Shut Up And Teach

A few years ago, Dick Baddour returned from a national faculty meeting where he received widespread praise from other schools for how much the UNC faculty loved the affable Carolina athletic director.
Some of those other professors did not get along so well with their athletic departments. Baddour was held up as a model of how the faculty should have a voice about athletics on campus.  At most other schools, athletic directors don’t come from the faculty and have no problem marching across campus to say “button it up” if someone speaks publicly out of turn.
That’s the problem. At UNC, the faculty has long had too much of a voice on athletics. Although there is always a natural adversarial relationship between those who teach and make six figures and those who coach and make seven figures, the faculty at Carolina (in general) has never really gotten the point.
The athletic department is a self-sustaining business, a private ad-hoc corporation, that generates multi-millions in revenues and disperses pretty much the same amount (with a little held in reserve) to balance the budget that pays coaches and staff, funds scholarships and improves facilities in the so-called arms race.
During the recent and ongoing football scandal, I have been branded as an anti-football faculty apologist who helped get Butch Davis fired. Neither is even close to the truth. I’m not a faculty member or apologist (you should have seen my GPA at UNC!), and nobody got Butch Davis fired but Butch Davis.
I do support Holden Thorp and how he handled a very difficult situation that he had no earthly idea would fall into his lap when Erskine Bowles asked him to be the next Chancellor in 2008. Thorp withstood all kinds of pressure, from within and without, took a crash course in college athletics and made choices that created short-term publicity burn but were best for the long run at UNC.
Now, Thorp would be well-advised to try to put some kind of muzzle on the faculty, although he certainly does it at his own peril. A story on, by celebrated sportswriter Pat Forde, is an example of how Carolina is getting very low grades in damage control and managing its own PR during the football disaster.
Sue Estroff, a 30-year tenured professor who was quoted frequently during her days as the Faculty Chair, and history professor Jay Smith might have been speaking the painful truth in the Yahoo column. But who are they to be spokespersons for UNC during such treacherous times?  Who appointed them faculty mouthpieces to make a bad situation worse? Smith started when the New York Times’ Joe Nocera showed up on campus and his inflammatory email is the centerpiece of the Forde column.
(I quote Smith’s email that was published by Yahoo with the understanding that I, too, may be making a bad situation worse, but nevertheless to prove a point).

“Of course it’s academic fraud,” Smith wrote. “And it’s a form of fraud that was designed (by whom we can’t say yet) to keep athletes eligible, making plausible ‘progress toward the degree.’ I don’t blame the athletes – and that’s important to make clear. Many of us feel this way. It’s not the athletes’ fault that they’re often being shepherded through a bogus course of study, and are also made to pay the piper if they fall short of some measure invented by the NCAA.

“It’s the system that’s corrupt, and it’s the adults who benefit from the system – starting with school administrators and faculty – who have to have the gumption to live up to their moral obligations and say enough is enough.”

“To me the worst damage has come, and continues to come, from the university’s defensive and less-than-forthcoming reaction to the entire story,” Smith wrote in his email. “The university very much looks like it’s trying to hide something. An objective outsider could reach no other conclusion. That does not reflect well on any of us. In fact, it’s embarrassing.”

And then Smith fired the shot that is sure to be sending Tar Heels into rage from the Smith Center to the alumni hinterlands.
“I think it’s high time for all of us to know the full extent of the fraudulent behavior,” Smith wrote. “Were members of the 2009 and 2005 national championship (basketball) teams also beneficiaries of the AFAM/AFRI scam? I for one see no reason to assume that they were not. If the university wants to prove they were not, the whole world is listening.”

Estroff, a professor of social medicine, spoke out like she did in the past on far more benign athletic matters, such as how much money was being spent to send the football team to a bowl game. That was tame compared to this.
“It’s demoralizing,” said Estroff.  “It’s dumbfounding. It’s embarrassing. It’s maddening. What else can I say? It’s not what anybody wanted. It belongs to all of us, and you can’t put it in just one place. It’s impossible to defend, nor should we try.”
Added Estroff: “I would like to have seen a more robust, more forceful response. But there’s a reason I’m not a university president or chancellor. I don’t have that skill set.”
Every scintilla of what Smith and Estroff say may be (and probably is) true. But that’s why we have Nancy Davis, Mike McFarland and Karen Moon in the general administration, and Steve Kirschner in athletics who often makes the right suggestions on what to say but isn’t always heard as much as he should be.
They, together with Thorp and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, need to be the people who shape the message and decide who delivers it and how. Not when some cagey columnist shows up and hunts down the usual suspects whose job it is to be heard in the classroom. Period.
The faculty should certainly have a say. That’s why they have department meetings and the ear of the Chancellor. But, when it comes to athletic controversy, especially the measure of what we have now, the faculty needs to stay out of the public forum, shut up and teach. Now that we have the right people in place at the athletic department, it’s their job to speak with one voice and help get us out of the mess as best they can.

Opening ever so slightly

It is the kind of surprise for which every ambitious politician must be prepared: the unexpected decision by an incumbent elected official to retire.

It is, my friend Jay Rivers told me, the kind of window of opportunity that opens ever so slightly and rarely. Be ready to decide quickly and pounce on the unexpected opportunity, before the window closes as a result of others’ decisive action.

John Spratt, the former South Carolina congressman, once told me about his first campaign. It started when his congressman dropped the bombshell that he would not run for reelection. Many other ambitious politicians would have loved to go to Congress, but all were surprised and unprepared to gear up a campaign. Spratt, though surprised, was ready. Sometime earlier he had made a telephone list of key people in his district. Before the day was over, he called everybody on the list.

First, he asked for their support. He tried to get them to make a solid endorsement. When seasoned political leaders make such early commitments, most try to keep them. There are exceptions, but whatever their failings, such leaders like to have a reputation for keeping their word.

Politicians, like the rest of us, have a hard time turning down a request for support from a friend. Although the people on Spratt’s list had other friends who might have wanted to run, Spratt got their commitments because he was first to ask.

Some on the Spratt’s list would be more cautious, saying something like, “I am not ready to commit.” Spratt would try to get them to promise not to support anyone else until the dust settled and “we’ve had a chance to visit again.”

Others might tell Spratt that they liked him but that he would not be their first choice, saying, “I really hope Joe Blow will decide to run, and, if he does, I will have to support him.”

Then Spratt might ask, “If Joe doesn’t run, can I count on your support?”

All this early work garnered Spratt important supporters, some of whom might have gone to other candidates if he had not asked first.

Spratt’s first campaign was 30 years ago, but being first to make the calls is still critical.
Today, however, there is something even more important: Being ready, willing, and able to raise or give the multimillion dollars necessary to conduct the campaign.

When today’s political candidate makes these early calls for support, the first questions from many people will be, “Where is your money going to come from? Do you have enough personal money to put in the pot? Where are you going to get the millions and millions it takes to win?”

After Governor Beverly Perdue’s announcement that she will not run this year, Lt. Governor Walter Dalton and state Representative Bill Faison were ready. They have the advantage of being first to make the public request for support.

But as they are making calls and asking for commitments, they have to respond to the money questions. Faison has some personal wealth, but he will have to persuade prospective supporters that he has enough money and is willing to spend it. Dalton has shown he can raise funds to win a statewide race, but he will have to convince people that he can step up the fundraising to a much higher level.

Both are getting some cautious responses from people who think Erskine Bowles would be the strongest Democratic candidate or those loyal to one of the many other possible candidates.

But there is something nobody can take away from Dalton and Faison. They were ready. They are out there, making early calls. And they have a better chance to win than if they had waited until that window of opportunity started to close.

Prime Minister Bowles?

We are following in the footsteps of Greece and Italy. Just like them, we have lost control of our nation’s budget, and along with them, our economy is tanking.

Just like them, we have a bunch of people who are hooked on government subsidies and unwilling to give up any part of them. We also have a bunch of people who have the resources to contribute much more, but who are, like the Greeks who are wealthy, unwilling to give up anything.

Our country, like theirs, is headed for a train wreck.

You hear this kind of talk, don’t you? Like Thelma and Louise, we seem to be headed for a cliff, more ready to ride out–and crash–than we are to grab the steering wheel or push our foot down on the brakes.

Our two political parties have strong partisan and tactical commitments that preclude a cooperative and pragmatic approach to the budget emergency and the shattered economy.

Both political parties have only enough power to keep the other one from taking charge. Thus, neither political group has enough power to govern.

Meanwhile in Greece, where the budget emergency is greater than in our country, the warring politicians have organized a coalition government and picked a “technocrat,” one respected by everyone, to lead the government as prime minister.

A similar approach in Italy resulted in the recruitment of a respected economic specialist to lead the government.

The American political system is not designed to accommodate this sort of change in government leadership between elections. Our people elect the President, and there is no simple way for Congress to undo that decision.

But, what if our system were more like the European parliamentary governments? What if our Congress could put in force a coalition government of “national unity” to meet the budget and economic emergencies?

Who could they recruit to lead? Who has the expertise to develop a plan? And who has the skills to bring the different groups to the table and give up ground, at least temporarily, for their highest priorities, and, finally, someone who agrees that the budget and economic crisis require compromise and unity?

Such skilled, non-partisan leaders are in short supply in Europe, and maybe even more so in the United States.

Nevertheless, let us try to come up with some ideas and some names. First, we have to concede that the candidates ought to have some expertise in government, and even have some experience in partisan politics, but one in which he or she still has the respect of the opposition political party.

So who are some candidates?

First consider Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Although he is a Republican, he has shown an ability to bring people of different political persuasions to work on commons tasks in New York City.

Or consider Warren Buffett. Maybe he is too old to take on such an assignment. But he has proven time and time again an ability to understand the importance of good financial planning and discipline for the success of businesses. He has been active in the debate of several important political questions Even though he is very wealthy, he has shown a willingness to promote some tax increases on the rich.

But my candidate for “prime minister” of the United States is Erskine Bowles.

Bowles has demonstrated an understanding of the importance of finding a painful solution to the budget situation in the United States. As representative of President Clinton in the discussions with Congress, he has already proved an amazing ability to bring about workable solutions to budget making challenges. His pragmatic approach to the challenges of administration and leadership of the UNC system is just one more indication that he is a someone you ask to take on the toughest assignments.

You might disagree for one reason or another, but I think Prime Minister Bowles sounds pretty good.

Molly Broad on Lessons from Mom

What lessons did you learn from your mother that have helped you in your business or career?

As part of our Lessons from Mom series, I’d like to share an excerpt from a Business Class interview with Molly Broad, during which she answered that same question. 

Molly Broad served as President of the University of North Carolina from 1997-2006, a position since held by Erskine Bowles and now Thomas Ross.  She was the first woman to hold that position and is the first woman to hold her current one as President of the American Council on Education.   She still has a home in Chapel Hill and commutes to work in Washington, D.C.

So – what lessons did she learn from her mother?  In the interview, Molly described her mother, who had four children during a five year time span, as nurturing, fair-minded, calm, composed and confident – no matter how many activities or challenges she was juggling.

Molly said:

Click on the button below to hear an excerpt from the interview (2 minutes)

Wonderful lessons passed from mother to daughter and now to us…valuable lessons for parenting, for teaching, for doing business and living life.

What about you?  What lessons did you learn from your Mom that have helped in your business or career?  Comment below or send an email to