CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In a split vote, the University of North Carolina's Board of Trustees voted to today to broaden its affirmative action policy on hiring to include a Republican. Board chair Jim W. Phillips, Jr., said the new policy will put in place for the fall of 2008.
Chancellor James Moeser said that while he welcomed the "experiment," as he called it, he also thought that the university must move "cautiously" into this unknown territory.
"We take our mission as a liberal arts institution very seriously," said Moeser. "We will remain a safe place for our ideas, and to do so it is very important that we speak with one voice to and for our students. A cacophony of thoughts will just lead to confusion the part of the student body.
"As a musicologist I understand that euphony is what makes music to our ears," said Moeser, who began his academic career as a professor of music and is still an accomplished organist.
Professor Ellis L. Suede, who headed up the working group on campus intellectual diversity which advised the Board in formulating the new hiring policy, said he wanted to allay any fears that this decision may diminish the university in any way.
"Those concerned about how this may impact the integrity of the educational process on our campus should rest assured that this decision has been carefully considered. The only place for a Neanderthal on our campus is as subject matter in the anthropology curriculum, not in front of a lectern," said Dr. Suede.
"Other schools have experimented with such a policy in the past to their regret," said Suede. "We're trying to learn from their experiences. We're looking for a Republican who will understand the 'Carolina Experience.'
"To aid our search, we're asking that the Log Cabin Republicans for the names of nominees that they think would be appropriate for us to consider," said Suede.
The UNC Young Republicans (Bob Allison and Reggie Smith) were jubilant at the news. "The possibility that we won't have to travel to Buies Creek to meet with our advisor is really exciting to us," said Smith, a junior from Lincolnton.
UNC's Young Republicans have not had a regular, on-campus faculty advisor since history professor emeritus Beauregard P. Smaples died in 1957.
Chancellor Moeser was adamant that it was a "misconception" that UNC currently had no Republicans on its staff. "We have not just had a Republican," said Moeser, "we have had a reserved slot for a Republican for years. How on earth do you think we could ever get the CEO of a major corporation as dean of the business school if we only took Democrats? We've just been careful to limit them to that position and to make sure that we monitored the dean's contact with students.
"We have never looked at having Republican as head of the business school as a liability to the university but rather as an opportunity to improve our external relations both with the corporate world and wealthy individual donors," said Moeser.
Not everybody on campus was happy with the the Board of Trustee's decision. Students for a Democratic Society staged a sit-in in the chancellor's office to protest the change in the hiring policy. "When our name says 'for a Democratic Society,' it means what it says. There is no way anyone can look at today’s decision as anything but turning away from that lofty ideal," said SDS Minister of Communications Dante Donatelli, a senior from Evanston, Illinois.
Dr. Bernard Kleinschmidt, an intellectual diversity expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that there is little reason to fear that this will "open the floodgates" to hiring a rash of Republicans by UNC.
"Although the Supreme Court rulings limiting quotas in admissions and in hirings present a challenge in theory, in practice they have not been necessary," said Kleinschmidt. "There are so few Republicans who can put two thoughts in a row that the number of qualified applicants will always be constrained. Further, with the requirement of a terminal degree of in their field of expertise, the sifting and sorting process of our graduate schools will have eliminated most of the most bothersome candidates. And I don’t think UNC will never have to worry about getting too many 'highly recommended’ Republican applicants," said Kleinschmidt.
A late report by the Associated Press that Duke University head basketball coach Michael Krzyzewski is a registered Republican has many on the Chapel Hill campus saying that UNC’s trustees will almost certainly repeal this policy at its next meeting.
Gary D. Gaddy, whose parents supported Barry Goldwater for president in 1964 (favorite bumper sticker from the era: Au H2O) and then George McGovern in 1972, grew up in a community in Virginia that went for George Wallace in 1968.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday May 31, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy