UNC-Chapel Hill faculty push back against repeated library cuts

Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill are pushing back against $5 million in budget cuts to its libraries over the next two years — and questioning why they weren’t part of that decision making.

In an October 15 letter to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other top administrators, more than 45 faculty members said the cuts “will be devastating to the research mission of UNC, into the future and in unknowable ways.”

The decision to once again cut library budgets is “particularly bewildering” given the emphasis on research in the school’s strategic plan, the faculty members wrote in the letter.

“A well-sourced library is critical to our mission of scholarship and research and grant development, and is vital for maintaining competitive graduate programs,” they wrote. “It is also essential in attracting faculty and graduate students and retaining faculty. The library is the bedrock of our reputation and status as a top-tier research university. Investment in the library is essential. Such investment should be recognized as one of the university’s necessary operational costs, including in a climate where the library’s operating costs increase at a rate of upwards of $1 million per year on inflation alone. “

Cuts to libraries at the UNC System’s flagship campus are nothing new, the faculty members wrote. But the ongoing trend is disturbing and poses a serious threat to the university’s mission, they said.

Instead of being supported and expanded, for a decade or more the UNC Libraries have been subject to contraction, taking budget cuts every year on the order of 1-3%. University Librarian Sarah Michalak’s 2012 report noted that ‘As state allocations to the University dropped, the Library budget was cut by nearly $4 million over three years.’ Reductions in service of this type have the insidious effect of making the libraries meaningfully less relevant to the work of the university, and, as such, an attractive target for future cuts. In business school, one studies this vicious cycle in the context of businesses that make up for revenue declines by cutting things like quality or advertising, which further reduces revenue, leading to more cuts, and so on. The for-profit world has an apt name for this: the death spiral.”

So far, faculty members say, they’ve gotten no response to their letter. That’s disappointing, they say, but indicative of a lack of shared governance and decision making at many UNC system schools.

“I think we’re disappointed not to be consulted at all on that question of priorities before they’re already telling us about cuts and this first round of cuts is being instituted ,” said Emily Baragwanath, an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Classics. “There was no consultation at all and to my mind the faculty, we’re this untapped resource that could be being deployed to find creative solutions, make arguments that will help raise the money we need. Because we’re absolutely united in our conviction that the libraries are the key to it all, it’s absolutely crucial.”

A lot of funds are now being poured into peripheral, research-related endeavors like maker spaces and creativity hubs, Baragwanath said.

“It’s not that we’re ignorant or not interested in the financial difficulties the university might be dealing with,” she said. “There’s a sense that the priorities might be wrong.”

The planned cuts to the collections budget will mean less access to papers and journals essential to the research of faculty and students across disciplines, said Elizabeth Havice, associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Geography. A plan to make up for that access with inter-library loans won’t do, Havice said.

“Access to these journals and this research is absolutely essential to our research mission,” Havice said. “These cuts are sending a really clear message that the university isn’t going to support us in that mission.”

The university is now making operating budget cuts of 7.5 percent across the board in an attempt to rein in a budget that hasn’t been balanced in more than a decade. But with schools across the nation having a record year in endowment performance, North Carolina’s $6.5 billion state tax surplus and Chapel Hill’s record-breaking $1 billion in federal research grant dollars, Havice said it’s difficult for faculty to understand why repeated cuts to essential academic resources seem always to be the go-to move a budget crunch. It’s not something school administrators seem eager to explain to faculty and students either, Havice said.

“These top-down decisions about things that affect us most are really demoralizing,” Havice said

Read the full letter from UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members below.

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Civil rights groups celebrate federal court ruling in favor of affirmative action at UNC

Image: AdobeStcok

As has been reported by an array of national news outlets, (click here to check out coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post), a federal court ruled yesterday in favor of the UNC-Chapel Hill’s affirmative action policy.

This is from the Times:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may continue using race as a factor in its admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday, rejecting the argument of a conservative nonprofit legal group that is trying to dismantle college affirmative action policies across the country.

In her ruling, which came down decidedly against the plaintiff, Judge Loretta C. Biggs said that the university’s use of race in deciding which students to admit was narrowly tailored, and that the university had made an effort to consider race-neutral alternatives.

“While no student can or should be admitted to this university, or any other, based solely on race,” she wrote, “because race is so interwoven in every aspect of the lived experience of minority students, to ignore it, reduce its importance and measure it only by statistical models,” as she said the plaintiff had done, “misses important context.”

In response to the ruling, civil rights groups intervening in the case in favor for the policy released the following statement. (Note: the North Carolina Justice Center is the parent organization of NC Policy Watch):

Race-conscious admissions policy at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is upheld in key win for affirmative action

The race-conscious admissions policy at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC) is legal and must be upheld, Judge Loretta C. Biggs from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled Monday. The following are statements from groups involved with the case:

Genevieve Bonadies-Torres, an attorney with the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: “Race-conscious admissions policies are a proven tool that advance equal access to educational opportunities, and ensure our talented yet historically marginalized groups are not overlooked. As our clients demonstrated with their trial testimony and evidence, race is an integral part of a students’ identity, and must be treated as such during the admissions process. We need to expand on the progress we’ve made when it comes to diversity and inclusivity in the classroom, and we are elated that the court has concluded that UNC’s admissions policy is both necessary and lawful.” Read more

Attorney involved in ECU scandal reprimanded by North Carolina State Bar

A Hillsborough lawyer with ties to members of the UNC Board of Governors and high level GOP officials in North Carolina has been reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar.

The action stems from a 2019 episode in which Peter Romary claimed he was working with members of the UNC Board of Governors and leaders of the North Carolina legislature when trying to obtain video that led to the resignation of former Interim ECU Chancellor Dan Gerlach.

The video, from Greenville traffic and security cameras, appeared to show Gerlach stumbling and weaving down a sidewalk after a September night that included drinking and dancing with ECU students at a popular bar. The video showed Gerlach then getting into his car and driving away.

The UNC System investigated the incident. But Tom Fetzer, then a member of the UNC Board of Governors, decided to conduct a parallel and in some instances conflicting investigation of his own for which he enlisted Romary. E-mails and text messages showed Romary and Fetzer – a lobbyist, former mayor of Raleigh and one-time chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party –  applied pressure and referenced powerful state lawmakers in seeking the video and not cooperating with the official investigation. They kept this work hidden from the full board of governors, then-UNC System President Bill Roper and the international law firm the system had hired to officially investigate the matter.

In the state bar’s reprimand, summarized in the its Fall 2021 journal, the group said Romary’s actions crossed the line of its code of professional conduct.

“[R]omary asserted that he was representing members of the UNC Board of Governors and the ECU Board of Trustees, members of the North Carolina General Assembly, and the State (and National) Police Benevolent Association,” the group wrote in its summary. “These assertions were misrepresentations in that a reasonable lawyer under the circumstances would not have formed the opinion that these individuals and entities were his clients. During these communications, Romary also alleged without basis in fact that the law firm investigating the matter for the UNC system had potentially engaged in misconduct.”

“Romary later filed a petition with the court to obtain the video footage in which he purported to represent an organization that was not his client,” the group wrote. “Romary was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee for, among other things, making false statements of material fact to a third party and to a tribunal. In determining that reprimand was the appropriate discipline, the committee took into consideration Romary’s lack of prior discipline and the isolated nature of this incident.”

All licensed lawyers in North Carolina must be members of the state bar, a government agency, and adhere to its code.

Romary misrepresented himself in the ECU episode, the state bar concluded, including in e-mails to the Greenville City Attorney’s office.

“I have been retained by some private parties, including a couple members of the ECU Board of Trustees and UNC Board of Governors,” Romary wrote. “This in response to an ever changing story from Dan Gerlach and an allegation of a ‘set up’ by him and some who support him.”

“I have also spoken to a Judge, friend of 25 years, and they are quite annoyed about this,” Romary wrote. “So, I am writing, requesting access to or copies of GPD surveillance camera footage.”

Fetzer also applied pressure, contacting Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), the House majority leader, to enlist his help in obtaining the footage through Romary.

In text messages obtained by Policy Watch, Fetzer informed Bell of Romary’s work.

“John—Don Phillips is the Asst City Atty for Greenville overseeing the police Dept,” Fetzer texted Bell. “Please call him and tell him you are aware that Peter Romary (Ro’maree w emphasis on the first syllable), an attorney representing me as a BOG member, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Benevolent Assoc, has requested the preservation and release of video tapes showing Interim Chancellor Gerlach getting in his car and driving away around 2:20 am on 26 September.”

“Tell him the General Assembly has an oversight role and that you would like the tapes released,” Fetzer wrote in a text to Bell about getting in touch with the Greenville city attorney. “Please do this today if possible.”

“It goes without saying, but keeping this QUIET is essential,” Fetzer said in the text.

“I’ll try to work out something,” Bell texted back.

After that exchange, Romary began representing himself as connected to Bell and the legislature.

“I was informed that House Majority Leader John Bell will be retaining me in support of PBA // FoP and as part of legislature oversight,” Romary wrote in an Oct. 21 text to the assistant city attorney overseeing the Greenville Police Department. “Of course legislature folks want them yesterday.”

After the episode was made public, the Police Benevolent Association and members of the General Assembly denied Fetzer or Romary were working on their behalf.

The ECU incident was not the only controversy in which Romary and Fetzer were involved during Fetzer’s tenure on the board from 2017 to 2020.

In 2018, Fetzer and Romary were also involved in the scuttled search for a new chancellor at Western Carolina University. Fetzer gave confidential candidate information to Romary, who suggested the final candidate had lied on their application. Other board members said that wasn’t true. The candidate ultimately withdrew their application amid concerns about confidentiality.

Fetzer’s fellow board members — and then-UNC President Margaret Spellings — criticized Fetzer for stepping outside of the board’s process and compromising the confidentiality of the selection process.

Fetzer later admitted he had spoken to Spellings about becoming interim chancellor at Western Carolina but was denied when she said she’d chosen someone else.

Fetzer abruptly resigned from the UNC Board of Governors last year, saying he needed to spend more time helping to homeschool his five children in Wilmington. That led some on the board to speculate he would pursue a chancellorship at one of the system’s schools. The UNC Board of Governors appoints chancellors and members of its board can apply, though they have to resign their positions on the board first. Earlier this year then-board member Darrel Allison resigned to pursue the chancellorship at Fayetteville State University. His lack of qualifications for the job, in relation to other candidates in the nationwide search, made his eventual appointment by his former colleagues highly controversial.

UNC-Wilmington, based in Fetzer’s hometown, is now searching for a new chancellor. Fetzer is expected to apply, members of the UNC Board of Governors and UNC-Wilmington’s board of trustees told Policy Watch this week.

Those members asked not to be identified so that they could discuss a confidential search process and characterize discussions among board members, some in closed session.

“I would be surprised if he wasn’t interested and surprised if he didn’t end up applying,” a UNC Board of Governors member said of Fetzer. “That doesn’t mean that he would ultimately be the choice. There’s a lot of history to deal with when you’re talking about Tom.”

Fetzer’s resignation from the board of governors came as the board was finalizing changes to its policies and procedures that would more strictly outline its members’ responsibilities. The policy changes included the ability to censure and recommend the removal of board members who overstep their roles. The changes were instigated by repeated problems with Fetzer acting in ways his colleagues said were inappropriate and possibly legally dangerous for the UNC System.

After his resignation last year, board members told Policy Watch Fetzer could “read the room” and tell it was time for him to go.

“I think the writing was on the wall for him that the board wasn’t going to put up with the kinds of things he was involved in,” one board member said. “We are putting some teeth into our policies and he is not stupid. He’s a very intelligent man. He knows if he continues to operate the way he has, he’s going to end up in trouble.”

“His personality is just not going to allow him to be on the board without going beyond the lines that most of us observe,” the board member said. “He just has the kind of nature where he’s going to do what he wants to do and he likes to get into it with people, and I think our board is trying to move beyond that. We’ve had too much of it in the last few years.”

Democrats’ vision for free community college would boost undocumented students

Why are highly educated Republican politicians so anti-education?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – Screenshot: KXAN News.

College is for pussies.

Ron DeSantis, presidential candidate and part-time governor of Florida, celebrated the decline in the numbers of men entering higher education, citing a Wall Street Journal article that says 60 percent of college students are now women, while in 1970 the number was closer to 40 percent.

“I guess there was a decline in the number of men, the percentage of men going to college or whatever. And they acted like this was a bad thing,” he said. “And, honestly, like, you know, to me, I think that is probably a good sign.”

Oh, hell yeah. Because you know what you get at a university? Ron DeSantis will tell you: “Intellectual repression” and “indoctrination.”

You may not realize this — especially if you’ve ever attended a university — but from the College of Nursing to computer sciences to the dreaded English Department, those America-hating commie professors rejoice in leading the Youth of America astray by making them read books and engage with the experience of people of different ethnicities and backgrounds in the hope of expanding students’ idea of what it means to be human, teaching them to question everything, interrogate sources of information, and discern the difference between facts and the crap mouth-breathing Trumpers post on the Internet.

According to Republicans, universities have always produced legions of Marx-curious, novel-reading, science-embracing, anti-racist and anti-sexist wokesters who hate saying “Merry Christmas.”

And yet, many of these graduates fail to become socialists dedicated to destroying the American Way of Life.

In fact, Ron DeSantis (B.A. Yale, J.D. Harvard), along with U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (B.A., J.D. Harvard), Ted Cruz (B.A. Princeton, J.D. Harvard), and Josh Hawley (B.A. Stanford, J.D. Yale), plus new Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo (B.S. Wake Forest, M.D, Ph.D. Harvard), and jarhead opportunist J.D. Vance (B.A. Ohio State, J.D. Yale), seem to have escaped this alleged brainwashing.

Nevertheless, Florida’s governor sees universities as dangerous sites of elitist dissent against the divinely revealed truth that America is the greatest country ever, and American history is one long triumph piled on triumph.

An ordinary man, a man without the reinforced skull and intestinal fortitude of a Cotton, a Cruz, or a DeSantis, might lose his way in one of those places. Indeed, he might pick up dangerous ideas.

Better a man become a truck driver or a plumber than incur student loan debt cultivating his mind.

As DeSantis, speaking to the International Boatbuilders Exhibition last week in Tampa, said, “some of these universities are not giving you very much for your money.”

Spend all that borrowed cash learning about, say, evolutionary biology, the Spanish colonial empire, or African sculpture? Get a degree in, say, anthropology? Why, the only jobs you could get would be in medicine, diplomacy, art therapy, teaching, museum curating, environmental management, research, criminal forensics, market analysis, health care, business, communications, or technology!

And if you decide to major in English, well, who does that? Other than Mitt Romney, Martin Scorsese, Toni Morrison, Andrea Mitchell, Conan O’Brien, Sally Ride, Jodie Foster, Hank Paulson, Clarence Thomas, Michael Eisner, and other complete losers?

To be quite fair, the part-time governor had a half-intelligible point lurking inside his habitually maimed syntax. Vocational training is important: “I’m sure this industry needs good folks. You have folks, I mean, driving the trucks. You have people who are electrical.” Read more