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Who Is James Moeser?

Named new chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill

By Chad Adams

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April 27, 2000

Who Is James Moeser?

On April 14, James Moeser was elected chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Because UNC opted for a secret search, however, North Carolinians were left wondering who James Moeser was and what he could do for UNC-CH.

Moeser has been chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln since 1996. At UNL Moeser made his reputation on his fundraising ability, his commitment to diversity, his focus on academics over athletics, his efforts at improving efficiency, and his efforts fighting student alcohol abuse.

Fundraising: Moeser succeeded in obtaining private donations to UNL ($350 million, according to a UNC press release) as well as increases in legislative support and increases in tuition. This aspect of Moeser attracted UNC's attention for obvious reasons, especially last year's bond fiasco. At UNL, Moeser was able to get state funding as well as private donations for campus facilities improvements.

Diversity: Like nearly all other university chancellors, Moeser, as chancellor of UNL, had a plan for diversity. A Faculty Liaison Task Force on Diversity was created, as was a Diversity Enhancement program, during Moeser's tenure. Like most (if not all) other university plans for diversity, however, those efforts were focused on diversity defined by race, gender, sexual preference - the most rudimentary, easily quantifiable "diversity."

Academics v. Athletics: Moeser's efforts to make UNL a "first-rate learning community" sound similar to the late UNC-CH Chancellor Michael Hooker's desire to improve the "intellectual climate" at UNC-CH. UNL's athletics programs, especially football, are strong, as are UNC-CH's, especially basketball. Moeser attracted national attention just recently when he carped about the salary of incoming UNL basketball coach, Barry Collier, which was higher than his as chancellor. Moeser said he didn't think the basketball coach's salary should higher than his or perhaps even those of full professors. Yet just last summer Moeser, along with Athletic Director Bill Byrne, urged before a regent's committee meeting for spending what it takes for UNL to be No. 1 in every sport in which it fields a team.

Efficiency: As a provost at the University of South Carolina, Moeser once asked department heads to suggest areas where they could cut 12 percent from their budgets and areas where they could add six percent. From those suggestions, the university found new uses for approximately $16 million. At UNL, he did the same thing, taking from low-priority programs and strengthening high-priority programs. This kind of thinking would be crucial for UNC-CH, which needs to assure legislators and citizens that it's doing the best possible with the funding it gets.

Alcohol: At UNL, Moeser became concerned about students' alcohol abuse and the violence related to it. The problems at UNL were exacerbated by the local bars' policy of giving free drinks to adults on their 21st birthdays (a rite descriptively known as the "Birthday Bar Crawl"). His work with civic and campus groups on that issue prepared him for continuing the efforts at UNC-CH, which after a series of unfortunate alcohol-related incidents has instituted several high-profile campaigns against student alcohol abuse.

Moeser's strengths seem to be those that would serve UNC-CH well at this stage in its history. Why the search committee sought Moeser in secret, especially since it was well known in Nebraska that Moeser was actively seeking the top job at the University of Florida, is hard to discern. Surely the committee didn't fear that Moeser wouldn't stand up to public scrutiny. It's more likely that UNC has gotten used to doing business behind the backs of the people who bankroll it.

UVAs Admissions Policy Monitored

Just how much does a student's race or ethnicity affect their chances of being accepted to the University of Virginia? The Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), a nonprofit Washington D.C-based think tank, will try to answer that question. CEO has added to its website an interactive feature that calculates a student's probability for being admitted into last year's freshman class at UVA.

The "predictor," found at ceousa.org, generates a percentage of probable admission based on SAT scores, class rank, Virginia residency, whether parents were graduates of the university, and the student's race and ethnicity. For instance, an in-state student with a 600 verbal and 600 math SAT score and a 93rd percentile high school class rank will have a 99 percent chance of admissions if black, but only a 50 percent chance if white, according to the Center's data.

"It is unfortunate that UVA discriminates based on race and ethnicity," Linda Chavez, president of the Center, said in a statement released this week. With the predictor, a student can see how their racial or ethnic background improves or diminishes their probability of admission.

 


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