A Concept Plan for Carolina North

Guest Post by James Carnahan

A Concept Plan for Carolina North, the June 29 presentation by the Village project, will be re-broadcast Monday, August 1, 7 to 9pm on local cable channel 18 in Carrboro & Chapel Hill. This concept plan represents a year-long, unfunded effort by the local non-profit walkable community advocacy group to offer an alternative view of how UNC's Horace Williams property might be developed.

Not meant to be definitive, the presentation is primarily intended to answer the question, "what would Carolina North look like if citizen input were incorporated?" and to encourage the University to utilize a facilitated collaborative process to further develop its plans for the new campus. Key differences are a multi-modal transportation approach making possible greatly reduced parking and dependence on the automobile, 4 times the housing proposed in the Ayers/Saint/Gross plan, and a half-mile long reservoir for holding rainfall harvested from rooftops, that doubles as a outdoor recreation space.

James Carnahan is the Chair of The Village Project.



I've been watching it and am taping it for future use. Also, I noticed that there is a PDF version available for download: http://www.thevillageproject.com/CarolinaNorthConceptPlan.pdf

The amount of work the Village Project did on this is incredible and very very useful! As James said, their plan really aims to show what Carolina North would look like if the community designed it. I think it will be incredibly helpful to have these very real concepts to refer back to and compare things to.

I strongly encourage people to learn more about these visionary proposals and to keep them in mind as UNC's development process goes forward.

Thanks for the kind words, Ruby. If anybody who saw the presentation or downloaded the PDF has questions, please post them here and we'll do our best to answer.

I finally had a chance to take a close look at the presentation. Frankly, it knocked my socks off. Grounded in workability, practical in its evolution, and designed around common sense stewardship of water and land resources. I love it.

One thing I wonder about is the nature of CN integration into the community. When I attended the US Naval Academy, we were clearly isolated (literally behind a wall) from Annapolis. Sometimes I feel like UNC is the same, Memorial Hall and the future Arts complex notwithstanding.

It feels like you're pressing CN closer up against both MLK and Estes -- which is clearly the right thing to do. Have you also make recommendations about how/if CN would be an asset for citizens of nearby neighborhoods? For example, would the retail space include a smallish market and general commercial services that could be used by anyone? What would be the tax/revenue implications of that kind of use?

The rainwater storage concept is brilliant (might need another pedestrian bridge). I'd want to live on the Left Bank!

Beautiful work. And very generous of you and your colleagues to take on such an ambitious project. Congratulations.

I loved the comment by Patrick M. about if you were a worker at centennial campus versus the village project..

He'd prefer to hangout near work near a river rather than across the street in centennial campus at bojangles..


the higher ups don't seem to care about making the workplace an enticing and convenient place to be.

Jim, I hope you haven't given up your previous forward-thinking position on the Horace Williams property. As I wrote long ago in the Herald (1/18/1995):

Joyce Brown and Jim Protzman both deserve credit for taking leadership in promoting an expanded vision for the possible future of the UNC lands... Jim Protzman had the insight to see the possibility that the Horace Williams tract might remain largely undisturbed, forming perhaps a "Central Park" for the broader UNC/Orange County community.... Protzman deserves credit for recognizing that there are important land uses that do not provide a financial return and that one might, strangely enough, choose not to exploit one's property to its maximum financial value.

Boy you have a good memory, Dan.

What I like about the Village Project approach is that is pushes development closer to the current transportation infrastructure . . . and could probably have gone even farther in that direction. It also eliminates new roads accessing the new campus from the north. That creates the possibility that the remaining undistrubed land could be permanently conserved and protected as open space.

I've hiked back in those woods for years. The land really does have enormous potential as our 'central park.' I wonder if that kind of permanent conservation easement is on the table in the ongoing negotiations . . .

When I saw the concept plan for Carolina North last month, I was quite excited about the fixed guideway (light rail or trolley) suggestions from CN to the main campus. The current spur railroad from the Southern/NCRailroad junction at University Station (about three miles east of Hillsborough) last had passenger service in 1939, the tracks originally ran all the way to campus (they now stop at the power plant, but the underground steam line to campus follows the old railroad right of way. The original terminus of the line was at the current Carolina Inn location -- in the 1920's, trains carrying the football team and fans to away games originated at South Columbia Street just south of Cameron Avenue.) The more current concept would be to have the line run down Cameron Avenue from the power plant, rather than following the old right of way which is sandwiched in a residential neighborhood (but still visible if you drive slowly on Ransom Street between Cameron and McCauley).

The ownership of the rail line is quite interesting. It is incorporated as the State University Railroad Company, with Nortfolk Southern owning about 80% of the stock, the North Carolina Railroad about 16%, and the remaining 4% in private hands (largely the heirs of those who subscribed to the original stock to build the railroad more than a century ago). The North Carolina Railroad is itself owned totally by the State of North Carolina.

In order to make this corridor viable for fixed guideway, there would need to be a few sections of double track between CN and main campus.

Any use of the corridor for fixed guideway service would need signoff from Norfolk Southern and the North Carolina Railroad.

(I had researched a lot of this in the late 1970s when I owned property at Village West which abuts the rail line near Estes Drive)

And don't forget that the track is accessible from the High School area. It then carries on across Eubanks Rd. and parallels the new TOC. It even extends up to old 86 at Mt. Sinai.

Imagine a Park-n-Ride to the North of the old 86/I40 interchange serviced by some type of transportation along this corridor - it could definitely take the pressure off South of I40.

The corridor definitely offers some great opportunities - even if light rail turns out to be inappropriate.

If my memory serves me correctly, UNC has previously said that they would maintain about 3/4 of the Carolina North site as greenspace but that they could not legally, as a state institution, convey a conservation easement on that space. However, I believe that several people researched that concept and found several instances where state institutions (it might even have been other campuses) did give permanent conservation easements on property under their control. I haven't heard anything recently as to whether the University has softened their position on this issue.

I reported on this project back in June and was surprised it didn't receive more attention. Its an impressive piece of work and very visionary so I'm glad its getting a bit more publicity. While I understand the Village Projects concern about the lack of affordable housing in this community, I'm also concerned about 'company town' created by their design. James, Will, Gerry--no problems with all that housing and retail business going onto state property?

Terri, you know better. My feelings on HWA are well-documented on OP, but, if the choice is between 45,000 additional trips on MLK between HWA and main campus or separate transportation corridor - I opt for the corridor.

FYI Katrina, at the last UNC outreach meeting (covering main campus plan modifications), UNC showed the removal of 3 residence halls on main campus and Bruce Runberg, when question ed about the removal, stated that they had sufficient housing on main campus for years to come (it's nice they hadn't taken a "build and they will come" approach).

some of the real issues with housing and retail business going into university space has to do with how it is structured -- will there be property taxes paid on the housing and retail space -- how will the rents be set --- etc, etc, etc.

James P- The Village Project imagines that there will be grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and other retail at Carolina North. Indeed, the more people who can access those commercial uses from surrounding neighborhoods, the more successful the commercial space will be.

Our hope is that by improving pedestrian/bike connections from CN into existing neighborhoods, folks who live in Ironwoods, North Haven, etc will have the benefit of safe, convenient access by foot or bike to retail that they do not currently enjoy today. We heard a lot of community opposition to building a road to connect to Homestead. One of the benefits of making the big commitment to alternative modes is the chance to avoid building that road.

Will's Park-and-Ride suggestion also makes a lot of sense, and I assumed such a lot in the transportation analysis. (I assumed another one to the west) The ideal location of such a facility would be to locate it on land with access to the rail corridor for the future, but also had easy access to the road network for the present/near term.

On the housing question- in my opinion, the ideal situation would be to find some way to provide real homeownership opportunities in the form of condominiums. This means that people living there could gain equity and it also means the housing could be on the Chapel Hill tax rolls, which addresses a concern of the HW Citizens Committee.

Of course, if I were UNC, I wouldn't want a homeowner's association of residents above my biolab telling me I couldn't refit the building for new applications, either. So I don't think all of the buildings would be good candidates for condominium ownership.

I'd recommend trying to build a dialogue around this question:
"In building housing at Carolina North, are there ways that some level of private ownership of buildings that do not house UNC academic/research/administrative uses- will benefit the University and the residents/merchants in those buildings?"

Can someone explain to me why 6707 housing spaces are sufficient for UNC? That amounts to approximately one space per three students. How does that compare with other large universities? Does the lack of student housing on campus add to the lack of affordable rental housing for non students?

Joal Broun

I had the opportunity to talk with a staff architect and an engineer from a large development company this afternoon. They had just met with town staff about a new development they are planning (96 residences). After that meeting, I asked them why they weren't pursuing a mixed-use development. Their response was that mixed-use doesn't pay, unless there are at least 1,000 homes in the development or significant traffic passing by at all times of day/evening. So while mega-monsters like Meadowmont or Briar Chapel are ideal for mixed use, Lake Hogan Farms (or any other development in the NTU) isn't. They both described projects in Cary and Raleigh where the retail/office space in a mixed-use development is sitting empty due to location (too far from a main drag, too close to a strip mall, etc.) or too small of a market.

While a large portion of the 'business center' of CN is research labs/facilities, there was also a lot of retail and cultural space built into the plan. I seem to recall that based on geology/soil types, the detached homes/mixed retail/school areas were set back quite a ways from Estes. If the university decided to pursue the mixed use design, is there anyway to make the public businesses/schools/worship areas flow more naturally with the rest of town in order to increase the likelihood of success for the retail businesses?

Joal, we all tend to forget that undergraduate education
at UNC-CH is an ever smaller component of the university.
UNC has become a major health research facility and UNC gets
more money from the NIH and NSF than it does from the
state legislature. It can be difficult to build a good comparison
between UNC and other major public universities because
in most cases, the main campus and the health affairs
campuses are in different cities. Here in Chapel Hill
we benefit from their juxtaposition, but are
limited by our lack of an engineering school.
I sense that most of the major decisions about UNC
growth; construction, campus design, and housing, are
now driven by needs of employees and research funding,
not by needs of students. UNC-CH is now a state-assisted university.

You are so right Joe - at this point the research funding is partially paying for humanities and other departments on campus.

I was very shocked to see that the last adminstration discussion for caronorth proposes about 60% of the space as direct lease space to private entities.
They have sort of dropped the curtain about educational mission in a sense. They are hoping to use rent from private companies to subsidize the University from the ever disappearing state funding. In 10 or 20 years UNC-CH will be basically independent of the state at this rate.

Fiscal Responsibility by people in Raleigh not paying for the University means they will lose control of it. Being afraid of taxes in this case means losing control of public education by an elected body. In the long run "fiscal responsibility" is not alway fiscally responsible IMHO.

Joe, the only disagreement I have with your post in in its use of the passive voice: "UNC has become... " Use of the passive voice conveys a suggestion of inevitability.

If instead, we say, "state policy makers have transformed UNC into... " then we open the door to questions of agency, values, and interests. If UNC is an institution of a democratic state government then those considerations are very important. If, on the other hand, it is merely a cog in the capitalist economy, then the values and interests go practically without saying.

Dan and Joe are on to something. Consider that, while the legislature continues to increase the amount of money it doles out to UNC each year, that number is a smaller and smaller percentage of the University's total funding. Of course, there are very real ramifications for students when that happens -- does anybody remember the New York Times article about all the students a few years back who couldn't get into a basic Spanish class? But the No. 1 concern we hear from faculty and administrators is that of faculty pay. On the one hand, that's utterly understandable to me -- academia is a dog-eat-dog world, and a lot of great professors (who aren't yet tenured) still can't afford to live in Chapel Hill. But on the other hand, it can be frustrating.

UNC is unfortunately following what has become a
classical, but typical path for major public univerisities:

UNC is a state university, then
UNC is a state-supported university, then
UNC is a state-assisted university, and finally
UNC is a state-located university.

When do we get to:

UNC is a private research complex underwritten by the state...

or are we already largely there?


Are you calling the >$300 million/yr in federal research dollars that UNC receives "private" investment?

As a scientist on campus, I don't see the problem in having a strong research program. Just as I don't see a problem in having a strong basketball program. Both of them bring money into the university, which would not be available otherwise. The research programs have the added benefit of giving undergraduates first-hand experience in world-class research. Not everyone gets those opportunities and it is a boon to our students and their future. UNC-CH is a large university which prides itself on research AND undergraduate teaching. If you are looking for a college that prides itself ONLY on undergraduate teaching, then you should look to UNC-A.

To me, the difference is one of experience and scale. Most of the students at UNC-A will never experience the hands-on research that goes on here at UNC-CH. Likewise, most of the students at UNC-CH will never get to know their professors like those at UNC-A. As for scale, I guess the question is, can you run a world-class research institute and NOT get bigger over time? My guess would be no, as in the research environment you are either pressing forward or falling behind, there is no standing still.

I agree with most of what you say but I do think that you can run a world-class research insitute and not always get bigger over time. You DO have to continue to move forward but that is a function of adapting quickly and always maintaining "state of the art" but it doesn't necessarily have to mean bigger. The drug companies are a great example. With mergers their R & D staffs often increased dramatically in size but the number of drugs coming out of their pipelines didn't increase proportionally. Bigger usually means more bureaucracy which usually means more waste, more meetings, more in-fighting over resources, etc.

In the case of UNC, and I am NEW here at UNC, it seems the buildings are used to house new faculty and growing departments. For instance, the Neuroscience Center houses a group of investigators who were spread out all over campus and a cadre of new investigators. Same for the Medical Genetics, Bioinformatics, and others I would suspect. You'll notice it isn't Zoology and Botany getting all the new buildings, which on one hand is in line with the argument that growth is being aimed at research and not undergraduate education. But, on the other hand, those are the fields in which job potential is expected to be greatest, which is at least one point of getting a college education. The buildings are also in line with growth being aimed at new fields of research and not "classic" ones. Much to the chagrin of the Biology Department I am sure. It should be stated that the new science complex will offer a new home to many teaching labs in physics, chemistry, etc.

I can certainly understand that new buildings are appropriate when a new discipline is being developed or there is an expansion of an old one. However, there comes a point when there is too much emphasis being placed on the "bricks and mortar" and not enough on what goes into the buildings (i.e., the faculty, students, staff). Once a building is built it has to be maintained and the levels of research subsidies (whether federal, state, or private) often fluctuate substantially between the peaks and valleys of support. Unfortunately, we are undoubtedly entering a period of decreased federal research support and given the magnitude of our current budget deficits and the distain of the current White House for science this may be a longer and deeper valley than we have experienced for decades. My point is that if you grow too quickly and BUILD too quickly, you may end up having to support the maintenance of the buildings at the expense of the personnel inside. Fancy buildings are no guarantee of fancy results. I don't blame UNC for building all the buildings they can while the bond monies are available to them but it might be time to take a breather and figure out what is more important going forward - more buildings or people to fill the ones they already have - and how these goals can be financed without raising the tuition faster than the incomes of the families that have to pay them.

That is an excellent point (time to focus on filling the buildings). Having not been around when these decisions were made, but having been in many of the "old" buildings, I would guess the thinking was to build while the money was there. If you subtract out the "new" buildings, the research campus seems quite old and musty. I'm not sure how much more science building is proposed on campus in the 50-year plan, but it seems to me we are approaching "full".
As for the tuition, I have issues with that. I've been at a number of public schools with tuitions higher than UNC-CH. In addition, I am NOT of a mind that all UNC's should have the same tuition rates. Certainly not for graduate and professional schools. We have a highly-rated medical school which is also one of the cheapest. While I wouldn't suggest increasing rates to a Dukeish amount, I also don't think it would hurt to increase them somewhat. Same with the our stellar graduate programs.
On the undergraduate front I think tuition could be increased at UNC-CH more than at other UNC schools as long as financial assistance is available to lower-income students who qualify for entry.

To get back to the subject at hand, I love the Village Project. While I have been going through the file posted online, I'm wondering if Ruby could host a streaming version of the recorded presentation? I would love to hear the project described by its creators.
What a place! The village is great, even the Core with the idea of modern architecture and high-rise buildings. I love it.

Robert, you can follow the bouncing UNC construction ball here.

On the way,to name a few for the sciences:

Generic Genetic Medicine Building ( $118M )
Research Resource Facility ($2.7M)
Science Complex Phase 1 & 2 ( $203M ) - Phase I nearing completion.
Thurston Arthritis Research Center (modest $1.8M especially when contrasted with the $6M spent on the Visitor Education Center).

Contrast that with these classroom improvements

Active Capital Improvement Projects for Classrooms

1. Davie $148,352
2. Fetzer $782,230
3. Gerrard Hall $1,600,000
4. Greenlaw $2,680,253
5. Hamilton Hall Classrooms-Phase I $1,868,473
6. Hanes Classroom Renovations $5,002,893
7. Howell Hall $375,000
8. Manning Hall Classroom Renovations $1,219,817
9. Mitchell $649,980

Of course, buried in the other multi-million dollars of upgrades are other classroom/educational facility improvements.

Building buildings is much MUCH easier for the university than funding people or maintenance on existing buildings. It makes no sense at all from a practical perspective to build new buildings while some of our lovely old buildings are falling apart or are uncomfortable work environments for the departments (social sciences/student support usually) housed in them. However, the bond initiative that is funding all the new construction cannot be used for maintenance and I doubt we will ever see a bond initiative for people. The state financing system likes one time expenditures--not ongoing expenses. Which is a big problem with anything done on CN. More buildings equals more maintenace/support and more staff. And the university is already underfunded for those expenses.

Also, tuitions are already variable in the professional programs. I'm not sure what the restrictions are on which programs can apply for separate tuition rates, but I know that programs in Allied Health and Public Health charge more than other graduate programs.

Isn't it true perhaps that UNC's graduate and professional schools are great because great students, especially great students in this state, choose these institutions over other more expensive options? That was certainly true in my case. Even with the great price difference between the law schools at UNC and Duke, my decision was a difficult one. In the end, low price and some prestige won over high cost and greater prestige.

BTW! I did not mean to imply I am a great student. I'm mortified to think someone might infer this.

I love this discussion. It touches on one of my perennial concerns: the delusion that scale equates to excellence. Otherwise known as 'bigger is better.'

In some instances, scale is arguably beneficial. Being able to mass produce vaccines, for example, seems like it might be a good thing. But in most instance, bigness seems more of a liability than an asset.

Take factory schooling (please). I've been involved in an ongoing battle against state education officials about the standards required for public schools. The way I see it, organized sports drives a whole host of negative impacts > the need for plenty of boys and girls to compete > the need for large, under-used facilities > the need for big budgets and specialized faculty > etc., etc. As a result, we cannot site a public high school or middle school or elementary school on reasonable parcels of land, but rather must have acres upon acres that restrict locations to outlying areas and contribute to challenges around diversity, transportation, and more. Even worse, individual students get lost in the shuffle (unless they are exceptionally bright or exceptionally difficult) and so on and on and on.

I see this same challenge happening with UNC. Bigger is related to better only in the view of certain rankings and personal ambitions. Further, I don't buy that a certain modesty in size equates to 'standing still.' Excellence and intellectual rigor are not a function of how many square feet a school has . . . except in the most superficial of analyses.

In the case of businesses, scale often produces the advantage of being the lowest cost producer. And while that has a certain appeal to some, it also produces significant collateral damage. One need only look at WalMart to confront that irony.

My wife was once upon a time the chair of the faculty at UNC. She and I still argue about the wisdom of scaling up in pursuit of rankings and ratings. It would be interesting to compare and contrast Duke vs. UNC with regard to square footage, rankings, numbers of students, faculty salaries, awards, etc. Some say you can't compare a public institution with a private one . . . but it still would be interesting.

Final point. I believe that UNC-CH should never be free to operate outside the structure of the UNC system. While they need more freedom around personnel decisions, perhaps, there seems to be much more wisdom in looking at the system as a whole when it comes to allocations, programs, curricula, service, etc.

Sorry for the long rant.

I just looked up tuiton rates and hadn't realized that UNC law was already pretty expensive. Not sure if UNC Med has gone up as well or not. But, the tuition is still half that of Duke, and out of state is 2/3 that of Duke. So, while the difference is not so great as I had thought, there is definitely still room to grow and be competitive.

Good point about Public Health, a top-ranked Department (2nd in the country I believe). Everything I have argued should be taken with a grain of realistic salt. I would totally agree with fixing up all the old buildings before moving on to new buildings. And, as a state employee, I would much rather see better health benefits than a new Medical Genetics building. BUT, it doesn't SEEM to work that way. I argue that new buildings are not bad for UNC, but that doesn't mean we couldn't use some other things fixed as well.

I would disagree with you whole-heartedly about bigger being badder in the case of research at universities. Are their downsides, sure, and some great examples are provided above (old buildings not being fixed, non-research faculty/departments being left behind, teaching as a sideline), but all in all the benefits of being a larger research institute are much greater than the downfalls. Excellence can be defined in many different ways, but certainly one measure is the output of excellent work. If UNC had not grown beyond the walls that were here in 1990, then much of the world-class research being turned out would not exist. So, while no one is measuring success by the square foot, it is equally superficial to say that we would lose nothing by failing to expand as we have.

Jim Protzman, I agree with everything you just said. And pass
my warm regards to Jane; she has had a long-time positive
impact on our university.

This thread started about an alternative plan for Carolina
North, and whether there should be undergraduate housing.
My main point was that the design of CN is not being driven
by either undergraduate education or undergraduate housing.
The UNC planners have stated that undergraduate housing won't go there, and I agree that it shouldn't.

What I see in the UNC presentations
is that CN will become an extension of the research portion
of UNC Health Affairs, with some attempt to diversify
funding from the NIH and NSF. I'm not sure how successful
the latter will be, especially if the UNC administration
takes the position (which I hope they do) that parking at CN will be limited.

I think we all share the fear that we (UNC, Chapel Hill and
Carrboro) are now feeding too narrowly from the trough of the NIH and if the NIH suffers a budget cut (not sure of its probability),
or if the UNC researchers cannot continue to grow their
share of the NIH pie (not certain here either, but
probably more likely than the first) we all can be in for
a recession. We are thus vulnerable.

Turning to the discussion of providing housing for UNC
employees and ignoring the political rhetoric, a number
of universities, Stanford comes immediately to mind,
provide housing or housing subsidies to attract faculty,
not because of political beliefs, but simply because of
the economic necessity to recruit and maintain faculty.
We're not as expensive as Palo Alto,
but we're high. I only wish that the chancellor would
recognize the value of the
(grossly underpaid) staff.

Regardless of what the Senate chooses to do the NIH will suffer a budget cut this year. It's only a question of how big. In terms of real doillars it will probably amount to at least a 5% cut. And these cuts will be with us for many years to come. So the question I started out asking is "how can you plan on building and maintaining new buildings unless you have a reasonable idea of what your revenue stream will be going forward?" I really like the Village Project concept plan for CN but no matter whose plan it is, there needs to be a thorough discussion of not only what should be there but how it will come about (i.e., how do you finance it). And that means the University needs to be more willing to involve the community in the early stages of the process because it very well may require participation by the public (municipal) as well as private sector.

The Village Project is certainly a laudable effort, but since the whole underlying reason for planning Carolina North in the first place is suspect or ill-defined at best, I am left feeling the same way I feel about feminists advocating for allowing women to serve in military combat units.

Mark - at some point the administration at UNC is going to justify going forward with whatever (unneeded?) plan they may have simply because they've spent MILLIONS OF DOLLARS developing these plans.

FYI this is at least the 3rd radically distinct plan over a decade for carolina north. (with at least the 2nd architectural firm)

I think it is smart and in the communtities best interest to early and often say loudly what's wrong with their plans so everyone knows they were warned and the final product (if) is not a bunch of ....

but you're right with NIH funding in functional terms undergoing cuts and NSF undergoing actual dollar cuts (in non military stuff) for the first time in over 20 years - this is not the time to be building stuff.

Also - as far as renting the space to companies - my prediction is that downtown Durham has some really cool redevelopment going on that will be the place to be for upstart biocompanies and will be easier to attract people to because of lower housing costs.


I realize we're going a bit off topic here, but this is an important discussion -- perhaps it will be picked up as another thread. In the meantime, I'd like to offer one more rationale for my perspective.

Like a growing number of people, I am a full-time telecommuter. My work involves global business strategy and I work with people and clients all around the world every day . . . though I almost never leave my house. I engage with distributed teams that form and disperse as needed -- teams that are arguably among the leading strategy teams in professional services today.

My wife, on the other hand, attracts millions of NIH dollars to fund research that is arbitrarily grounded in physical space. When one of her staff leaves for another university, she laments their departure and finds a replacement. To which I always say: why not keep working with them? They have valuable knowledge and experience worth retaining . . . and you could probably retain it no matter where they go if you really wanted to. But she is trapped in a place-based model and thrives on personal relationships. My way is not her way -- which is fine -- but her way (and perhaps your way) comes with a host of impacts and costs that are clearly straining our physical environment.

(NOTE: I totally understand that some scientific work cannot be conducted using the distributed model. But you might be surprised how much of it can. One of my clients does global biotech product development through a network of small labs -- and consistently outperforms many of their place-based competitors.)

I argue that UNC should redirect itself to emerge at the institution most 'excellent' in teaming and collaboration with other UNC-system schools, other universities, private companies, NGOs, government agencies, etc., no matter where they are in the world. I argue that the ability to do this will be far more important than the ability to add square footage over the long haul.

Finally, I don't think it's necessarily either/or . . . but when you look at dollars and resources, it seems to me that an obsession with 'bigger' is getting a lion's share of UNC's resources.

I agree with your assessment - I believe that startup companies will find the American Tobacco complex a very attractive place to locate: probably lower rents, closer proximity to RTP, more affordable housing, and, possibly, a rail connection to Raleigh. On the other, hand, CN would have the University connections to offer: School of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, the medical center, entrepreneurial chemists, etc. It all depends on the plan. The American Tobacco development has many players - the private investors, the City of Durham (parking deck) and Duke and GSK (committed to renting space early on). I think UNC needs to identify who their "partners" will be sooner rather than later so that everyone can understand what the goals are.


In your wife's defense, I think its the University culture/attitude that prevents them from pursuing a more distributed work environment. 3-4 years ago, the school of ed lost one of the brightest junior faculty members (special education) when her husband accepted a job in Virginia. This individual had been one of only a handful in the school to embrace distance education and actually make use of it, in the face of enormous institutional barriers. Instead of negotiating for her to continue teaching from her new home, they said goodbye (over my loud objections). In a field where there is very very stiff competition for quality faculty, her position remained unfilled until it was eventually allocated away from that program. What a loss--all because of some silly attitude that students need to learn "at the feet of" the masters. UNC-CH is years behind other UNC system schools in their use of distance education.

speaking of distance ed at Carolina , I'm enrolled for this fall as a Grad Student in the Certificate in Technology and Communication certificate program at Carolina's school of Journalism and Mass Communication (finishing my MA in Political Science at Carolina in 2004 apparently wasn't enough self punishment) -- the program is entirely online (though there is a voluntary on campus orientation session on campus)

the program is entirely online, and much of the faculty appears to NOT be in residence at Chapel Hill.
It appears that SOME programs at Carolina are willing to take the jump into cyberspace with distance faculty.

I've dug out my student OneCard, guess I can keep using it for movie theatre discounts


I didn't mean to give the impression that there is no distance ed going on, but it isn't integrated into the operational model of the university. The JOMC program is great. But certificate programs taught by adjuncts are very different from degree programs taught by tenure track faculty. Other professional schools, especially public health, have embraced it and others are joining in. Carolina Courses Online (administered through Continuing Ed) continues to grow as well as students figure out they can use those courses to help their scheduling options. But at East Carolina or NC State there are support centers, campus-wide policies, and it is part of their planning process. In other words, it has been institutionalized at those other campuses.

I hope you're using that One Card for free football tickets, Gerry.

unfortunately, (or fortunately) the JOMC program does not require paying student fees, so i don't think I am eligible for football tickets.
I'm excited about the JOMC224 class I am taking this fall, it's about hidden databases available on and offline. Much of my job is research and writing. I've been a computer user for a long time. In 1967 while a junior in high school in Windsor CT our math class had a computer with an online modem connection to one at Dartmouth College, I learned to program in BASIC, exchanged online messages, etc, even hacked a bit and programmed the computer to shutoff when the instructor logged in. This was 1967. My math instructor's brother was in the admissions office at Carolina (or maybe it was that my guidance counselor's brother was in the math department at Carolina, I can't get it straight after 40 years) that was one of the reasons I made the trek to Chapel Hill for college.

Glad you are interested in the program and are excited about it and enroled. I was one of the developers of the courses and they are being taught by some excellent people -- at least two of whom are my former students, but don't hold that against them ;->

There is a lot of distance education going on at UNC. Most famously and most successfully at the School of Public Health, but also in Nursing and in Business among others.

Jim and Terri,
I too get grants. I share even the adminstration of them across many boundaries including oceans. Grants can, and more often than not do, follow the Primary Investigator(s). We have grants that have moved from Boston to Austin with the person involved. That is the more common case. I don't know the specifics of Jane's grant, but unless her partner/co-PI/whatever didn't want to continue (because of say new responsibilities) UNC and NIH would have, in my experience, allowed the grant to continue regardless of location.

yes, I saw somewhere online at the JoMC website that you were one of the program developers. It looks great. One of the courses in the sequence will appear to teach me how to blog :)

There is a lot of inconsistency in tuition for certificate programs. For the graduate school JoMC program, I paid $1036.00 for the course (just paid my tuition online this morning), yet for the graduate school Core Public Health Certificate program at Carolina's School of Public Health, the tuition is $667.00 (I'm trying to get someone in my office to enroll in that program)

This has devolved into an interesting discussion! My wife is currently enrolled in the ,b>Public Health online certificate course - just finished her first class. She loves it.

Having two spouses vying for the tenure tract is incredibly hard, I've seen so many couples languish over the years while waiting for positions.

When I left my postdoc at Duke I actively continued my research through my next job in South Carolina. I continued doing computer-based "experiments" and data analysis in collaboration with my fellow lab mates. Some of the papers coming out of that lab now have parts done in California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and France. I think as more people come of age that are beyond computer literate, but are instead completely integrated, we will see this trend grow.
BTW, one aspect of what you are suggesting is supported by NSF EPSCOR grants in certain states. They provide money for collaboration between research1 schools and smaller institutes. NC has too much research money to qualify, I believe. But, there are other avenues, such as NSF R.O.I. grants which provide money to small school faculty to work in collaboration with large school faculty. Now we are way off topic!

Go Village!

for those with greater interest on trains on the Carolina campus and the rail line that runs through CN, see
(the writer is a bit confused, on the schedules "University" was "University station", which was the point between Durham and Hillsborough where the line to Carrboro/Chapel Hill began.)

Interestingly, back in 1972, the Orange County Board of Elections proposed changing the name of Saint Mary's precinct (which is between Hillsborough and Durham) to University Station precinct, to commemorate the older historical name of the community. Rural residents of the area protested, as they wanted NOTHING to do with a name that sounded like they lived in Chapel Hill. The name was left as St. Mary's.


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