Point of View

UNC is far more than one department

June 23, 2012 

The Carolina Way has become a joke – so said a recent editorial on these pages.

At my alma mater and former place of work, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that term, “the Carolina Way,” is associated with what is noble and true, honest and fair. It involves giving back to one’s community, showing positive initiative and serving as a good example.

It was termed a joke because of shenanigans in just one department. But the Carolina Way is much broader.

The department in the spotlight is only one of more than 40 in Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences, which also encompasses numerous institutes and centers. That’s not even counting the library, the schools of business, dentistry, education, government, information and library science, journalism and mass communication, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and the graduate school.

Consider just a few of their activities:

Dental students, faculty and alumni routinely provide free dental care to the underserved throughout North Carolina and in disadvantaged countries, as well as education about dental health.

Among other services, the School of Education provides extensive training and lesson plans for K-12 teachers – all in line with new state standards. A student organization in the school trains literacy tutors and places student tutors with elementary pupils.

School of Government faculty are well known for their advice and research that helps local governments across the state.

The Highway Safety Research Center voiced concern very early about cell phones and driving; developed the concept of graduated driver’s licenses; and contributed to increased seat belt use and pedestrian safety.

The library, among countless programs and exhibits of interest to the public, mounted the last two North Carolina Literary Festivals. And don’t forget all the free concerts in the music department.

We could go on and on with these examples, unit by unit. One multidisciplinary entity worth noting is the student-led APPLES service learning program, in which students volunteer with such organizations as the Interfaith Council for Social Services, which helps the most unfortunate in our community. More than 2,900 students participated in APPLES in the 2011-2012 academic year. Another service-leaning organization, the Campus Y, involves about 2,000 students each year.

In May, 290 members of the class of 2012 who earned bachelor’s degrees were honored as public service scholars. While at Carolina, each of those students completed at least 300 hours of community service, maintained good grade-point averages, took at least one service-learning course and attended training workshops.

The average hours of service for the group? 491. Twenty reported more than 1,000.

This year’s scholars join 1,157 previous graduates of the program since it began in 2003. Twenty of those May graduates had trained long and hard for four years in demanding physical and mental activities, which they completed in addition to their studies. These ROTC grads headed off to serve their country.

Sorority and fraternity members regularly raise funds for charities and volunteer for organizations including Habitat for Humanity and the Interfaith Council.

And consider UNC’s employees. The recent Carolina Blood Drive on campus – the 24th annual – collected 784 units of blood for the sick and injured in our community. Townspeople also contributed, but UNC staff volunteers run the drive with the American Red Cross, and UNC employees count for most of the donors.

These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. So don’t toss the baby out with the bath water. That’s just not the Carolina Way.

LJ Toler worked at UNC News Services for nearly 15 years.

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