To the author of Thursday’s ‘Thorp: A strong choice, despite baggage’ staff editorial
Thank you for your enthusiastic welcome of my university’s former chancellor, Holden Thorp, who will take the position of provost at your school next academic year, and for your understanding that he is a truly extraordinary and accomplished person.
But I’d like to gently call your attention to a few weak spots in your editorial. Who am I to do this, you might exclaim. After all, I’m a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the cultureless den of iniquity in which Thorp has been helplessly imprisoned for the past five years, forced to keep that “multidisciplinary nature” of his under wraps.
Consider me a peer. Like you, I’ve worked for my university’s newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel (one of the top college newspapers in the country). I used to edit the arts section, which published stories about UNC’s internationally renowned repertory theater company, our performing arts program that’s hosted acts from Yo-Yo Ma to Big Boi, and countless decorated student arts groups alongside coverage of our sports teams.
So, if I’ve earned it, here are a few things in your piece that I took issue with.
“[Thorp] will move from a culture of Division I athletes to a spirit of Division III student-athletes at a place where academics supersedes athletics and the last poetry slam hosted a larger student audience than the last sporting event.”
Yes, we Tar Heels like and support our Division I athletics teams. I don’t think that is the massive moral deficiency you’re making it out to be. Our Division I football team has messed up, but hosts of our other very skilled Division I athletes do fit the “student-athlete” bill (for instance, Tyler Zeller, of last year’s very successful basketball team, was named Academic All-American of the year). And I’m not sure that your distinction between my university’s lowly “culture” and Wash U’s purer “spirit” is necessary.
I’ll also say that, at UNC-Chapel Hill, we have more than our fair share of poetry slams, which draw plenty of people. Similarly well-attended are the student-produced plays, the student-run TEDxUNC conference, and lectures by people like Noam Chomsky and Jackson Katz. It’s less a shortcoming of our university than it is a fact of the modern world that sporting events tend to draw more spectators than artistic ones.
“In the midst of an NCAA investigation into the questionable academic practices surrounding UNC-CH sports, maybe Thorp hoped to distance himself from tarnish by association.”
Thorp has anything but distanced himself from said investigation. He’s dealt with it for over two years, made the extremely controversial decision to fire Butch Davis and has accumulated a good bit of “tarnish.”
“He will trade in fears of athletes receiving credit for nonexistent African and Afro-American studies classes for fears of engineers installing keyloggers on teaching assistants’ computers.”
Wash. U.’s keystroke logging surveillance doesn’t really sound more appealing than your shallow understanding of UNC’s academic scandal. And it’s not as though Thorp was a blameless victim of said scandal—such shenanigans were exactly the sort of thing it was his job to keep from happening.
“The Wash. U. way may prove jarring to Thorp at first.”
It’s sweet that you’re concerned, as though dear old HoTho has spent his tenure at UNC in the grips of something like Stockholm syndrome, but I think he’ll muddle through.
“Here, community is built around the arts and sciences.”
As it is here. We don’t just use the academic buildings for tailgates in the event of inclement weather—we’re a university with enormous research capabilities in both the arts and the sciences. See our recently built and highly capable Genome Sciences Building. Or Wilson Library, whose Southern Folklife Collection is one of the most comprehensive archival resources of folk music in the nation.
“Here, students compete for academic scholarships rather than athletic ones.”
I’m sure this piece was assigned to you in haste, and you were left grasping for an angle. And I’m sure you wrote it under a great deal of pressure, given the considerable academic demands of a Wash. U. education that you have intimated. But, due to my compulsive affection for and pride in my university, I couldn’t keep myself from defending it. Be nice to Thorp next year—he deserves it.