the community that resources are available to support their safety. We have found that these conversations are probably more meaningful and effective in addressing the needs of our people on campus than any one email message can accomplish, but it’s a combination of both of these things that I think are important.
“This approach aligns with the principles of neutrality that this Board, the [UNC System] Board of Governors, and the legislature have committed to in support of the free exchange of ideas and perspectives. I want to commend our Campus Police for maintaining order on our campus and diligently pursuing reports of any unlawful activity, which I’m grateful to say have been few. Our faculty and students are leading, engaging in thoughtful discussions and debates across campus. We’re fortunate to have one of the best Centers for Middle East and Islamic Studies here at Carolina. We have an incredible Center for Jewish Studies.
“And, as you well know, we have something that I like to talk about as being uniquely Carolina, which is our Program for Public Discourse, where we model civil discourse. It’s great that we have these three resources to come together. We have some of the leading scholars in the country on these issues, and we have an opportunity to lead in educating and modeling civil discourse on this issue, helping society to better understand these events and the challenges they’ve created globally and locally. There is, of course, more to be done, but I’m proud of the way our community has stepped up.”
Amy McConkey, the University’s Director of State Legislative Affairs, gave the Board’s External Relations Committee an update on congressional and state legislative redistricting and planned leadership changes in the NC State House. She also discussed a provision in the new state budget that limits future new matching state funding of Distinguished Professorships to scholars in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and math.
Chancellor Guskiewicz, himself a Distinguished Professor, said he was working to understand the reasons for the law and its implications. “While we’re grateful for the longstanding support for distinguished professorships from our donors and the legislature, like many of you I’ve heard from, I, too, was disappointed to learn of this recent change. However, these recent changes in state funding won’t diminish the value of Distinguished Professorships at UNC-Chapel Hill or our commitment to continue raising private funding to support Distinguished Professorships across all disciplines here at Carolina. We’re fortunate to have a variety of funding sources and donors, and the University will continue to have a variety of professorships to support outstanding scholarship in the arts, the social sciences, humanities, and other non-STEM areas.
“…We appreciate any funding that the state is able to provide for professorships at Carolina, and we will continue to look to private funding to fill any gaps in matching support. At Carolina, our students in all areas of study enjoy a comprehensive education that provides them opportunities to build well-rounded skills to serve as the leaders of our future. Humanities, arts, social sciences, and STEM fields are all part of our rich academic tradition, and professorships at Carolina will continue to reflect that breadth of study.”
Trustee Jones expressed his concern about the new change in future state funding of distinguished professorships to exclude scholars in the humanities. “The reinstatement of Distinguished Professorships in the Humanities should be a rallying point for the entire Carolina Community,” he said. “Pursuing this goal, however, with calls of either moral outrage or the use of demeaning tropes will likely be both unsuccessful and counter-productive.
“To win this debate we must ask, and answer, hard questions. Why has society at large devalued the humanities, and what changes should we make to alter this perception? After fully contemplating these questions, we can use this as an opportunity to re-instill an appreciation of the overall value and importance of the humanities in higher education.”
The full Board heard a thorough presentation from William Hathaway, M.D., CEO of UNC Health Sciences’ Mountain Area Health Education Center, on the organization’s multifaceted efforts to improve medical care and public health in the state’s westernmost counties.
The Board’s External Relations Committee heard a thought-provoking presentation from Heather Mac Donald, a Manhattan Institute scholar, on the University’s response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling against general racial preferences in higher-education affirmative action programs and policies. She commended the University for its commitment to following the law. Mac Donald discussed admissions standards, standardized testing, minority retention, meritocracy, and race disparities and skills gaps. A spirited trustee discussion ensued.
Chairman Preyer and Chancellor Guskiewicz presented the University’s 2023 William Richardson Davie Awards to: Terrence V. Burroughs, William W. Cobey Jr., Edith A. Hubbard, Charles E. Lovelace Jr., Genna Rae McNeill, and Dwight D. Stone.
Heterodox Academy Award
UNC-Chapel Hill was recently awarded the 2023 Heterodox Academy’s Open Inquiry Award for Institutional Excellence (jointly with UNC-Charlotte), “for its myriad successes in promoting free expression on its campuses and serving as role models for other research institutions.”
The board received another national award recently for promoting diversity of thought and open, unfettered debate on campus.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s Jerry L. Martin Prize for Excellence in Trusteeship, named for the nonprofit organization’s founding president, honored UNC-CH’s volunteer board for adopting a policy of institutional neutrality on political issues and for urging the acceleration of the administration’s proposal for a new School of Civic Life and Leadership.
“There is light in the darkness,” Michael B. Poliakoff, ACTA’s President and CEO, said as he presented the award on the eve of the organization’s annual conference in Washington. “As a board, the Chapel Hill trustees have walked a straight path, one of integrity and courage.”
Chancellor Guskiewicz congratulated the Board of Trustees for receiving the ACTA award.
Coach Matson’s Triumph
Erin Matson, the rookie coach of Carolina’s field hockey team and the most highly decorated Tar Heel athlete ever, told the full board of her appreciation and admiration for her mentor and former coach, Karen Shelton. Coach Matson emphasized the importance of a collective commitment to excellence, teamwork based on trust and confidence, and the Carolina community’s deep love of UNC-Chapel Hill.
“The main reason we are all in this room together is our love for this place: Carolina, Chapel Hill,” Matson said. “I couldn’t be more in love with it. It is what motivates us, it’s what drives us. There is something about this place – and Tar Heels know it, but the Dookies know it, the Wolfpack know it. It’s something magical that you feel when you enter the bubble of this town. There’s no other fan base like it, there’s no other student body, alumni network, Board of Trustees. There’s no other teams that look as beautiful or feel as empowered as when they put on the Carolina blue. And we are so grateful.”
Matson thanked University leaders for hiring her as the coach of her team. “Thank you for putting me in a position to be one of those people to build new relationships, to continue winning, to share my love for Carolina, and to make it contagious for the rest of the world,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud. I will represent this place to the best of my ability every day for the rest of my life. Thank you.”
Just 10 days later, Coach Matson’s team won Carolina’s 11th national field hockey championship – Matson’s fifth title as a player and/or coach. At age 23, Matson has won as many national championships as Duke University’s retired basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach Matson narrates a video about the championship here. Congratulations to Coach Matson and her team and staff. Go Heels!
Past Meeting Reports
- In the news: Our commitment to academic freedom and free speech
- — For the 18th consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranked UNC Chapel Hill as the best value among America’s public universities, the nation’s fifth-best public university, and its 29th-best university overall.
- — The University’s football team moved into the top 25 national rankings.
- — The University’s men’s basketball team was ranked No. 1 in national preseason polls, while senior big man Armando Bacot was selected to multiple preseason All-America teams and tabbed as the preseason ACC Player of the Year.
- — The University’s women’s basketball team was ranked #12 in preseason polls.
- — The University fields the nation’s No. 1 field hockey team and No. 2 women’s soccer team.