The anxiety of ambiguity

Everywhere I look, there are big questions that need answers, and it’s unclear who will provide them, when it will happen or what the implications will be. Sequestration will affect all Americans, including people at our School, but no one with whom I have talked at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) can say who exactly is making decisions, or when they will decide where to take mandated budget cuts or how they will apportion them. We worry a lot about making sure our faculty, staff and students are covered, and we will do everything we can to protect them. But there’s a lurking threat, and ambiguity takes a toll.

Then there’s North Carolina—and we’re not alone. As one news story after another has shown, states are cutting back their support of higher education. It especially pains me that my adopted state of North Carolina is doing this, because this university is a gem. We’re the top public school of public health, and we take the public seriously. We’re proud to be public, we believe we have a responsibility to serve the public, and we want to do that. But four years of budget cuts have left us lean and vulnerable. The more we get squeezed, the harder it is to keep our enrollment up, as we have done through the recession, and as we are committed to do. Other schools have eyed our faculty members for years, and now they are coming after them harder. Fortunately, most of our faculty members want to be here at UNC, and we fight aggressively to retain them.

Of course, the Governor needs a reserve, and times still are difficult. But allowing this university to lose its luster, its quality, its capacity to serve the state’s citizens would be an unfortunate choice, and one whose consequences would reverberate for generations. Meanwhile, we live with the anxiety of ambiguity, of not knowing what resources we will have (although we know they will be less) as we get closer and closer to the end of the fiscal year. Every day, though, we come to work committed to do our very best.

On a lighter note, members of our faculty had great fun at noon today dancing the bhangra during a faculty flash mob. Here’s a shout-out to Alice Ammerman, Kant Bangdiwala, Peggy Bentley, Geni Eng, Amanda Holliday, Beth Mayer-Davis, Michelle Mendez, Shu Wen Ng, Jeffrey Simms and Meghan Slining – as well as June Stevens, who practiced but couldn’t participate because of an injury. Special thanks to Savan Kothadia (BSPH HPM) and Vivek Mahajan (research collaborator in the pharmacy school), who gave generously of their time to choreograph the dance. I understand a video will be on YouTube before long, but there’s a little of the footage on our Facebook page.

Happy Monday – no fooling. Barbara

Tagged  sequestration

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