The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday August 12th

Body to debate Popes' funding

Congress intends to eye resolution

The heated campus debate about the John William Pope Foundation's possible funding of a Western studies program at the University likely will find its way into Student Congress tonight.

Congress plans to discuss a resolution opposing the donation and suggesting that academic freedom might be compromised by any influence the foundation could gain through backing the program.

Art and John William Pope's philanthropic organization, the Pope Foundation, might donate $14 million to UNC to fund a curriculum, most likely a minor, in Western studies.

But the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, along with some University faculty, has scrutinized the Pope Foundation and the academic proposal.

And some members of the campus community are wary of the donation - pointing to the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative think tank funded by the foundation, as cause for caution.

"It's really important for the student body to pay attention," said Rep. Blakely Whilden, who helped draft the resolution. "This is something that really could have a big impact on students who are involved both directly and indirectly in the program."

The resolution cites two major reasons for the drafting members' trepidation: the foundation's ties to the Pope Center, which has repeatedly criticized University academic programs and actions, and any power the foundation might gain at UNC by funding the program.

Rep. Dustin Ingalls, who also helped draft the resolution, stressed that the resolution does not oppose the proposed Western studies curriculum but concerns the impact of having a program completely funded by one outside source.

"I'm afraid that there could be implicit effects that could hamper academic freedom," he said.

Rep. Parker Wiseman said he hopes that when discussing the resolution, representatives will be able to separate the Popes' viewpoints from the process of establishing a curriculum.

"It does not need to be a referendum of the opinions of the Pope family," he said. "When you talk about the process for establishing a curriculum, it should be considered sacred."

Rep. Kris Wampler, who interns with the Pope Center, predicted a close margin for the final vote, but he said he believed the resolution will fail to obtain the two-thirds majority required to pass. "Most people are rational enough to see it for what it is."

If passed, the resolution will be sent to Chancellor James Moeser; Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; the committee that formed the Western studies proposal and the president of the Pope Foundation.

Wampler does not anticipate that the discussion will have a large impact on the University's decision but said it is important for Congress to continue dialogue. "This is a kind of protest," he said. "We can always hope that the administration will listen to Student Congress."

Ingalls said discussion of the resolution depends on the rest of the body's agenda. If the resolution is not discussed today, it might come up at the next meeting - which will not be held until next semester.

Wiseman said discussion of the issue is important because of the potential wide-reaching effects on the entire University body.

"It speaks to the issue of academic integrity," he said. "Anytime you potentially alter the process for establishing a new curriculum on this campus you could potentially threaten the legitimacy that a student leaves this campus with."

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


Comments

The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive