UNC Gets Serious About Grade Inflation…Maybe

In the great majority of courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, the average gradepoint is above 3.0 and in a few, it is 4.0, meaning that every student received an A. The question is whether that is a problem.

Evidently, some people at the university believe that it is a problem because the Educational Policy Committee, a subcommittee of the Faculty Council is going to address the matter of grade inflation. Said Professor Peter Gordon, who chairs the committee, “We have begun to explore techniques that give an alternative to the traditional grade point average.”

The University Needs to Know Its Own Limitations

One of my favorite movie lines occurs when Clint Eastwood (“Dirty Harry” Callahan) says to a criminal he has just subdued, “A man has got to know his own limitations.”

Knowing one’s limitations is a good idea for institutions as well as individuals, but for some years now, it’s been evident that UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser doesn’t recognize any limits on his university. His September 15 “State of the University Address” shows that he believes the university to have a far wider range of capabilities than it actually does.

One example is the Chancellor’s statement that “North Carolina must compete in this global economy, so it is absolutely critical that its flagship university be a player on the world stage.” That’s why UNC is building a new Global Education Center.

A New MBA Program That’s “Outside the Box”

For half a century, Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs have been a growth industry in the U.S. In 1955-56, only 3,200 MBA degrees were awarded. But in the 1960s, the numbers started to climb; in 1998, more than 102,000 MBA degrees were awarded. MBA programs have sprouted up in colleges and universities great and small as administrators sought to cash in on the increasingly prevalent idea that MBA studies were very useful if not essential for success in many business fields.

The trouble is that in trying to cater to a mass market, many programs offer an education that is of little practical value. In a September 2002 article in the Academy of Management Learning & Education, authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina Fong observe that “possessing an MBA neither guarantees business success nor prevents business failure” and point out that the nation’s top business consulting firms often hire people who have degrees other than an MBA. They quote a Stanford MBA who regards the curriculum as “irrelevant” and believes that students get “a pedigree rather than learning.”

Diversity Mania Gets More Costly

East Carolina University recently announced the hiring of a new administrator with the title Assistant to the Chancellor for Institutional Diversity. ECU’s choice, Sallye McKee, currently associate vice provost for urban and educational outreach at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, begins her duties at ECU July 1.

According to ECU, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Institutional Diversity “will play a principal role in crafting and articulating a vision of East Carolina University as a diverse and inclusive institution of higher learning.” More specifically, this administrator “will contribute to the institution’s diversity efforts through honest, open dialogue and collaborative networking with administrative, faculty, staff and student colleagues in the development and evaluation of campus diversity programs, policies, and practices.”

What UNC needs in a president

The University of North Carolina system is hunting for a new president. Molly C. Broad, the current president, has announced her resignation and a committee of 13 distinguished individuals has been given the task of selecting her successor.

Perhaps it’s just public relations, but the committee has scheduled “town hall” meetings around the state this month to hear from people who have ideas on this matter. I have some definite ideas about the characteristics of the person the search committee should choose.

First, the individual must have an overriding commitment to academic integrity. Of course, every candidate is going to pay lip service to academics. The tough job will be to get through the rhetorical smokescreen to find out if it’s just talk.

Does North Carolina Need an Optometry School?

“No one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” So says Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. Let’s keep that in mind as we consider a new spending proposal being pushed by one of the schools in the UNC system.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNC-P) has advanced a plan to build a new school of optometry at the geographically remote campus. The budget contains $10 million for the initial planning and development of the project, but no funds can be expended until the UNC president’s office gives approval. A meeting to decide on the plan is scheduled for later this month.

Using Free Market to Pay for College

More students than ever are attending the nation’s colleges and universities, but we nevertheless hear a lot about how terribly expensive it is. Even with the very low in-state tuition charged by UNC schools, the cost of a year in college, including housing and living expenses, can be a strain on the budget for low-income families. It can be a strain for not-so-poor families too, if they haven’t saved enough money.