At yesterday’s Education Appropriations Committee meeting, UNC President Erskine Bowles restated his commitment to making sure UNC does its part but in shouldering cuts and — in a moment of welcome candor — the UNC President also mentioned that all campus centers and Institutes would also face additional budget scrutiny. This is certainly a step — and a very large one at that — in the right direction. While all of these institutes have a political constituency, few have a broad-based mission or support, and truth be told, a good number have outlived their usefulness.
What kinds of centers and institutes does UNC have? Well there are inter-institutional research centers and inter-institutional Public Service Centers as well as Inter-Institutional Research Centers approved for Planning. There are literally several hundred centers and institutes within the UNC System. True, the institutes provide academic opportunities and even attract some research funding, however, a compelling case for a public purpose might be hard to make. Now is a good time for UNC to ask some tough questions and state why the state should continue to staff and support such places like the Center for Creative Retirement (UNC-Asheville) or Institute for Historical or Cultural Research (East Carolina University) or the Center for Biology and Nematode Parasitism (NCSU). Let the justification begin….