The university is first of all accountable to its students—not simply that it owes its students jobs at graduation, but that the university owes its students unfettered access to the best teachers the school has to offer in whatever area of study they choose to pursue.
In this way, and only in this way, can the university be serve the people who live in North Carolina, those who fund the university through their labor and their tax dollars. The people of North Carolina are those who benefit from the long-term returns on public investment in education—returns that are not calculable in terms of profitability, maximized efficiency, and the logic short-term gains that influences the private sector. The private sector cannot by its very nature make the kinds of long-term investments that lead to an educated, free, and engaged citizenry necessary for a future of broadly shared prosperity.
The third group the university is accountable to is the faculty and staff of the university, who should be encouraged and supported, not demoralized and exploited. Faculty should be encouraged to develop their respective fields without interference from administration. Staff should be able to work without fear of reprisal, having benefits slashed, or having their employment status determined at the whim of an unaccountable administration.
The mission of the University of North Carolina and its 16 institutions of higher education, as articulated in its mission statement, is “to address the needs of individuals and society,” and it does this through instruction, which imparts the skills and values needed “to lead responsible, productive, and personally satisfying lives.” The university has pledged in its mission statement to “seek an efficient use of available resources” only in order “to ensure the highest quality in its service to the citizens of the State,” that that service is defined as “teaching and instruction,” which we believe should be determined and guided by teachers and instructors and not by administrators.
The university’s purpose is to create a well-informed and critically engaged public through its curriculum and through a productive engagement with the community.
The university serves the state by graduating the brightest citizens and residents of North Carolina, by serving as a cultural hub for the public, by sharing cutting-edge research, by increasing the public’s access to education and health care, and by promoting respect for the diversity of North Carolina—the varied cultural backgrounds and cultural practices of its citizens and residents.
The university serves its students by giving them a wide range of options for study; for cultivating an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect among fields of study; for emphasizing well-rounded, critical, and adaptable skills, skills that assist students in attaining a fulfilling and engaged presence in their communities (not just to score a job).
The university should protect its vulnerable programs, such as those in the liberal arts, ethnic studies, and gender studies. The university should foster more cross- and inter-disciplinary work on its campus to prepare students for a challenging and volatile future. The university must provide more financial support for students and more support for graduate teaching assistants and adjunct instructors. The future of the university should be decided not by politicians and businessmen, but by teachers, students, and staff who have a vested interest in the future of this institution.