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The Daily Tar Heel

The `Wild Ride' Ends, but Work Isn't Finished

We have seen the rise and fall of the stock market and the nation's economy, Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment proceedings and last year's insane presidential election.

Locally, we've seen the state's 1990 congressional districts approved just in time to redraw them, and we've seen North Carolinians overwhelmingly show their support for the University system by passing a $3.1 billion bond package for capital improvements.

Last year, students around the system rallied against tuition increases to fund higher teacher salaries.

While the outcome was not as students had wished, by choosing to raise teacher salaries, the General Assembly signified that UNC schools needed increased funds to remain competitive.

Overall, it's been a positive four years for the UNC system, but the it now faces its greatest challenge in years: the General Assembly's suggested $125 million budget cut.

All the indications are that we need to spend more money on the UNC system to meet the state's needs, not less.

Years from now, the state still will be addressing issues we're facing right now. Successful solutions will require the University's scholarship, leadership and trained graduates.

The liberal arts institutions will be critical parts of the equation addressing the social implications of a state lottery. The agricultural institutions are necessary to deal with the remaining repercussions of Hurricane Floyd and to help farmers across the state transition from tobacco into more stable crops.

But according to an e-mail written by UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Justin Young, "the size of the (budget) cut would virtually be able to eliminate any one of 13 of the 16 universities in the system. It would be like losing Central, Greensboro or Wilmington."

Spreading the cuts across the system can be just as destructive. Some campuses are eliminating enormous numbers of faculty positions, while others are eliminating research programs with practical results that serve the state.

The result will be a lesser education for students and fewer benefits to the residents who fund this university.

Legislators have craftily waited to address the issue until students are mired in final projects and exams. Then we'll be headed home for the summer.

That's why I urge you to meet me at the flagpole at 11 a.m. today for a protest. University students across the state are banding together to fight the proposed budget cuts. Young has written that the rally will symbolize what could truly be the last day of classes as we know them at UNC.

Protests grab media attention and therefore popular attention, but most students are headed out of Chapel Hill for the summer. Manpower for rallies at the General Assembly will be thin.

It's therefore also important for UNC students to call your state representatives and let them know what your college experience would be like if there were 80 fewer professors on this campus. If you're from out of state, call Chapel Hill's representatives.

Funding reductions, even if only temporary, set a dangerous precedent because there's no guarantee legislators will return UNC to the same allocation level when the state's finances are good.

Reduced spending on public universities is occurring across the country. James Duderstadt, former president of the University of Michigan, liked to joke that he had changed his description of his university over the years, from state-supported to state-assisted, state-related and finally state-located.

Although we're still far from this final scenario, it would be a disaster to let much-needed funding slip away.

UNC's mission is tripartite: teaching, research and service. Without adequate funding for the first two, the University will fail to serve the state in the manner it should.

Columnist Anne Fawcett can be reached at

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