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The Daily Tar Heel

Coalition for Carolina informs UNC communities about university governance issues

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Mimi Chapman, a professor and Chair of the Faculty at UNC, is a founding member of the Coalition for Carolina.

Following public tensions surrounding UNC’s governing bodies in 2021, the Coalition for Carolina was founded.

The coalition is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that aims to shed light on how partisan politics impact the University and was created by former UNC Faculty Chair and current professor Mimi Chapman, Owner of Fitzpatrick Communications and UNC alumna Joyce Fitzpatrick, and former member of the UNC Board of Trustees Roger Perry.

According to the Coalition’s website, its network includes over 20,000 alumni, business leaders, faculty, staff, students and other community members.

“I think Carolina has always been about fairness and opportunity, and now we want to make sure that students continue to have that faith in the University to provide fairness and opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think all of us who founded the Coalition feel strongly about that.”

Events such as Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure denial, the removal of the Silent Sam statue and the formation of the School of Civic Life and Leadership, have sparked faculty and community concern that UNC's governing bodies — like the UNC System Board of Governors and the BOT — are overstepping their roles

“It was those incidents that said, ‘We've got to make a change,’ and people outside of the campus just might not have enough information, or enough regular information to understand that some of this was a pattern — it wasn't just a one time incident — and there were decisions, big and small, that were being shaped by these outside forces, to a degree that is unhealthy,” Chapman said

Chapman wrote an op-ed in July 2021 that was published in The Daily Tar Heel, where she called for the formation of a coalition that would advocate to “reform a governance system that has become toxic.”

Fitzpatrick said that she, along with Perry and former trustee Paul Fulton, decided to contact Chapman to form the group. 

One of the Coalition’s biggest concerns has been the development of the School of Civic Life and Leadership, which Chapman said threatened the norms of shared governance and implemented partisan influences at the University.

The creation and acceleration of the SCiLL was approved by the BOT without faculty input in January 2023 to create a program with the intention of encouraging civic discourse.

Chapman said the directive from the BOT was a distressing episode.

Now, the Coalition hosts publicly accessible events and webinars to bring awareness to faculty and administrative issues at UNC. Past webinars discussed college accreditation, Gov. Roy Cooper’s commission on the governance of N.C. public universities and a conversation with interim Chancellor Lee Roberts about his priorities for the University.

“This is all just highly unusual,” she said. “It's not the way these things are typically done. It takes away the faculty's role in developing curriculum.”

Chapman said her role in the Coalition, which is unpaid, has been shaped by her experiences as a faculty member and faculty chair. Still, it is a separate activity outside of her employment.

Holden Thorp, former UNC chancellor and current editor-in-chief of "Science", was involved in webinars hosted by the Coalition. Thorp said issues of trustee overreach are problems at many institutions around the nation. 

“It’s about the trustees — who don’t know how to operate campus security or what the policies are — not giving their support to the duly-appointed administrators that are specialists who’ve been placed on these roles,” he said. “And so they’re spending too much time deciding whether to support the administration and not enough time figuring out how to do it.”

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@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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