Art Pope for UNC president?

popeI’m sure the very thought of that sends shockwaves of trauma across The People’s Republic of Chapel Hill.  Emergency drum circle sessions are being organized.  Every discount store in Orange County is bracing for protests.

Somebody is doing a great job of floating this rumor. In the last 24 hours, I have been asked about it from readers in Murphy, Manteo and all points in between.( I spoke with several of my key Jones Street friends who tell me they’ve heard nothing official on this.)   The drivebys have heard this too, and have been speculating about it in places like this and this. 

There has been an awful lot of bad publicity about the UNC system lately.  Gov. Pat — early in his administration — was critical of liberal arts degrees that don’t prepare students for careers in the outside, grown-up world.  There have been plenty of athletic  and academic (African Studies) scandals, as well as embarrassing crime stories. With each negative story, I am sure system president Tom Ross is sensing that a move might be afoot to send him packing and replace him with someone waiting in the wings.

Pope is an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill.  He helped add some grown-up influence in the early stages of the McCrory administration.  He’s got an impressive record as a manager, with a real eye for the financial side of things.  Pope has been very influential in nurturing conservative idea-peddlers at places like The John Locke Foundation and The Civitas Institute.  Having him in the top spot at the UNC system might help thaw the Cold War there against conservative-leaning academics.

Republicans in Raleigh have a significant opportunity at hand to cement radical changes within the UNC system.  To transform it from a Marxist gulag to the institution of true debate and idea-exchange it was meant to be.  Working throught the Board of Governors to democratize the system, reform the curriculum offerings so they are more in line with the needs and desires of employers,  and amend the whole “diversity” campaign to include people who appreciate capitalism, organized religion, and The American Dream.  I don’t know if Pope really wants the UNC president job, but — if he does — it would be a tremendous opening shot in the fight to bring positive change to the state university system.