Content warning: This article contains mention of suicide.
This week, the University of South Carolina’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, published an editorial calling out university leaders for a pattern of secrecy, dishonesty and avoidance.
“We are embarrassed about our own university’s lack of accountability and regard for the safety and wellbeing of its students," The Daily Gamecock’s editorial board wrote. "Several instances of the administration choosing its own public image over the interests of the USC community have shown where the loyalties of the administration truly lie."
The issues highlighted by The Daily Gamecock’s editorial board are all too familiar to us given UNC’s shortcomings, both now and in the past.
In response to The Daily Gamecock’s editorial, here are just some of the ways in which UNC’s actions mirror those of USC:
Lack of communication
UNC’s administration has consistently exhibited a lack of transparency.
In 2018, federal investigators found that UNC mishandled complaints of campus sexual assaults. UNC has violated Title IX, similar to the complacency regarding Title IX violations at USC. In January, after a four-year lawsuit, federal investigators denied UNC's petition to review the release of sexual assault records. The University was only held accountable by the North Carolina Supreme Court, which ordered the release of individual disciplinary records.
And more about records — during the period in which the UNC Board of Trustees had yet to vote on journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure, requests for public records by journalists were consistently delayed or denied. This further highlights the insufficient communication between the University and local journalists.
From University communications officials antagonizing campus members to sending blanket resource emails in light of multiple student suicides, UNC’s failure to address systemic issues has been subpar for decades. And while students protest many of the inconsistencies of the administration, much of their outcry is met with silence, empty promises and general notices. In some instances, students have even been met with police brutality. The lack of communication across the University is tantamount to that of USC’s.
For years, Black students have been consistently isolated on campus. This stems from the way they have been treated by administration, to excessive scrutiny by campus police, to the lack of representation in faculty and staff.
UNC’s reputation precedes itself — without change, the University has been unable to recruit and retain students and faculty of color. For example, Hannah-Jones turned down a faculty position at UNC after her tenure application was halted by higher administration due to questions about her nonacademic background (which, by the way, was nothing but stellar).
Institutions of higher education have constantly struggled to retain faculty of color, who often face systemic barriers in academia — and UNC is no different. Prospective faculty have refused job offers at UNC or have been made to feel like "token hires" in their respective departments.
In addition to mistreatment of faculty, UNC has refused to reckon with its past. For example, many of the buildings where students live, take classes and study are named after racist historical figures. Although the moratorium on renaming these buildings was lifted last year, the convoluted process has made renaming a singular building a time-consuming endeavor.
As one of our writers put it, “There is little to be done to change the history of our University and the actions of those we once chose to honor, but there should be swifter steps in taking a close look across our landscape and being sure we can fully be proud of what we see.”
Similar to USC, there have been a significant number of administrative changes at UNC in the last several years.
Government leaders have expressed frustrations with UNC’s leadership and the decisions being made on campus. Earlier this year, there was speculation about the removal of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz over his administrative decisions.
Many administrative leaders and faculty have left or announced they were leaving their positions following the situation with Hannah-Jones' tenure, such as Kia Caldwell, Malinda Maynor Lowery and Sibby Anderson-Thompkins. This, along with other leaders stepping down from their positions in the fall, left massive gaps in administrative positions. This is especially concerning during a period when the University is also experiencing vacancies in professor positions across multiple departments.
UNC's budget, like USC’s, has been adjusted significantly, and cuts have been made to resources like UNC Libraries, jeopardizing the University’s reputation as a leading research institution. And similar to USC, UNC’s higher administration has consistently been influenced by political leanings — such as Walter Hussman Jr.’s emails questioning Hannah-Jones' hire or the Board of Governors’ political alignment having an impact on campus decisions.
The University’s lack of transparency has consistently and negatively impacted both North and South Carolina communities.
We, too, will continue to report on the administration's actions — and inactions — and demand that our school’s leadership start acting on its promises.
As we express solidarity with the struggles felt by USC’s student body, we recognize we are not alone. The neglect of university administrations is not unique to UNC or USC, but felt by students and faculty on campuses across the country. There is a glaring problem in higher education, especially in the South, and it’s rooted in the institutions that universities were built on centuries ago.
We will continue to use our voices as student journalists to call upon the University to be more accountable to students — not to their public image. We commend and support The Daily Gamecock in this struggle toward more equitable and fair university leadership.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.