Open letter to UNC President Erskine Bowles

Posted: Dec 14, 2006 5:08 PM
Open letter to UNC President Erskine Bowles

December 15, 2006

Dear President Bowles,

Merry Christmas! I hope this letter finds you well. Congratulations on a successful first year as the president of the University of North Carolina system. Sometime I’ll have to ask you how this gig compares with your work as White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton.

I'm writing to you today on behalf of a good friend of mine, Prof. Mike Adams. He teaches criminal justice at the Wilmington campus. I was inspired to write after watching "Hardball" the other day. It's a political talk show on one of those cable channels – not the Fox News Network, but kind of like it. MSNBC it's called. (How to describe it? Well, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets," think of Fox, then take away fairness and watchability.)

What station it was is neither here nor there. What was encouraging to me was that the host, I think his name is Chris Matthews, was interviewing former Senator John Edwards in Chapel Hill, and the university really put on a show. It was amazing! The university pep band was there. The university cheerleaders were there. Even Ramses the university mascot was there!

It was very clear that UNC-Chapel Hill wanted to make sure that the whole country knows it supports John Edwards. That's really cool. Especially because John Edwards is running for president! And I think it's important for someone in this state to remind the rest of the nation that John Edwards says he's from here, before everyone else in the media starts talking again about how he's from South Carolina just because they have an early presidential primary.

Now it's true that UNC's pep rally for Edwards on MSNBC could be interpreted as a public university using its resources to inject itself into politics, and to support a political candidate, which it shouldn't do — and not just because it could alienate well over half the state's voting population who didn't support Edwards in the last election, but also because of the principle involved. Just ask former Halifax Community College President Ted Gasper, who was fired almost a year ago amid allegations that he had used university resources to support the campaign of former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance, now serving time in a federal prison for mail fraud and money laundering.

But that's where I think you fit in, Pres. Bowles. You can make it clear that the UNC system supports all of its favorite sons on cable news networks. Remove all of the politics from it. My buddy Mike is a frequent guest of cable news shows, including Fox. When he's on those shows, it's usually just him in an interview room. Now, he's a humble man, and I'll bet it never even occurred to him to ask to be treated like a revenue sports team just for snagging a few minutes of air time. In fact, he might think of it as a gaudy waste of resources and a quick way to tarnish the university's scholarly reputation.

So what I'm proposing to you, Pres. Bowles, is to have UNC-Wilmington Chancellor Rosemary DePaulo at least offer to send the UNCW pep band, cheerleaders, and Seahawk mascot to cheer Mike on the next time he's fielding questions on Fox, MSNBC, etc. about feminists gone berserk in academe, the joys of quail hunting and cigar smoking, the wonders of being turned down for promotion just for being openly conservative, or what-have-you. You know Rosemary's big on university celebrations. When she was installed as chancellor, the university blew over $100,000 on the party, including dropping forty large on one speaker, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the Democrat from Maine.

Oh, the fact that Mike is conservative is important. Since Mike happens to be one of the few openly conservative professors in the UNC system and also one of the few professors in the UNC system known nationally to cable viewers and news readers, having the university cheer him on offers you the equally rare opportunity to show that the UNC system is in fact "fair and balanced" (sorry, couldn't resist) in its enthusiasm for its members who achieve celebrity.

Besides, like Edwards, Mike has written a book (Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel) and he's got another one in the works. I'm sure his book sales could use the extra enthusiasm.

Provided, of course, he doesn't think it's flat-out ridiculous and disgusting for the leadership of an institution of higher learning to act like star-struck pre-teen girls just because someone they know is omigodomigodomigod going to be on TV!

Happy New Year,

Jon Sanders

North Carolina taxpayer