When two-sport All-American Ronald Curry decided to come to Carolina, The University of North Carolina won an important recruiting battle with the University of Virginia. Sadly, athletics may be the only arena where we win over UVA this year. In the recruitment of graduate teaching and research assistants, Carolina has fallen well behind UVA and many other peer institutions.
The N.C. General Assembly has a rare opportunity to correct this. Why rare? Because seldom is the state economy so robust. Not only are there substantial budget surpluses for this year, recurring surpluses also are projected for future years.
If we will acknowledge that the research universities — Duke, N .C. State and Carolina — largely are responsible for the spectacular success of the Research Triangle Park, then we also know that the RTP has been a vital contributor to the health of the North Carolina economy.
Each of these three campuses is a “research” university, and each has attracted world-class scholars. These scholars work closely with graduate teaching and research assistants who are critical to our entire educational process. And it is in the fierce competition for graduate students that Carolina has fallen.
These graduate students are our future professors. They help teach the important first-year English, math, foreign language and humanities courses. Their research is critical to the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge. The fact that our research funding has catapulted to nearly $300 million a year with a resulting billion-dollar impact on North Carolina’s economy is substantially attributable to the important work of our graduate research and teaching assistants in partnership with our tenured faculty.
However, Carolina is well behind the universities of Virginia, Michigan, California (Berkeley), Washington (Seattle), Maryland and Illinois a well as Stanford, Duke, Princeton, Emory and Johns Hopkins. Unlike us, each of these institutions is able to waive tuition for its graduate student teachers and researchers. Further, what financial support Carolina provides is on an annual basis while our competition provides multi-year funding, recognizing that these students make a long-term commitment when they enroll in a graduate program.
In the past, North Carolinians have wanted the best for our children and for the state’s future. We have sacrificed to build this world-class institution uniquely devoted to relentless public service while providing unparalleled teaching within a vigorous research enterprise. And what we do benefits not only our students; all citizens gain from a more vital economy and an enhanced quality of life. Will we make an investment in tomorrow by helping today’s graduate students?
Are you willing to help our graduate teaching and research assistants? Please call, write or visit your legislators soon to express your hope and expectation that during this period of economic growth, they will invest in North Carolina’s future. You may be sure that others are nuking their case for additional funding for their favorite cause. Legislators hear too seldom from Carolina alumni about important legislative priorities.
Please don’t be silent. Just as our coaches were persuasive with Ronald Curry, Carolina alumni need to make UNC’s case with our legislators. If we are successful, we’ll have some important, lasting victories in the classrooms and laboratories that will boost the quality of life and North Carolina’s economy for years to come.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70
P.S.: Your legislators also are in a position to help Carolina by boosting the salaries of Carolina’s faculty. In the fall 1997 U.S. News & World Report‘s rankings of “national universities,” 26 institutions were ranked ahead of Carolina. Of these, 25 had higher average annual salaries for their full professors, and the average annual salary for a full professor was roughly $12,000 more than what Carolina offers. Competitive faculty salaries are important if we are to achieve our shared goal of becoming the nation’s top public university.