To some people our University has received too much unfortunate national publicity this fall.
Several reports of assaults on our students and staff prompted Chancellor Paul Hardin to issue a campuswide advisory on personal safety. Our Division of Student Affairs instituted a mandatory 24-hour lock-up of all student residence halls. New lighting was added across campus. We all understand that regrettably no community is spared from acts of criminal violence. Each of us, and especially students — who can be particularly vulnerable — must remain alert and take appropriate precautions.
On another front, many alumni expressed concern when a national news magazine reported that Carolina had fallen out of their top-25 ranking of national universities. While our fall from No. 25 to No. 28 should not be dismissed, we should note that only four public institutions (California, Virginia, UCLA and Michigan) remain in this top-25 ranking. Our drop from last year’s ranking was prompted by a decline from 85.5 to 85.3 in our overall score. Meanwhile, we retained our top-10 ranking by another national magazine identifying the “best buys” in the nation.
The national media also have focused on continuing discussions at UNC regarding plans to expand the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center. It is important that the visibility of these contested issues helps all who support our University to recall that for nearly 200 years we have not merely survived but thrived because we welcome, encourage and draw strength from open, candid discussion of differing perspectives. Unfortunately, our University, like our state and nation, has confronted, though certainly not resolved, issues associated with race throughout its history.
My Carolina education gave me a deep appreciation for the complexities of our world. While sometimes distressing, it was reassuring to learn that there are many perspectives on almost
every issue. Few issues can or should be viewed in absolute terms. Every problem may not have a solution, and even apparent solutions can bring with them unanticipated new problems.
Does this mean that we surrender to our problems? Of course not. Free inquiry, research, debate and the exploration, stretching and seeking of accommodation and understanding — these form the centerpieces of any college or university. Over the years, our University has been able to explore differences, respecting each individual while seeking genuine understanding, if not agreement, and avoiding the temptation to personalize issues while retaining the right to debate vigorously.
Ours is a large, complex University that has been built through sacrifice and nurturing by many people over nearly two centuries. We have drawn our strength from our diversity and from honest debate in our search for truth and in our pursuit of excellence.
In addressing our many challenges whether inadequacies of faculty and staff salaries and benefits, our mounting need for program and facilities funding, or our continuing effort to reaffirm our Carolina community — we should do so with the inner peace and confidence that comes from an unambiguous sense of purpose, a clear vision and an absolute understanding and appreciation for that which makes our University special.
What distinguishes UNC from all public and private universities is its unique devotion and connectedness to the people of North Carolina. It has demonstrated that a university can achieve internationally recognized scholarship, provide distinguished undergraduate, graduate and professional teaching, and proudly serve the state. In continuing to address the problems facing North Carolina — environmental quality, health care, public education and a myriad of others — we help individuals in our region, our nation and the world.
Let us look forward with eager anticipation and great confidence to 1993, the year of the University’s bicentennial, the General Alumni Association’s sesquicentennial and The Daily Tar Heel‘s centennial. Our distinguished past is merely prologue to an even more distinguished future — a future that celebrates our diversity, welcomes continuing challenges and recognizes that together we will move forward.
Happy New Year!
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70