James Moeser, UNC-CH’s chancellor from 2000-08, will become UNC School of the Arts’ interim chancellor Aug. 1.
State & National editor Sarah Brown spoke with Moeser about his new job, his advice for UNC-CH and his recent comments on media coverage of the University’s academic and athletic scandals.
DAILY TAR HEEL: What specifically appeals to you about leading UNCSA?
James Moeser: My whole history is in the arts. It’s my field.
As far as the School of the Arts, it’s an extraordinary institution — it’s the only publicly supported conservatory in the United States. I want to make sure it continues to succeed.
DTH: Do you have any reservations about taking the job?
JM: I’m very happy doing what I’m doing — being a faculty member here, teaching a first-year seminar … the reluctance was to let go (of Chapel Hill).
Being a chancellor is a stressful job. I’m going back into the fight club, one could say.
But I like leadership. The job of chancellor is ultimately helping others to be successful, and I find that fulfilling.
DTH: What are some of the challenges you plan to tackle at UNCSA?
JM: The major challenge for me is … I have no intimate knowledge of the place at all.
My plan of action is to go to each of the major people on campus … and get them to tell me about what they do and what their issues are … (so I can) understand the ground on which they stand.
*DTH: *How do you see UNC-CH faring over the next year?
JM: Obviously we have some challenges … (especially) with regard to support from the state of North Carolina.
But I’m very bullish on the future of Carolina. If I were 10, 15 years younger, this is where I would want to be leading an institution.
DTH: How could budget cuts affect the UNC system next year?
JM: Frankly, I think (cuts) could damage other parts of the UNC system more than Chapel Hill … but there are a number of threats out there. I won’t minimize them — they’re serious.
Nonetheless, I’m very pessimistic short-term, but very optimistic long-term.
*DTH: *Your comments in a Chapel Hill Magazine interview that “(the media) has really put a target on the University” provoked a significant backlash — do you regret anything you said?
JM: No, I don’t regret it.
The impetus of (the reporter’s) question was: Is (the Carolina Way) a legitimate concept? And I said, absolutely it is.
What I was thinking, too, was that one journal in particular — which I will refuse to name — took a very cynical view toward the Carolina Way.
It said basically that it was fraudulent, that it was a cover for malfeasance … that we were hypocrites, and so on.
I grew up in West Texas, and we used to have a saying that “the hit dog always howls.” I thought the way that one newspaper responded to that set of comments basically proved my point.
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