As one of the first acts of his governorship back in 2013, Pat McCrory went on a national right-wing radio show to attack “the educational elite” in our university system who supposedly weren’t doing enough to gets student “butts in jobs.” Since that time, his administration has waged a more or less permanent war against academia by repeatedly allowing faculty salaries to slide and just generally under-investing in public colleges and universities.
Whether a sincerely held belief or just a convenient scrap of red meat to toss to the intellectual-hating far right, McCrory’s stance is predicated on the notion (regularly championed by denizens of the Art Pope empire) that universities should be more like training institutes in which faculty devote the overwhelming majority of their time to preparing students for employment. Meanwhile, “luxuries” like the liberal arts and research for the sake of advancing knowledge are just that — extravagances to be left to the vagaries of the “market” and the “demand” provided by well-off students and parents willing to underwrite their cost via private school tuition.
This morning, North Carolinians received yet another powerful reminder of the absurdity of the Governor’s stance on these issues when Prof. Aziz Sancar of the UNC School of Medicine was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. According to the Associated Press:
“The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their [Pro. Sancar’s and his fellow recipients’] work on DNA repair had provided ‘fundamental knowledge’ about how cells function and shed light on the mechanisms behind both cancer and aging.”
You got that? Prof. Sancar helped advance an important piece of “fundamental knowledge” that has the potential to greatly benefit all of humankind. From this vantage point, that sounds like a pretty darned good use of tax dollars.
Let’s hope Sancar’s award spurs the Guv and his allies to think a little harder about their simplistic takes on higher education — especially when it comes to the numerous would-be Aziz Sancars who continue to be driven out of North Carolina by the administration’s shortsighted approach to faculty compensation and duties.