My older brother would see so many Carolina grads doing favors for others that he derisively called it "the sky blue mafia." Look around at every discipline. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of us winning awards in journalism, science, sports. We give TED talks and testify against Supreme Court justices.
My 45 best friends — even now that I'm 177 years old — all lived in Hinton James, or Lewis, or Morrison, Granville, Cobb, on Rosemary Street, Cameron, McCauley. We are attached by a thousand loose wires. But there is one thing we should probably tell you, though: we all hated the University.
In August, when the administration forced all students back into close quarters, amid blinding puffs of shed coronavirus, we all screamed, "for God's sake, don't do this!" Within days, there were quarantined floors full of moaning freshmen, and fancy dorm foyers started looking like the Spanish flu scenes in Downton Abbey.
I was horrified, but not surprised. There has always been a massive divide between the essential experience of Carolina, and the people who run it. I loved every second I was there, and hated the University administration every one of those seconds.
I adored my classes; getting them was a war zone of rended garments. Living with best friends changed my life; getting that room required a mole on the inside of the beast. I'm twice my college age and I still scream myself hoarse for the guys at the Dean Dome; I do so 30 rows behind the old, moneyed 75-year-olds and their golfing pals.
They forced us to buy meal plans and served us trash, they pushed out professors who didn't play their political games and most members of the administration made you want to claw your face off.
Always 30 years behind the times, they invested in apartheid-era South Africa, and made young Black kids live in dorms named after slave owners. They botched the Silent Sam protests so badly that it took a group of ballsy students to do what they wouldn't. Their COVID-19 deathtrap is probably the worst thing they've done in 100 years, but it isn't out of character.
So do they love you? Nope. They don't care. But that's OK.
This wretched time will end, and you will find yourself back in Chapel Hill, and its odd magic will seep into you, regardless of the venality that surrounds it.
Because Charles Kuralt was wrong: It is the bell, it is the well, it is the dogwoods that bind us to this place like no other. UNC is the light on the hill because we keep lighting it. Graduates from my era called themselves unwatered flowers, but we are flowers just the same.
We cling together even as we move apart. We are Dean, Roy, Mia, Dr. Ford, Mr. Crudup, Rasheed, Stuart and, hell, our couch is free if you need it. The University of North Carolina may never love you, but Carolina always will.
UNC Class of 1990