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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: UNC deserves better, Lee Roberts ain’t it.


We categorically oppose Lee Roberts' appointment as interim chancellor.

While local media rightfully criticizes Roberts’ lack of experience as a school administrator, this appointment is more than a matter of inexperience. Roberts’ history directly opposes UNC's “unwavering commitment to excellence.”

Roberts served as the state budget director from 2014 to 2016 under former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, where he proposed a budget that allocated the lowest share of funding to higher education since 1981, as detailed on page 262. This came two years after the McCrory administration and General Assembly passed tax cuts that greatly benefitted millionaires at the expense of working-class North Carolinians. In response to funding cuts, the UNC Board of Governors hiked tuition and restricted financial aid, affecting almost 22,000 low-income students in the state.

Roberts and McCrory chose a few millionaires over the vast majority of North Carolinians. 

In 2016, the McCrory administration also championed and signed House Bill 2, the egregious transphobic “bathroom bill.” An Associated Press analysis concluded that the now-repealed legislation “[would have] cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.” The bill criminalized transgender residents for their identities and was a horrible budgetary decision.

Roberts has not condemned the McCrory administration or any of its despicable actions and even said he would help re-elect McCrory and “be supportive however I can.”

More recently, Roberts served on the controversial UNC Board of Governors starting in 2021. The BOG recently took issue with an N.C. State application question that asked applicants to commit to “building a just and inclusive community.” In response, the board declared that “political” values like these have no place on North Carolina campuses by banning compelled speech, offering the contextless justification that their policy prevents employers from tying affirmative political beliefs to employment.

Read these indictments on Roberts’ record, and then read his interviews with local outlets before the announcement where he considers himself an “unaffiliated voter," and advocates that UNC represent “everybody in North Carolina" — not just “any particular group" — and champions free speech as “at the core of what a university does.”

We’re not convinced. Roberts is closely tied to North Carolina Republicans, with little record of non-partisanship or compromise. He shows no commitment to equity of any kind and is completely out of touch with the needs of our student body.

To the UNC System leadership: We are disappointed by this decision, and we will not stop voicing our dissent.

- March for Our Lives UNC, UNC Affirmative Action Coalition, Carolina Young Democratic Socialists of America, Crips in College, Sunrise Movement UNC, Campus Y Executive Board


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