McCrory remarks get low marks from educators, students

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 06:05 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory’s remarks about the value of a liberal arts education continued to send shock waves throughout the UNC campus and university system on Wednesday.

McCrory’s statement on Bill Bennett’s conservative radio talk show Tuesday that he wants to change the way state universities are funded, rewarding those that are best at preparing students for jobs, hit a raw nerve with many in the state’s higher education community who believe a university education should prepare a person for more than getting a job after graduation.

Anne Whisnant, a UNC history professor, said educators have taken to social media and other outlets to voice their concerns about the governor’s placing primary value on students landing a job after earning degrees.

 “One aspect is that the governor apparently does not have a deep understanding of a liberal arts education,” Whisnant said.

Whisnant used Twitter to encourage UNC faculty to call McCrory and tout the value of a liberal arts education.

The debate sparked by McCrory’s remarks mirrors one that has been ongoing among members of the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions, a group of educators, business leaders and politicians working on a new five-year plan for the UNC system. Their charge includes setting a degree attainment goal for the state.

The proposed plan, which the UNC Board of Governors will vote on next week, provides incentives to university’s to improve productive and graduation rates.

“UNC is already transitioning from a campus funding model focused solely on enrollment changes to a model that considers campus performance on key measures related to student success and academic and operational efficiencies,” UNC system President Tom Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “We believe this funding model sets the ght direction for our university and our state.”

  But Ross stressed that UNC system’s value should not be measured simply by the number of jobs it fills

“Our three-part mission of teaching, research, and public service requires that we prepare students with the talent and abilities to succeed in the workforce, because talent will be the key to economic growth,” Ross said. “We must also continue to serve the state through our agricultural and industrial extension programs, our Small Business and Technology Development Centers, our Area Health Education Centers, and through the many other ways our faculty and students are engaged in our communities.”

Meanwhile, a statewide student group, the NC Student Power Union, took McCrory to task for his statement, and announced plans to fight the “far right” agenda of the new legislature.  

The group has planned a statewide organizing conference at N.C. State University Feb. 16 to bring students together to develop strategies to “stop the policies of the legislature they say will harm students, workers, and the people of North Carolina.”

“In his comments yesterday, Governor McCrory outlined a radically misinformed and backwards vision for the future of education in our state,” said Hannah Allison, a graduate student at N.C. State University. “Wealthy right-wing donors like Art Pope bought the North Carolina legislature and put conservatives like McCrory in the driver’s seat of our state. Their program is clear -- public education and services will face massive cuts, the tax code will be gutted, workers rights will be further eroded, and the general welfare of our state will be undermined to benefit the richest few.”