Our state motto is Esse quam videri. To be rather than to seem.
These words have been playing in my mind as I look back at my college experience. Ever since the response UNC gave to the NCAA regarding our academic scandal, I feel like I attend a school trying to seem rather than to be.
I’ve read the documents pertaining to the case. I understand why UNC did what it did to protect the institution, but I can’t help feeling empty inside because of it.
Our moves make us seem like we did nothing wrong, when in reality we robbed hundreds of the education they were promised. There is no way you will spin it to change my mind. It was a bureaucratic technicality made to preserve the “Southern Part of Heaven” aesthetic of Chapel Hill, not a moral defense that righted the wrong done to the students in the fraudulent classes.
When I was accepted into UNC, I remember, as I imagine many of the incoming UNC students are currently doing, trying to figure out what it seemed my time at Carolina would be like.
I got excited watching the borderline propagandist videos sent out by admissions. The videos made me think every student loved eating on the quad with friends before heading to the football game. While that may be true for many students, and I hope it is, it wasn’t my experience.
What Carolina decided to be for me was exactly what an ambitious kid from a small town needed. I learned from professors who really taught me how to be unapologetic in my beliefs and to write with courage. I read of luminaries like Bill Friday who did what was morally right, even if it was not the most convenient for the institution.
I saw the good of this community. People eager to learn, willing to work hard to better the world and who remain optimistic even when faced with the most daunting of tasks. People who showed up to cover the news even when they were beyond tired, activists arguing for their causes when no one was listening and students studying that extra hour not for the grade, but to genuinely understand the material.
That good cannot be captured in a video, an article or a pamphlet. It’s intrinsically anti-bureaucratic. It’s personal. It can only be experienced when you’re a part of it.
This column is it for me. Today is my last day as editor of this paper, and I will be a resident of my home state for only a few more weeks. While I am happy to be moving on, I will always miss the sense of belonging I feel here.
Still, I am frustrated that I cannot say much has progressed on campus in my four years. The core of our institution is changing with each new glossy program that says a lot but accomplishes little in an effort to make UNC as inoffensive as possible.
I am not inherently against these changes. I just hope we never forget that we are the university of the people first and foremost. A school that inspired thousands to go out and change the world.
For me, national champions, most innovative, biggest fundraisers and all the other accolades you see hanging off department buildings are nice, but they are not what made UNC real for me.
The people I met made my Carolina real. We can never protect or promote the institution at the expense of defending the people here.
For me, at least for now, UNC is still the university of the people.
I hope I can say that in 50 years.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.