March Madness comes to Board of Trustees
History lessons from basketball and research with impact led the agenda at the March 23 meeting.
The University Board of Trustees celebrated March Madness differently in 2023.
Instead of cutting down nets, Tar Heels cut a white and Carolina blue ribbon to mark the opening of new space for the North Carolina Collaboratory in Kenan Labs. Trustees cut short their last committee meeting on March 22 to attend the ribbon-cutting with researchers and special guests from the North Carolina General Assembly. The state legislature established the Collaboratory in 2016.
“The idea of the Collaboratory was to leverage the research engine of North Carolina’s universities to inform policymakers and improve the lives of North Carolinians and, ultimately, to make the world a better place,” said Chair David L. Boliek Jr. in his opening remarks at the full board meeting on March 23.
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz also praised the “amazing work” of the Collaboratory and called attention to other research at the University.
“Each day we are moving closer to our goal of becoming that leading global public research university, and it’s because of our community. I am beyond grateful for their hard work and dedication to our mission of serving the people of North Carolina,” he said. “Every day across our campus, researchers are solving problems and addressing the grand challenges of our time.”
Guskiewicz shared these three examples of how Carolina researchers are “making a difference in people’s lives”:
- Recycling plastics. Every day, U.S. manufacturers make enough plastic products to fill the Carolina Panthers’ football stadium. Carolina researchers are working on ways to turn this trash into treasure. Frank Leibfarth, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, and his lab develop reagents, molecules that react with a bond in the polymers of plastics, with the goal of recycling plastic waste into more valuable products.
- THRIVE Program. The Transforming Health and Resilience in Veterans Program is dedicated to treating traumatic brain injuries and related health conditions and promoting overall wellness for veterans. The holistic approach helps veterans and first responders who may be dealing with multiple diagnoses.
- Opioid response. Carolina researchers are involved in several opioid-related projects, including ncIMPACT’s Opioid Response Project to encourage communities to share information to develop approaches to the crisis, a School of Medicine lab’s work to design safer drugs to relieve severe pain and Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for the Business of Health’s development of an adaptable playbook for governments to spend opioid settlement money wisely.
Lessons from basketball
In the featured presentation by faculty, history teaching associate professor Matthew Andrews promised a lecture “much more thrilling than any run to the Final Four.” His lighthearted but informative talk focused on five lesser-known basketball teams in the state, which he used to illustrate themes of race, regionalism, culture and identity in the mid-20th century.
The 1937 Bennett College Belles of Greensboro, for instance, were recognized as the best women’s team in the country and exemplified pride in racial and female achievement. But as cultural values changed, their sweaty sports excellence became less valued than more ladylike virtues. The team was cut in 1942.
In a recent “Race, Basketball and the American Dream” class, Andrews and his students discussed the impact of the drug-related death of college basketball player Len Bias in 1986 had on drug policy and incarceration rates. “Though I talk about basketball, these are the types of weightier issues that I’m interested in exploring in my course,” he said.
Reports and resolutions
Security cameras should be in place outside residence hall entrances this summer, addressing a safety concern expressed by students. George Battle, vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, told the Audit, Compliance and Risk Management committee that the goal is to have them installed before students arrive for the fall 2023 semester.
Moody’s Investors Service maintained its AAA credit rating for the University, linking Carolina’s first all-funds budget to its endorsement, said Nate Knuffman, vice chancellor for finance and operations and chief financial officer, in his report to the Budget, Finance and Infrastructure committee. Knuffman also presented the University’s second all-funds budget for the board’s approval, but they delayed their vote to consider budget questions recently received from the UNC System office.
At the full board meeting, trustees passed a Resolution in Support of UNC Policy Section 300.5.1, the system-wide policy against compelled speech. Trustees also passed resolutions honoring the service of Student Body President Taliajah Vann, attending her last meeting, and Anna Wu, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, retiring in April after 28 years of service.
Watch a recording of the March 23 meeting of the University Board of Trustees.