The glaring omission from Moeser

Clarion Call No. 122
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill needs more money from taxpayers and donors and more issues advocacy from faculty and administration members, Chancellor James Moeser said this Sept. in his first “State of the University” speech to the Chapel Hill campus. Moeser brought the concept from his days as head of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

With emphasis on funding and fundraising, Moeser talked about “our long-term vision for Carolina,” which he defined as “to do what Carolina has always done best: to lead” and later specified as “leading the way for America’s great public universities.”

Moeser never specified where exactly the university would be leading, but a word search through his speech by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy uncovered the main destinations. For example, he used the word “research” 23 times, “fund” (including “funding” and “fundraising”) 20 times, “class” or “classroom” once, and “teach” or “teaching” not at all. Nine times he talked about “great university” or a similar variant (such as “best public university” and “great international university”).

In a section at the beginning of the speech containing his only reference to the classroom, Moeser stated that “the joy of learning is overtly evident in all we do.” From there he discussed the many funding needs of the university and warned against “cuts — real and proposed” even as “the state’s revenue picture [has] worsened considerably.”

Moeser compared the present situation with the university during the Great Depression, where even then “declining revenue was not a sufficient reason to raid our intellectual [sic] resources.” He cited the example of Frank Porter Graham’s leadership during that time, specifically Graham’s justification for increasing university funding on the basis of “Because a child survived on two meals a day is not sound reason to put the child on less food.” (The analogy of the university as a hungry child was no doubt especially resounding during the Depression when it was more commonplace for children to go hungry.)

Moeser made the case for increasing the university’s funding through all the research being made by faculty and how that “research is making its way directly to the North Carolina economy,” citing the creation of spin-off companies that hire employees and pay taxes. “Our goal is to create our own venture capital fund and incubator space to further stimulate this kind of activity,” Moeser said. For those reasons, Moeser urged legislators to keep away from UNC-CH’s overhead receipts from federal grants, which he called “our seed corn.”

Moeser also talked about UNC-CH’s “master plan” for the campus’s future expansion. He also carped about the Town of Chapel Hill’s latest stipulations, which he said “appear to shift the costs disproportionately to the university, its students, and ultimately the state.”

The chancellor then turned his focus on UNC-CH as an international university, a topic he had previously hinted at when he discussed the global ramifications of reductions in the university’s budget. “Threats of 7 percent cuts, even if unrealized, depict great financial instability and send shock waves that are felt not only here at home, but around the world as we seek to recruit the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students,” he said.

After quoting UNC-CH Law School Dean Gene Nichol that UNC-CH “wants to be a public university; we embrace the word ‘public’,” Moeser concluded his speech by saying it was the university’s “moral responsibility” to “take a stand on the critical issues of the day.” Moeser stated that “we must be tolerant of the opinions expressed by others” and shortly afterward wondered if it were time “we reclaimed the words ‘character’ and ‘values’ from the extreme right.” In “act[ing] on our convictions,” Moeser said, UNC-CH will “be the ‘light on the hill’ for America and the world.”