Mismanaged. That is the most accurate and the nicest word that summarizes what I think of when I think of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I could not say it is unmanaged; it is, in fact, being managed. It is simply not managed very well, and often in disappointing ways.
UNC students are known for their school pride. Visitors like to comment on how many of us don Carolina Blue, whether on a game day or just another weekday. Even though the color is pretty, it’s hard not to notice how proud UNC students are to be students here.
And, make no mistake, it is something to be proud of. Getting accepted isn’t easy, and making it through all of your years here is an accomplishment to celebrate.
Seniors — we have survived campus crisis after campus crisis. As a student body, we have brought each other through to the finish line. We have supported each other during times of distress, held hands at vigils, gathered in front of South Building, marched down Franklin Street and have been a support system for one another, often in the face of our greatest adversary: our administration.
From empty campus messages to laws enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly, we have been subjected to a governing body that has grown increasingly partisan, disconnected and disinterested in the well-being of its students.
My time as a resident adviser with Carolina Housing made one thing very clear: the heart of UNC is its community, which thrives often despite, not because of, the institution. Time and time again, it’s the RAs, teaching assistants, student staff, professors, faculty and campus workers who are left to weather the storms our administration is unable to manage.
My work with The Daily Tar Heel has granted me insight to the political machine that makes up this University and how interwoven our campus leadership here on campus is with that of the state. I recognize our status as a state school, but more often than not, the Board of Governors is more interested in protecting its own power than it is in protecting its students or the sanctity of academia itself.
The everyday student, I imagine, is not exposed to the inner workings of our school. How could they be? There is no mandatory class teaching UNC students about how the University leeches off of the Chapel Hill community, specifically its Black and brown communities.
New students coming to campus now have no understanding of Silent Sam. For us seniors, our first semester began with protests, and the following years saw unresolved conflicts in which the University showed its priority was protecting the statue rather than protecting the well-being of its students.
Most recently, as we are all aware, the University felt it was appropriate to bring back its entire student body for in-person classes during a pandemic with no limits on campus housing, all while undermining the trust in COVID-19 testing, only to effectively close campus a week after classes began.
Then administrators had the audacity to blame students, a number of which were first-years leaving home for the first time, for their actions rather than take responsibility for the chaos they created.
I am not proud of my University.
What I am proud of is how we as a student body, for the most part, have had each other's backs these past few years. I am proud of, and thankful for, the professors who have done what they can to make things just a little bit better these past three semesters. I am proud of student organizers who have pushed the University toward doing the right thing.
One thing I do owe to this University is that it introduced me to my best friend. Four years ago, walking from Ehringhaus to the Pit, she and I talked about how difficult it is to accomplish change at a university. You are busy. You are tired. You are only here for four years.
You know that. They know that. Fight that. Take a class about the Chapel Hill community. Read up on local politics. Get involved. Whether you are from the area or not, you are here in someone else’s permanent home going to a University that doesn’t always do what’s best. So you do what’s best.
I would like to think my time working for The Daily Tar Heel these past three years has been my way of giving back to a community that has hosted me and my college experience. While the newsroom as an institution has a lot of errors to make up for, I believe the DTH is on the right track, and I am excited to see how the DTH will change and improve. I am thankful for all the friendships I’ve formed and all the skills I have gained working for the newsroom.
I think I’ve done my best with the time I’ve had here. After all, that’s all we can do, and that’s all anyone can ask of us. Do what you think is best, and when you do that — that is something to be proud of.
Will Melfi is the digital managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and political science.
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