Whether it’s the athletic scandal, the firing of UNC System President Tom Ross, or any of the other scandals that have recently been hitting our University, it seems that the University of North Carolina system, and UNC-Chapel Hill in particular, is incapable of going more than a few weeks without being negatively featured in the news. This time, the scandal involves the Chancellor’s Office and the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (SACC).
Last week, on Tuesday, January 27, Chancellor Carol Folt, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp, and the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor co-hosted a dinner with 40 student leaders from student organizations across the campus. The topic of the evening’s discussion was diversity and progress towards the future of our University. This seems innocent enough, but the event’s organizers made one glaring omission. Not a single conservative student organization was invited. No one representing the UNC College Republicans, the Carolina Review, Carolina Students for Life, UNC Young Americans for Liberty (the campus libertarian club), the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club, Christians United For Israel, or any other right leaning student group heard a word about this dinner until an article in the Daily Tar Heel came out the next day in which SACC Member Ioan Bolohan described the dinner as “an inclusive event which gave students the opportunity to voice their opinions, share their concerns and engage with other student leaders to collaborate and get ideas in front of administrators”.
Unfortunately, conservative opinions were not present to be voiced that evening. The Carolina Review reached out to Chancellor Folt and Student Body Vice President Kyle Villemain on Wednesday requesting a list of those who attended as well as an explanation of why no conservative student organizations were invited to add their viewpoints to the discussion. The Chancellor and Mr. Villemain responded to our inquiry on Friday afternoon. Chancellor Folt told us that this was just the beginning of the dialogue on this issue and that all viewpoints would be welcome in future discussions. She also set up a meeting for next Wednesday with College Republican Chairman and our Editor-in-Chief, Frank Pray. Kyle Villemain responded shortly after the Chancellor and produced the requested list. It confirmed that no conservative student organization leaders had been invited. Alex Johnson, Chairwoman of UNC Young Americans for Liberty, the campus’ ideologically libertarian club, was quick to respond to the lack of representation for those on the right at the dinner. “I am extremely disappointed in the University’s decisions to not include all types of diverse voices on our campus. It seems to me that only one type of political perspective is being included or recognized on campus while the student body, itself, is actually quite diverse in opinions.” Her opinion is not alone, either.
Peter McClelland, Chairman Emeritus of the UNC College Republicans and current Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of North Carolina says that this type of exclusion has been the norm for quite some time. “In my nearly four years in this campus’ conservative movement,” Peter explains, “I have never met an administrator who made an effort to bring conservative voices into discussions about the future of the University.” This type of exclusion is antithetical to the stated ideals of the Chancellor about our University being intellectually diverse.
The status quo of intellectual uniformity leaves much to be desired, often making conservative students feel unwanted on campus. “Conservative students often feel that they must keep their heads down to protect their grades or friendships, and it’s beyond time for our University to look towards creating a place for the free exchange of ideas,” says McClelland. This culture of intellectual diversity must be fostered if Carolina is to remain a prestigious institution of higher learning. Chancellor Folt’s stated goal of intellectual diversity is admirable, but she and the rest of the University administration must do more than pay mere lip service. We must change the status quo to tell all North Carolinians that UNC-Chapel Hill is a place where students come to be exposed to all viewpoints and to feel comfortable sharing theirs. If not, we might as well send young conservatives the message that they need not apply.