"When the Rams Club donated money to the library, I wa
peers once described as "personable and
subtly effective ."
From 1982 to 1985, Betts chaired the
Faculty Council, the first woman elected to
that prestigious, influential and demanding
campus position. She held the post during
the controversial buyout of football coach
Dick Crwn's contract and the rash ofcollege
athletics scandals that came to national
attention, and she headed a subsequent UNC
committee on athletics in college life. That
committee's report, Betts believes, has had
"a salutary effect."
"We've never had a dirty athletic progranl
here," she said, "but there is a greater sense,
not just among faculty, but among people
involved in athletics, that the first duty is to
educate the student athlete. There is much
more attention to graduation rates. We
have very responsible people here in our
athletics programs. And when the Rams
Club donated money to the library, I was
the first one to send a thank-you note."
Betts is devoted to her own students and
is also their champion. She downplays dis-
paraging talk about me younger generation.
"I think it's a pretty fine bunch," she said.
"They're extremely good about helping
one another. It's often evident in a class. If
someone is passing through a hard time, the
others, without being asked, will rally round.
I find this very touching. They are bright
and mostly idealistic. They are worried
about money, but [ don't hear them talking
as ifmoney were the goal of their lives."
As the first in her family to ever go to
college, Betts is keenly attuned to students
who also are the fust. "They are rather spe-
cial to me," she said. "They start off tenta-
tively, but they work like dogs. They feel
they are carrying the weight of all their
families' ambitions and goals."
Betts worries that the list toward political
correctness, with its emphasis on ideas in
vogue, may be shortchanging the students.
''I'll give you an example," she said. "For
my last novels course I tried to pick repre-
sentative modern novels in which you could
see what the author believed. I included
everything from French existential atheists
to a novel from the Jewish tradition to a
Doris Betts and the Rattlesnake
by Randall Kenan
I truly despise snakes; Itruly adore Doris Betts. The two feelings merged one fine day in 1984 during
an honors writing seminar at
UNC, English 99, taught by
Daphne Athas and Doris Betts.
Tim McLaurin '85, who so far has
gone on to publish two novels and
an autobiography, had brought to
class a prize rattlesnake, which, for
the class' edification and amuse-
ment, he proposed to milk right
before our very eyes.
Some folk like snakes; some
folk are indifferent to snakes; some
folk hate snakes with a passion. My
abhorrence of the serpent kind
approaches Churchill's feelings
about Hitler. Iam a bona fide
ophidiaphobe. I tried to make my
fears known to the class, but
Alane Mason '86, now an editor at
W.W. Norton, and Sharlene
Baker, now a novelist, and Arne
Rickert '86, now head of subrights
at Little, Brown, and the whole
class all vetoed and snickered at
my worry over nightmares and the
feeling of my skin cringing involun-
tarily at the sight of a big old
snake. Call me a sissy, 1don't care.
J II /I /I IIry/
r /I IIr
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