Probably one of the first things you memorized and repeated in school every morning was the Pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands … ”
With this pledge, we promised loyalty to our country. But that allegiance isn’t the only oath we take. We have allegiances to our faith, our spouse, family and, in certain circumstances, other groups. Elected or appointed officials take an oath, a pledge, to support, protect and defend the government or entity they serve.
We have two recent examples of misguided allegiances — one in our state and another, more glaring, in our nation.
The University of North Carolina System is owned by the public and receives substantial state funding. The General Assembly appoints all 24 governing board members, the Board of Governors, to hire the system president, approve new chancellors and oversee the “general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance of all affairs of the constituent institutions.”
Leo Daughtry has been a BOG member until just recently. Daughtry is one of the most honorable, trustworthy, measured and respected people I have had the pleasure to know and applauded when the legislature appointed him.
This past legislative session both the Senate and House summarily passed a measure that would combine the administrations of the University System, Community Colleges and K-12 Schools into one location in the state government complex.
Legislative leadership has not been silent in their desire to move the UNC System offices, disliking what they have perceived as the liberal influence of UNC-Chapel Hill on the entire system. Several years ago, they floated a proposal to move system offices from Chapel Hill to a new location, but the negative feedback was immediate and loud. It appeared the idea had died, but it had not. By combining all three branches of public education into one facility they would accomplish their goal, presumably without much opposition. The decision was made behind closed doors, without the involvement of the BOG, the public or anyone else.
I am on record favoring the combination of all three under one roof because it would improve communications among all of them, but I am open to hearing the subject openly debated and don’t like the way the decision was made.
Daughtry was not bashful in his criticism of the move to Raleigh, especially when it was learned the price tag for such an action would be upwards of $250 million. We could endow many scholarships and more adequately fund all three branches with this infusion of money.
Daughtry was not just opposed to the move — he asked questions about the recent hirings of top legislative staffers to top university positions, giving them substantial pay raises. The system also hired as a consultant the former chief of staff to the Senate President Pro Tempore, reportedly paying him $15,000 per month. A skeptical observer might believe our legislature is “salting” our university system with its own pawns to ensure obeisance. Former BOG Chairperson Harry Smith says the board is now “more political than ever,” and that’s quite a statement coming from him.
Daughtry was right to ask questions and well within his prerogative to express opposition to the move. He was demonstrating he understood that his primary allegiance was to the university system, but that is obviously not the allegiance our legislators demand. Their misguided impression is that BOG members’ allegiances are to The General Assembly, not the universities or even the taxpayers of our state.
Daughtry wouldn’t say so, but he was essentially pressured to resign from the BOG. I asked him why, and in typical understated fashion, Daughtry told me it was increasingly obvious that he didn’t “fit in” well.
We are also blatantly aware of misguided allegiances on the national level. Unless you have had your head in the sand — or are a cult member — it is obvious our former president insisted those around him pay allegiance only to him, not their agency, the government nor even the 350 million citizens in this nation. We are seeing the results of what happens when allegiances are misplaced.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Jan. 6 House Committee, closed the most recent hearing with memorable remarks.
“Oaths matter,” Kinzinger said. “Laws are just words on paper. They mean nothing without public servants dedicated to the rule of law. Oaths matter more than tribalism or the cheap thrill of scoring political points. We, the people, must demand more of our politicians and ourselves. Oaths matter. Character matters. Truth matters. If we do not renew our faith and commitment to these principles, this great experiment of ours, our ‘shining beacon on the hill,’ will not endure.”
Here’s my spin: Misguided allegiances by misguided officials lead to mistrust. This nation is built and has survived on being able to trust our leaders and our government. Without trust, we will crumble. Part of our pledge of allegiance requires we be vigilant and speak out when people and government are misguided.
Tom Campbell is a former assistant N.C. State Treasurer and was the creator/host of N.C. SPIN, a weekly statewide television discussion of N.C. issues that aired on UNC-TV until 2020. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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