UNC administrators are prohibited from using their offices as platforms from which to promote a specific partisan agenda — as they should be.
However, when politics err so far from their appropriate sphere that educational issues have themselves become political, things get much murkier.
After all, the job of our chancellor is to act in the best interest of the University. By that logic, not only should he be allowed to take a stand against legislation that would harm UNC, he should be required to do so.
When the laws in question are budgetary in nature, this seems straightforward. No one has objected in the past to Chancellor Holden Thorp taking a stand against budget cuts. Though budget cuts are technically a political issue, they are seen primarily as an issue of the University’s well-being — at least from the chancellor’s perspective.
But budget cuts aren’t the only government action that could impact our university. N.C. Amendment One, which will be on the ballot in May, could also be detrimental to the quality of faculty and students who want to come to North Carolina to live, work and learn.
By making the recognition of same-sex partner benefits illegal, the proposed amendment would send a clear message to prospective gay and lesbian staff, faculty and students that they are not welcome here.
Though UNC does not yet grant partner benefits to LGBT couples, Amendment One would make it impossible for the University to ever do so in the future (without a repeal of the amendment).
Given our struggles to retain and draw faculty from other universities, we at UNC should be doing everything we can to foster an inclusive, welcoming climate at this university.
Unfortunately, the goals of the Republican-controlled N.C. state legislature seem to be at odds with the success of our university — yet again.
Since Amendment One would hurt UNC’s ability to compete with our peers in other, more progressive states, Thorp was absolutely correct to speak out against it, though he did so as an individual, not in his official capacity as chancellor. We only wish he had been able to take a stronger stance.
As commendable as efforts to limit partisan influence are, the business of running public institutions is a fundamentally political one; UNC’s budget depends directly on the whims of elected legislators.
If the University’s well-being is going to be a casualty of misguided legislation, then all our stakeholders, including our administrators, should be involved in the conversation.
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