Anyone who has attended or worked with one of the UNC-system schools–or any other public university system for that matter–should know about the endless debate between faculty and administrators, and the legislature and big money donors that fund them.

Faculty and administrators argue policy, while the top brass at each school work to get more money from the General Assembly, corporations and large foundations. Folks at UNC-Chapel Hill get to go at it again this week with the release of a task force report titled “Donors Affecting the Curriculum.”

The university opened the floor for public comment on Tuesday and will again on Monday, Jan. 30, at 4:30 p.m. in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center.

Administrators at UNC created the task force after 71 faculty members signed a letter to The Daily Tar Heel last year accusing the administration of cutting the faculty out of the process to propose a program in “Western Cultures” to the Pope Family Foundation. The letter states, “The lack of transparency and the administration’s withholding of information throughout this process are disturbing.”

The letter, published March 1, 2005, called on the administration to create the task force that will now listen to public comments on its report.

“It is my hope that these guidelines will promote cooperation and collaboration among faculty, administrators and development officers,” says William Race, assistant chair in the classics department, who signed the letter and became co-chair of the donor task force.

“Although the task force grew out of the ‘Western Cultures’ issue,” he said, “its charge is quite broad–to set guidelines and procedures for handling all donations that affect the curriculum.”

The report sets basic guidelines and states as their goal “to promote early consultation with faculty about potential donations that have a material effect on the curriculum.”

The guidelines are:

  • When a donation is made that might affect the curriculum in any school, department or other part of the university, that unit “shall be consulted at the earliest possible time with regard to the details of any gift that may affect its curriculum.”
  • “Priority in negotiating with potential donors shall be given to securing gifts that will be used to support needs identified by affected units of the University.”
  • Factors to be weighed in determining whether a gift affecting curriculum should be accepted include whether the curriculum would have to be changed, what the changes would be, whether those changes are in keeping with the university’s “goals, mission and values,” whether the gift carries conditions, whether it has any effects on academic freedom or the university’s reputation, and whether the donor’s name would be attached to a professorship or program.

    The report recommends that a written statement be produced that thanks donors but “make[s] clear that UNC Chapel Hill faculty determine the design, contents, and staffing of whatever position or program is being funded.” It also calls for units of the university to let their needs be known to the development office.

    Sherryl Kleinman, a professor in the sociology department at UNC and a signatory on the letter, said she was not completely pleased with the task force report. “I’m glad the report states that faculty are supposed to control curricula. But the report fails to recommend that a faculty committee be established to ensure that faculty control over curricula is not compromised by donations.”

    The issue arose when faculty learned the UNC administration was in discussions with the Pope Foundation for a potential multi-million-dollar grant to promote study of Western civilization, which other conservative, Pope Foundation-funded organizations say has been neglected at UNC in the name of multiculturalism.

    The Raleigh-based John William Pope Foundation is the primary source of funding for the John Locke Foundation and the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy–which has launched attacks on “left-wing bias” in UNC classrooms and campus groups. The foundation, headed by UNC alumni Arthur Pope and John Pope Sr., gets most of its money through the Pope family’s closely held corporation Variety Wholesalers, which owns Roses and a couple other retail chains in the South.

    Kleinman explained in an e-mail why she opposed the Pope family funding: “The Pope Center, which is funded mainly by the Pope Foundation, mocks and disparages the university’s efforts to respect ethnic, gender, and sexual diversity and to create a more inclusive scholarly community. To judge from its Web site, the Pope Center would like to roll back the clock to a day when the study of western civilization meant the celebration of great white men, with no mention of racism and sexism, or oppression and exploitation of any kind.”