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Can This Group Bring Political Interference Under Control at UNC?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been mired in crisis after crisis, which many people attribute to the politicization of its governing boards. A new coalition wants to do something about that.

Can it? That’s a tricky question.

The Coalition for Carolina — which includes UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and staff members, alumni, students, and a former board chair — hopes to start by building public awareness of how the UNC system’s Board of Governors and the Chapel Hill campus’s Board of Trustees are, as the group sees it, damaging the university.

The coalition debuted on Thursday with an eye-catching ad in the Carolina Alumni Review that asked: “What the hell is going on in Chapel Hill?”

One of the group’s top concerns is that the leadership and faculty on the Chapel Hill campus are, the coalition believes, effectively unable to make the decisions they feel are best for the university if state lawmakers and board members disagree. UNC-system board members are elected by the state legislature, controlled by Republicans. Of the 13 campus trustees, eight are chosen by the system board, four are picked by the legislature, and one is Chapel Hill’s student-body president.

UNC-Chapel Hill is among a number of public universities racked by political tensions in recent years. But Chapel Hill has played host to some of the most striking clashes between higher education and state politics, including over Silent Sam, a Confederate monument, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The 1619 Project.”

This fall, Chapel Hill leaders have said they are unable to require students and employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 because of directives from the UNC system.

“It’s eroding morale on campus, and making it very difficult to understand where decisions are being made,” said Mimi V. Chapman, the Faculty Council chair at Chapel Hill and one of the new coalition’s founders.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education