YOURS AT CAROLINA
Living With Uncertainty
We clearly live in interesting and uncertain times. Much is said and written about how we are increasingly divided and even polarized.
The political middle appears to have disappeared. Except
in primary contests, redistricting has resulted in few truly
competitive congressional and state legislative districts.
Those who care about Carolina wonder and
some worry. How will the federal budget affect
research funding, support for student financial aid,
public broadcasting and the arts? Will the proposed
immigration ban discourage foreign scholars and
students from teaching or enrolling at Carolina?
In Raleigh, did the protracted debate over
HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” convince
students and scholars that North Carolina is
unwelcoming? Will they still decline opportunities
University and other universities across the state?
New to North Carolina, UNC System President Margaret
Spellings has just completed her first year. The Board of
Governors (all of whom are elected by the state Senate and
House), to whom she reports, has few members with long
tenure. As the result of legislation passed by the N.C. General
Assembly and signed by the governor, the size of the board is
being decreased by one-fourth over the next two years.
Born during George Washington’s presidency, sustained
through the Civil War to be closed soon after and reopened
a few years later, Carolina burst onto the national and
international stage in the 20th century to become and remain
not only the nation’s first state university but one of our
nation’s great global public research universities of the
Carolina has faced uncertainty in the past. Would the
University reopen after the Civil War? Would the University
community survive the 1918 flu epidemic that resulted in
so many deaths, including UNC President Edward Kidder
Graham (class of 1898)? How would Carolina sustain itself
during the Great Depression of the 1930s and, more recently,
after the collapse of the financial markets in 2008 and 2009?
Carolina’s 11th chancellor, Carol L. Folt, and her leader-
ship team have shaped a thoughtful, challenging and exciting
strategic plan for Carolina that will become the foundation of
an ambitious capital campaign being launched this fall.
While uncertainty abounds, what remains clear is that our
faculty continue to be remarkably productive —
earning ever-increasing, record-setting federally funded
research grants. Carolina is still a magnet for the best and
brightest students in North Carolina and beyond with more
than 40,000 applications for an entering undergraduate class of
just more than 4,000. And our alumni and friends help sustain
Carolina through their generosity — contributing nearly $500
million in each of the past two years.
What is the role of alumni during these uncertain times?
Alumni really represent Carolina’s only permanent and
largest constituency. Alumni always should be more than
cheerleaders and check writers. It is the value of our diplomas
for which current faculty and administrators are stewards.
Alumni must remain informed and engaged — with
each other and with our University. Alumni must share our
concerns and expectations with those who serve and lead in
the legislative and executive branches at both the state and
federal levels. Alumni must encourage and support those who
are Carolina’s advocates.
As citizens, we must speak up, but we also must listen and
hear. We should seek to understand as much as we hope to
be understood. Each of us should accept that it is just possible
that we are sometimes wrong and that the other person could
be right. As Carolina students, we learned that while life is
much easier if issues are always black and white, the world is
far more complicated, with a wide range of grays.
Carolina remains a robust marketplace of ideas, and
we should be reassured that our students continue to be
exposed to a wide range of speakers, many of whom present
provocative perspectives. And we should withhold judgment
when hearing or reading that something “outrageous” was
said or done at Carolina.
Yes, these are uncertain times for our world, our country,
our state and our University. But just as you may be certain
that the Davie Poplar stands tall with our sustaining Old Well
nearby, eager, bright students continue to be inspired and
taught by our remarkable faculty, who continue their never-ending quest for discoveries to cure our most challenging
diseases and solve our greatest problems.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’ 70
P.S. Since 1983, the GAA’s Tar Heel Network has provided
timely information to Carolina alumni who advocate on behalf
of Carolina. For more, see the “Yours at Carolina” column
titled “Carolina’s Tar Heel Network” in the January/February
2009 Review, available at
If you’d like to be added to the network — or to confirm that
you already are a Tar Heel Network member — just send me