Administrators must take a stance on higher education


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin


Students and faculty have been protesting a lot lately, and the board of governors has given them quite a lot to protest about.

Only a week after hiring Margaret Spellings, the UNC Board of Governors increased the salaries of some chancellors throughout the system in a closed session, according to the News & Observer.

Even for a board which has distinguished itself for deplorable behavior, this was just too brazen. So some members of the faculty and some students have begun to raise their voices.

The faculty members who stood up last week on Sanford Mall should be commended for their courage. In the last fews years, hostile activity by the board has been shown to create a chilling effect among faculty members.

A New Yorker piece from March detailed how some professors in the UNC system resorted to private communications, rather than university networks, for fear that critical communications would be punished.

Add into the mix the non-tenure track faculty whose lack of job security makes them especially vulnerable, and it’s easy to see why speaking out can be difficult for many faculty members.

Then there are the students, some of whom have gone beyond just protesting to articulating meaningful steps for reform on a host of relevant issues.

Student and faculty activism is encouraging and we should hope for more of it. But there is another group on this campus who needs to speak out: administrators, particularly the chancellor.

Last week, protesters characterized the raises to chancellors as bribes, and this is completely accurate.

By giving executives a raise at a time of high tension in system, the board is working hard to keep the status quo in place by making chancellors comfortable in their current positions.

Then, there is also the other implication. What if a chancellor steps too far out of line? What punishments would be in store?

All of this sounds fearful and paranoid, and it is. Sadly, that is what we are dealing with right now. After all, Tom Ross, the highest ranking executive in the entire system, was taken down for blatantly political reasons.

Unquestionably, that makes things incredibly difficult for Chancellor Everts. There is a great deal of pressure on her and other administrators from higher-ups in the state.

Yet, this is a critical moment for higher education in this state. This requires courage, and we should expect that from our chancellor.

What we need is clear communication from the chancellor about where she stands on the critical issue for higher education. What plans does she have for change on our own campus, and what types of proposals is she willing to advocate for within the system?

There are already a number of proposals from a number of campus group on different areas of change. We have the Student Power proposals and a report from the non-tenure track faculty committee, among others, which outline recommendations.

If changes to parking on a class day can justify a campus-wide email, then so can email outlining the administration’s plan for non-tenure track faculty.

The climate of fear and anxiety that exists in the system right now must end. And it is the job of everyone at this university, from the students all the way to the chancellor, to make it clear that this is unacceptable.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.