UNC’s proud tradition of scholarship, rooted in compassion for the state’s marginalized, is under attack. From the School of Law to the Board of Governors Democracy Coalition, activists are organizing to oppose the Board of Governors and their conservative allies in Raleigh. Our chancellor should join in the fight.
Though her legal authority to do so is ambiguous, Folt should reject the board’s recommendation that Chapel Hill close the poverty center. This would come with consequences. As defenders of the chancellor’s cautious approach note, she must continue to work with her bosses to keep tuition down, state appropriations flowing and some degree of autonomy in the hands of the system’s individual campuses. Keeping the poverty center alive, Folt likely fears, would jeopardize these efforts and maybe even send her packing her bags to join President Tom Ross.
Such wrenching calculations lay bare the fact that the University is now and always will be a political space and that conflict within that space is inevitable. The board understands this, even if those who appeal to the chancellor to “stay out of politics” do not.
We understand why Folt believes working with the board is the best way to support the University. But Chancellor, if you take the lead in defending academic liberty and those who dare critique the state’s conservative power structure, your students and colleagues will follow you. Conflicts this fundamental to the University’s mission are not meant to be managed — they are meant to be won.