Chancellor Carol Folt’s engagement with the public tends to focus up front on money. Folt and her team, building on prior success and now chasing an ambitious campaign goal, have done and we hope will continue to do a fabulous job of raising money.
This role is all the more important as the state has proven a much less friendly business partner under Republican control. If UNC is to remain competitive, productive and affordable for state taxpayers, money for that purpose must come from somewhere. Folt’s leadership has exploited many available avenues, keeping UNC not only operating, but growing. Folt’s administration also can be credited with smart value investments. The Arts Initiative, building on excellent current resources, could significantly enrich our campus culture. Access scholarships and support for low income and first generation students connect what the University can offer to increasing numbers of North Carolina citizens.
Student Stores serves as a potent visual metaphor for what most ails Folt and her administration: The appearance of fundraising through shallow messaging as the highest of concerns, with all else being negotiable and preferably out of sight. For all Folt’s ability to raise money, her spending of it on superfluous administration strikes this board as misplaced when faculty and worker raises come along far too seldom. It is faculty and operations staff, not solely the administration, who execute and facilitate the research and teaching that form UNC’s professed core mission.
It is also ironic that for all the money spent on public relations and political lobbying, Folt cannot seem to shake what are now two interminable issues at UNC: race relations and athletic scandal. We empathize with Folt on both of these issues. While the scandal has largely come to an a close, she inherited both problems and was tasked with fixing them.
On race relations, Folt’s record is mixed. Firm but flexible, she listened to student demands while not being dominated in the fall of 2015. While Folt made statements earlier in the semester that the statue should come down but legally cannot, she has not taken a strong, defined stance on the ongoing issue of Silent Sam, furthering confusion in the drama surrounding the monument this fall.