UNC BoT To Meet Amid Looming Budget Cuts

CHAPEL HILL – The UNC Board of Trustees is meeting Wednesday and Thursday of this week— one of the topics up for discussion will be the budget.

The BoT will most likely face steep cuts coming from the state as the Senate’s budget proposes $48 million in reductions across the University of North Carolina campus system. NC Governor Pat McCrory’s budget proposal, released in March, calls for cuts totaling more than $140 million.

The Board will meet at the Carolina Inn both days. The Budget, Finance and Audit Committee convenes at the 2 p.m. Wednesday. The Board will regroup for a full meeting Thursday at 8 a.m.

This will likely be the final Board of Trustees meeting for outgoing chancellor, Holden Thorp.

For a full agenda, click here.


Orange County Leaders Say It’s Time to “Stand Up For Liberal Arts”

CHAPEL HILL- Local officials say a push from state leaders to reform higher education amounts to an attack on Orange County’s values.

According to Chancellor Holden Thorp, the greatest threat facing UNC these days isn’t just budget cuts.

“We started off with a financial crisis, and now we have a philosophical crisis about the role of government and the role of public universities as part of it,” says Thorp.

Thorp made his comments during the Town and Gown discussion at WCHL’s 2013 Community Forum. You can listen to the full Forum here.

Despite a projected state surplus, Thorp says he’s expecting cuts that will negatively impact research funding and financial aid. He says the pressures from the Republican-controlled state legislature to reform higher education amount to an attack on the liberal arts.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton agrees: “They are opposed to critical thinking, because critical thinking is what a liberal arts education is really all about.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt characterizes the latest crop of proposed legislation as “adolescent,” as newly-seated lawmakers rush to push through an agenda that’s been ignored by Democrats for decades.

“Like so many adolescents they’re just running headstrong out in to the wild without considering the challenge or obstacles they might face, or what dangers they might put us in,” says Kleinschmidt.

Governor Pat McCrory’s plan to focus on job training and new technology is shortsighted, says Thorp, and overlooks the importance of educating students for lifelong learning.

“It’s not possible for us to train students for the jobs that are there four years from when they enter, because we’re not able to predict the technological changes that we’re seeing in the world,” says Thorp. “Trying to guess what that will be four years from now for the class that’s coming here this summer- it wouldn’t work.”

Hillsborough Mayor Pro Tem Eric Hallman points to the liberal arts as an important job creator for the town of Hillsborough.

“You can’t throw a book without hitting a writer,” says Hallman. “With the interest in arts and culture and how that drives the economy, if you’re looking at job creators, that’s a job creator. Hillsborough is a specific example of that.”

Because UNC and UNC Health Care are the largest employers in Orange County, Board of Commissioners Chair Barry Jacobs says the university sets the tone for public discourse in our communities.

“Intellectually, I think that the university contributes to an atmosphere of thought and discussion,” says Jacobs. “People criticize Orange County and Orange County government a lot of times because we talk so much before we make decisions, but we have an educated and informed electorate.”

Kleinschmidt says its time to call upon that engaged electorate to lobby for change at the state level, in order to protect the values of Orange County.

“We have to start somewhere, and it has to be college towns. It has to be communities that have that direct appreciation for what a university offers it and how it defines it, to stand up and educate those who are new to the policy making arena,” says Kleinschmidt.

Despite the challenges local leaders say they face from lawmakers in Raleigh, Thorp says his successor, incoming Chancellor Carol Folt, is poised and ready to defend the value of a liberal arts education.

“There are a lot of people around that are willing to fight for it. I think that Chancellor Folt will be the same way. It is something we’ve fought for in Chapel Hill a long time, and we’ll keep fighting.”


Adding up Lo$$es at UNC

     In my previous post I confessed to little interest in sports. Just so I’m absolutely transparent on my lack of standing in this conversation: I graduated from a school with a terrific basketball program (not in NC) and I never got to a game.
     That caveat remains for those of you willing to wade into my take on this UNC football madness enveloping us. After listening and reading to all this talk of fans angry enough about the firing of Butch Davis to call for the ouster of Chancellor Holden Thorp, I had to ask, “Isn’t the tail wagging the dog here? Isn’t the Chancellor in charge of the WHOLE university and we’re talking about one part of it, right?”
     After the laughs of scorn and derision had subsided, someone took pity on me and explained that beyond the emotion of fan-dom, there is a knock-on effect that does affect the University’s coffers and therefore reaches well beyond the football field.
     Ok, I get that. And while it’s probably difficult to attach real numbers to it, I’m sure it’s real. 
     Know what else is real, UNC fans? A budget cut of nearly 20%. Bet there’s a knock-on effect from that too. Savvy Spenders like myself are wondering why there aren’t UNC fans screaming in equal number for punishing terms for the NC Legislature. 
     There’s more to it, you say. There’s timing, and official reports and who knew what when. I acknowledge my simplistic linkage of the two ripple effects takes none of that into consideration.
     Here is what I do know. I’m proud to live in a state with a top-notch university system and even more thrilled to live in the town that hosts the system’s crown jewel. I have met more smart people while living here than in all my other stops. That’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to be staying. Those smart people are likely here in some part because of UNC. Don’t even get me started on the wonderful, thoughtful, responsible babysitters we’ve employed. Those young people are proud representatives of a university that’s much more than a stadium. 
     I am nagging my out-of-state goddaughter to apply to UNC.  Aside from wondering if the school is a good fit, my only worry if she is admitted and does attend? Will the state budget cuts will lead to a lesser experience in her classroom?
Sports fans will say I don’t understand and maybe they/you are right. But why is no one screaming equally loudly about the lack of investment in our future being shown by the state legislature? Please explain to me by commenting below or writing to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com.