“Visions of Tomorrow With Computers of Today”: UNC’s First Computer in 1959

Computer_Center_SketchThe process of acquiring the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s first computer began with a 1951 memorandum from William M. Whyburn, then Kenan Professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Department Chairman, to Chancellor R.B. House. Whyburn became interested in digital computing during a conversation with mathematicians at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he did consulting work. By 1952, an effort to canvas the campus for interest in digital computing began, which resulted in a 1955 letter to Chancellor House from Dean of the General College Corydon Spruill listing eight academic departments with interest in a digital computer: Economics, Business Administration, Mathematics, Mathematical Statistics, Bio-statistics, Psychology and Psychometrics, and Physics.

With widespread interest established, the administration began seriously considering the type, cost, and location of the computer. In 1955, the estimated cost of a computer was 1.5 million dollars with Venable Hall, the Phillips Hall Annex, and Hanes or Gardner being considered to house the new device. The Phillips Hall Annex was ultimately chosen to house the computer and the accompanying Computation Center. It was also in 1955 that the U.S. Bureau of the Census expressed interest in partnering with UNC to process the upcoming 1960 census data. By 1957, negotiations with both IBM and the Sperry Rand Corporation had entered full swing, with Whyburn remarking, “competition is so keen that either of them will now make tremendous concessions in favor of the University.” In a 1957 report on the Computer Laboratory Project, Whyburn, then serving as Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research of the Consolidated University, gave a sweeping introduction to the digital computer:

Man’s efforts in the field of computation began long before the dawn of history. His progress in this basic endeavor has been a most important factor in, and index to, the advancement of his civilization. The first high-speed computer that we know of consisted of such body appendages as the fingers. The abacus was developed quite early and even today remains an indispensable computing machine for a large segment of the world’s population and in many of the business transactions of the present period. In the development from the fingers through the abacus, the simple adding machine, the slide rule, and the desk calculator with automatic operations and limited storage, to the fantastic digital and analog computers of the present time is to be found the history of a major part of our civilization. Wherever quantitative thinking, speaking, writing, or action is involved, services of computing devices are required. The depth and scope of these quantitative activities are determined, in a large measure, by the versatility, speed, and other attributes of the computing facilities used.

UNC ultimately decided to acquire a UNIVAC 1105 from the Sperry-Rand Corporation due to a large 50% educational discount and being able to own the machine outright versus renting one from IBM. The computer weighed 19 tons and had an estimated value of $2.4 million, which, adjusting for inflation, would today be over $20 million. The Census Bureau and National Science Foundation were the first organizations to rent time on the computer, with the former also paying 50% of the total cost.

Lecture_PamphletIn the summer of 1959, the Computation Center held a series of lectures introducing the new digital computer. These “Courses in Frontier Research in Digital Computers” covered subjects such as programming and artificial intelligence and numerical analysis. These courses drew researchers from across the world, including two lecturers from the Soviet Union. The Computation Center was officially dedicated on March 30, 1960.


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“Throwing the Sand from the Spit-box”: More Student Misconduct, 1841-1847

Last month, we shared a selection of student infractions from the misconduct ledger for the 1840 academic year, found in the Office of the Registrar Records (#40131). Today we’re breaking out the ledger for 1841-1847 for a fresh batch of unusual misbehavior.


“Watson – whittling a stick at Evening prayers”

ruffin“Tos. Ruffin – calling a Dog into Rec[itation] Room”

lucas“Lucas – throwing the sand from the spit-box”

larcy“Larcy [?]- Throwing acorns, or other missiles in the chapel on Sunday”

hooker“Hooker – taking seat by the fire and stubbornly refusing to leave upon repeated commands to do so”

holmes“L. Holmes, Shepherd – Playing at chess during study-hours”

brevard“E.J Brevard, Murphy, Wilson, Donohs., Thomas – Engaged in very unbecoming amusement on Tuesday afternoon”

caldwell“Caldwell – crying like a sheep as he passed the Fresh[man] R[ecitiation] Room”

johnson“Johnson, Hines?, Rogers? – sleigh riding in study hours”

scales“Scales – Crowing like a Rooster before Prof. Hooper’s Recitation room door”

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On Thanksgiving Day in 1927, UNC was thankful for a new stadium

Field Pass for the dedication game at Kenan Stadium, signed by C.T. Woolen. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.

Field Pass for the dedication game at Kenan Stadium, signed by Charles T. Woollen. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.


Letter from an alumnus to Dr. Foy Roberson, 1926. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093), University Archives.

The final football game of UNC’s 1925 season was against the University of Virginia, as was tradition. It was played at UNC, on a field that could hold around 2,5o0 spectators. However, 16,000 spectators came to the game. The lack of space was a persistent problem, and UNC was unable to play many of the more prominent Universities in the South because of it. After the 1925 UNC-UVA game, alumni began actively corresponding with each other about the need for a new, larger stadium and ways provide the new stadium at no cost to the University. Dr. Foy Roberson, who later became secretary of the Stadium Committee, stated in one of his letters to a fellow alumnus that “We purposely placed the meeting in Durham, because we did not want the people over the State to feel that the movement was being sponsored by the University itself.”

Initially, the plan was to build a stadium for 33,500 people on a budget between $475,000 and $500,000. The initial architectural plans for the stadium also allowed for later additions if necessary without compromising the uniformity of the design. The money was to be raised by having alumni and friends of the university subscribe to stadium seating. The subscription would give alumni guaranteed seats for the “Big Games” for a set number of years. The greater the donation, the better the seats and the longer the term the seats would be reserved for. However, this subscription plan was never needed.

William Rand Kenan, Jr. had always intended to make a donation to the University of North Carolina as a memorial to his parents. Kenan recognized the need for a much larger stadium and worked with the Stadium Committee and the University Athletic Council to make it happen in time for the Thanksgiving Day game in 1927. Most of the correspondence concerning the stadium during the planning and construction was between Mr. Kenan and the Graduate Manager of Athletics, Mr. Charles T. Woollen.

Photo of Kenan Memorial Stadium concept drawing in L'As a French Magazine (from the Department of Athletics of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1919-1997, #40093, University Archives)

Photo of Kenan Stadium concept drawing in L’As, a French sports magazine. From from the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.

Kenan decided to use the existing architectural plan, with the option to later expand the seating, decided upon by the Stadium Committee, but with a capacity of 24,000 and on a budget of $275,000. This budget included a memorial to Mr. Kenan’s parents. However, during construction they decided to add a Field House which “…not only provides excellent quarters for the teams, but makes it possible for us to extend hospitality to visiting teams in a way that we have not been able to do in the past.” (Letter to Kenan from the Secretary of the University Athletic Council October 8, 1927, in the Department of Athletics Records #40093, University Archives).

The addition of the Field House put the final cost of the Stadium at $303,190.76, which Mr. Kenan paid for in its entirety. The stadium was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, 1927 where the Tar Heels beat the University of Virginia Cavaliers, 14-13.



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Black Student Movement Demands, 1968

Black Student Movement Demands, 1968.

Black Student Movement Demands, 1968.

At the Town Hall meeting about race and inclusion held at Memorial Hall last night, students from The Real Silent Sam and other activists presented a series of demands to university administrators. The demands referenced a similar document from the Black Student Movement in 1968.

On December 11, 1968, representatives of the Black Student Movement presented a list of 23 demands to Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson and other campus administrators. The demands included changes in admissions and financial aid policies, the establishment of a department of African and Afro-American studies, administrative support for black students, and a commitment to address the low wages and inadequate living conditions of African American employees and the local black community.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.

Chancellor Sitterson responded the following month with a 19-page, point-by-point reaction to the demands.  He wrote of a desire to promote “free and frank discussion” on campus.  Sitterson’s responses addressed specific issues in the demands, often pointing out that the changes requested were either partially underway, needed further elaboration, or fell outside the responsibilities of the Chancellor’s office.

People interested in learning more about the 1968 demands and the ongoing discussions they provoked can find good coverage in the Daily Tar Heel. The Chancellor’s response and the reactions of some alumni are documented in the Sitterson papers in the University Archives. The role of the Black Student Movement is documented in Black Ink, which began publication in late 1969, and the records of the Black Student Movement in University Archives.

Visit Wilson Library, or contact us for resources and suggestions for researching UNC history.


Black Student Movement Demands, December 1968.

Sitterson Response to Black Student Movement Demands, January 1969.

Daily Tar Heel, 12 December 1968.

The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History: Exhibit on The Black Student Movement at Carolina.

Learn More:

Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972 (collection number 40022), University Archives.

Black Student Movement Records (collection number 40400), University Archives.



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“Large Scale Dishonesty”: The 1936 Cheating Ring


1936 Student Council. From the 1936 Yackety Yack,  http://digitalnc.org

In January of 1936, a first-year student exposed a cheating ring among the UNC Chapel Hill student body. Under the rules of student governance and the honor system, the Student Council took responsibility for investigating the organized cheating with the power to administer punishments as serious as permanent suspensions. The Council first met in relation to the cheating accusation on January 29th, 1936 and within a week, suspended 46 students. The large scope of the problem and decisive action taken by the Student Council called into question the efficacy and purpose of the honor code. This cheating ring even affected the Student Council President,  Jack Pool, who stepped down from his position “when he indicted himself for a cheating offense committed five years ago” (Daily Tar Heel, 2/4/1936). Pool was replaced as President by Francis Fairley, who is pictured above.

Bradshaw to House

Dean of Students Francis Bradshaw to Dean of Administration House. From the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 (#40007)

At the outset of the scandal, Dean of Students Francis F. Bradshaw wrote to Dean of Administration R.B. House informing him that, “through the devotion and intelligent effort of a student group, this matter has at last been run to ground. The students are assembling what appears to be complete detailed evidence of dishonesty on the part of a considerable number of students.”

House to Graham

Dean of Administration House to President Graham. From the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Frank Porter Graham Records, 1932-1949 (#40007)

House then wrote President of the University Frank Porter Graham, stating that “As distressing as the situation is, I rejoice that the students are the ones who are clearing it up and that we seem to be in the way of clearing up a grave threat to integrity and honor in our student life.” Graham publicly responded with a pledge of honor at a first-year class assembly where he expounded that “Carolina is going to be more honorable than ever before from now on. The students are the only ones who can clean this cheating out, and they are doing it. There will be no wrist slapping. You can’t stay at the University if you cheat” (Daily Tar Heel, 2/4/1936).

The cheating scandal garnered national attention with with mixed popular opinion. The honor system was simultaneously lauded for its efficacy and transparency and derided for allowing such widespread cheating to take place. Many family members and friends of those suspended wrote to President Graham in apology or support. In one such letter, the mother of suspended student Paul Wagner said that on a trip to UNC, “the Devil took possession of him”  and that her son had “been rated by the so called brain specialists as an unusually smart boy.” Mrs. Wagner concluded that she had “no one to blame but myself” and thanked the administration “for every thing you have done for my boy.” Several family members and acquaintances of former Student Council President Jack Pool also wrote to President Graham in his defense. Graham wrote to Pool’s mother, “How deeply we appreciate what Jack has done at the University as a man and as a leader. He took a brave stand here this year as president of the student body and then sacrificed himself in the cause that he was fighting for.”

By the end of the investigations, over 150 students were found to have participated in the cheating ring. Not only did this include Student Council President Jack Pool, but also members of Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Golden Fleece. However, many of the suspended students, including Pool, were reinstated soon after their punishment. The most common result was a failing grade and a loss of credit in the class in which a student cheated.



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Student Protests in Support of the Black Cultural Center, 1992

In the wake of the recent protests and demonstrations at the University of Missouri, many people in the UNC community are looking back on our own past at occasions where students and activists fought for change in Chapel Hill. Two pieces published today — an article in the Daily Tar Heel and an excellent blog post by graduate student Charlotte Fryar — draw comparisons between Missouri and a specific series of protests at UNC in 1992.

Spike Lee at UNC, 17 September 1992.

Spike Lee at UNC, 17 September 1992.

Students at UNC rallied throughout the spring and fall of 1992 in support of several issues, most notably the construction of a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus. The protests drew national attention and filmmaker Spike Lee came to campus to help rally the students and support their cause. By at least one measure, the protests were a success: after repeatedly speaking out against a separate Black Cultural Center on campus, Chancellor Paul Hardin eventually endorsed a plan to build the center, and agreed to name it after former UNC faculty member Sonja Haynes Stone.

There is a lot of information about the protests and the reactions of the administration in the University Archives and other Wilson Library collections. This general guide to sources and basic timeline of the events will serve as a starting point for students and others interested in learning more about this important period in UNC history.

General Sources

  • The Daily Tar Heel covered all of the major protests and administrative actions related to the debate over the Black Cultural Center. Digitized copies are available on newspapers.com. Access to the digitized DTH is available without charge on campus and to anyone with a current Onyen.
  • Black Ink, the newspaper of the Black Student Movement, provided extensive coverage of the protests and student reactions. Digitized copies of the paper are available through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.
  • Regional media, especially the News and Observer in Raleigh, covered many of the student protests. The Wikipedia article on the Sonya Haynes Stone Center has an excellent list of citations to relevant newspaper articles.
  • The Records of the Office of the Chancellor at UNC, Paul Hardin Records (1988-1995), include several folders related to the Black Student Movement and student protests. One of these folders, containing correspondence and clippings related to the protests, has been digitized.
  • The Carolina Alumni Review, Winter 1992 issue (vol. 81 no. 4) includes a lengthy article about the protests, the long movement toward a Black Cultural Center, and a “Chronology of Racism Issues at UNC.”


24 February 1992: Students from the Black Student Movement, Campus Y, and other student activists issue several demands to Chancellor Paul Hardin: the construction of a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus, named after Sonja Haynes Stone; and endowed faculty position named after Sonja Stone; and action by the University to improve pay and working conditions for housekeepers on campus. [Source: DTH, 2/25/1992]

Daily Tar Heel, 18 March 1992

Daily Tar Heel, 18 March 1992

17 March 1992: Hardin responds to the student demands in remarks delivered at South Building. Hardin expressed his sympathy with student requests, but said he was unable to meet any of them. He said, “I do not agree with those of you who advocate a free-standing Center.” [Sources: DTH, 3/18/1992; the full text of Hardin’s response is available in the Chancellor’s records in University Archives — digitized copy here, beginning with scan number 35]

Black Awareness Council founders. From Black Ink, 8/31/1992.

Black Awareness Council founders. From Black Ink, 8/31/1992.

Early Summer 1992: Four African American football players — John Bradley, Jimmy Hancock, Malcolm Marshall, and Timothy Smith — form the Black Awareness Council, a group dedicated to increasing awareness among African Americans about campus and community issues. The founders spoke about their desire to get black athletes more involved in issues of importance to other black students on campus. [Source: Black Ink, 8/31/1992]

30 August 1992: The Black Student Movement, Campus Y, and Black Awareness Council list their demands and announce a plan to bring them directly to Chancellor Hardin at his home. [Source: Records of the Office of the Chancellor; the digitized statement shows Hardin’s handwritten note, “Not possible” next to the demand for a freestanding Black Cultural Center]

3 September 1992: Around 300 students march to Chancellor Paul Hardin’s house demanding immediate action on their demands. [Sources: DTH, 9/4/1992); Black Ink, 9/16/1992]

Announcement of student demands with Chancellor Hardin's handwritten annotations.

Announcement of student demands with Chancellor Hardin’s handwritten annotations.

10 September 1992: Several hundred students march to South Building to present a letter from the Black Awareness Council demanding both support and a clear plan for building a separate Black Cultural Center on campus. The students give the Chancellor a deadline of November 13. They write, “Failure to respond to this deadline will leave the people no other choice but to organize toward direct action.” The protest draws the attention of the New York Times. [Source: DTH, 9/11/1992 / William Rhoden, “At Chapel Hill, Athletes Suddenly Become Activists. New York Times, 9/11/1992].

17 September 1992: Moved by what he has read about the student protests, filmmaker Spike Lee comes to campus to lend his support. Around 5,000 students hear him speak at the Dean Dome. Lee draws attention to the fact that African American athletes are active in leading the protests. He says, in an interview with Black Ink, “What’s important here is that the athletes are at the vanguard of this. The reason why that is important is that college sports is powered by the muscle, brawn, speed, and intelligence of the black athletes. If these schools didn’t attract black athletes through football and basketball, there could be no multimillion dollar T.V. contracts.” [Source: Black Ink, 10/5/1992].

23 September 1992: Provost Richard McCormick forms a panel to investigate and come up with a plan for an expanded Black Cultural Center on campus. [Source: DTH, 9/24/1992].

1 October 1992: An article in the Daily Tar Heel discusses the involvement of football players in the protests and addresses the prospect of players missing practices or games. Tim Smith, one of the founders of the Black Awareness Council, says, “BAC hasn’t said anything about (boycotting), so it’s not an issue.” Football coach Mack Brown is quoted as saying he has encouraged the players to be active on campus, but, “We’ve always asked them to do it as an individual and not as representatives of our football program.” [Source: DTH, 10/1/1992, p. 7]

5 October 1992: The panel votes, 10-2, in favor of a freestanding Black Cultural Center. [Source: DTH, 10/6/1992]

12 October 1992: Still awaiting a response from Chancellor Hardin, about 125 students briefly interrupt University Day festivities to advocate for the Black Cultural Center. [Source: DTH, 10/13/1992]

15 October 1992: Chancellor Hardin announces his support for a freestanding Black Cultural Center on campus: “I endorse a free-standing facility to house the center and will recommend that the proposed facility be named for Dr. Stone.” [Source: DTH, 10/16/1992]

As we find other relevant sources, we’ll update this blog post.  For more information or suggestions for exploring this or other topics on UNC history, contact or visit Wilson Library.


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“Exceedingly Improper” Student Behavior, 1840

For a number of years, student absences and instances of misconduct were recorded in ledgers by University administrators. Several of these ledgers, dating from 1838 to 1847, have survived in the Records of the Office of the Registrar (#40131) and provide an fascinating (and often entertaining) view of student life on campus in this period.

Students were frequently cited for eating, talking, sleeping, or being generally “disorderly” during class or prayers, answering for other students during roll calls, and bringing the wrong books to class. Other offenses were more unusual. We’ve rounded up a few of the most interesting from the October-November 1840 ledger below.


“Webb – Playing on the flute in study hours (not the first time)”


“Bruce – patting Hawkins on the shoulder during Rec[ication] in such a manner as to produce a laugh”


“Barnett – throwing water over the bannister at a retreating student”


“Lucas – persisting in cutting and eating sassafras”


“Battle Freshman – pouring water on Mitchell Sunday evening. Mitchell making an outrageous noise thereupon.”


“Daniel – calling out ‘snap’ as he came to Rec[itation]”


“R Tate – putting finger into his mouth, then making ugly noise on withdrawing it”

ivyetal“Ivy, Manly, McIlhenny, Shorter, Taylor – Exceedingly improper conduct at Sunday Recitation.”

[From Volume 9, the Records of the Office of the Registrar (#40131), University Archives]


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The Student Section of the Communist Party (That Never Officially Existed)

President Gordon Gray's reply to a concerned North Carolinian, 1952 (From the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Gordon Gray Records, 1950-1955, 40008, University Archives)

President Gordon Gray’s reply to a concerned North Carolinian, 1952 (From the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Gordon Gray Records, 1950-1955, #40008, University Archives)

In 1950,  Secretary of the Army and Director of the Psychological Strategy Board Gordon Gray became president of the UNC system. Leading the university at the height of the McCarthy era, Gray received many letters from concerned citizens and parents of students about a supposed student section of the Communist Party at the university. Technically, there was a student chapter of the Carolina District Communist Party in Chapel Hill, but it was an independent local organization. Its publications and pamphlets made their way on to campus, in part, because of the efforts of Junius Scales.

Junius Scales was a labor organizer, civil rights activist, and chair of the Communist Party for North and South Carolina. He came from a wealthy family in Greensboro, North Carolina and secretly became a member of the Communist Party when he was 19. After serving in World War II, Scales finished his Bachelor’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill and started on a Master’s degree, which he did not finish. In the early 1950s, he became more involved with the Communist Party and began distributing publications in support of the Party on the UNC campus.

In writings by Scales found in the records of President Gray, he calls on the public to support peace efforts.

 “We young people the world over want peace. We look forward to a college education, and not to military service. Those of us who are students realize that knowledge is found through the free flow of ideas, not through thought control in our colleges and universities and the lies, slanders and omissions of big-money newspapers. We wish for jobs, homes and families  after graduation, and w know that in order to have these things the world must have peace.”

[From “A Student Publication, Fighter For Peace, Peace Will Conquer War,” the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Gordon Gray Records, #40008, University Archives]

By indicating that the publications were produced by the “Student Section of the Communist Party” and distributing the publications on campus, Scales implied that his organization was a sanctioned student organization. However, there was no official student section of the Communist Party at the university. The address listed for the organization was a post office box in Chapel Hill, and local community leaders  asked that the Post Office deny Scales use of the address. However, the Post Office had no legal recourse to stop renting the post office box to Scales.


The U.S. Postmaster General responds to the Mayor Chapel Hill. From the Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): Gordon Gray Records (#40008)

Scales had been under investigation by the FBI since 1951 when he became the Communist Party of the United States District Organizer for the South. In this position Mr. Scales visited and advised Communist Party sections in the states of North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi. He was eventually arrested by the FBI in 1954 for “conspiring to advocate force and violence,” under the Smith Act. Though Scales himself had not committed an act of violence nor advocated for violence, he was charged for belonging to a party that was thought to do so. After Scales was arrested, the student section of the Carolina Communist Party ceased to exist. However, the overarching Carolina Communist Party, which consisted of the Communist Party sections in the states of North and South Carolina, continued sending out pamphlets to the students at Chapel Hill questioning the constitutionality of the Smith Act.

The Junius Irving Scales Papers are housed in the Southern Historical Collection.

Read more about freedom of speech at Carolina in the online exhibit A Right to Speak and Hear.

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The Creation of the Department of Communication Studies

University Archives recently acquired records from the Department of Communication, located in Bingham Hall. The records highlighted one of the many departmental reorganizations that have shaped the university: the 1993 merger of the Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures (RTVMP) and the Department of Speech Communication. The merger resulted in the Department of Communication Studies, which this month became the Department of Communication.

Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures (RTVMP): Three men with equipment, circa 1952 #P0031

WUNC’s John Young, Dr. Earl Wynn of what was then the Department of Radio, and an unidentified man in a radio studio, circa 1952. The Department of Radio, established in 1947, became the Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures in 1954. From the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection (#P0031), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive.

In November 1990, the Daily Tar Heel published a series of articles reporting student and alumni dissatisfaction with the job preparation provided by the department. This was further compounded by the department’s refusal of an equipment donation by an RTVMP alumnus on the grounds of insufficient space in Swain Hall, high maintenance costs, and onerous gift conditions. Some RTVMP students and alumni thought the refusal indicated that the department was not dedicated to providing students with technical skills needed for careers in media production.

A 1993 external review of the department included four major recommendations:

1. That the Department of Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures at UNC-Chapel Hill be disestablished;

2. That four of its faculty lines be transferred to a new Curriculum in Cultural Studies (or to some other academic unit, temporarily, until permission for a new Curriculum can be secured); at least two of these lines should be filled by persons with media interests;

3. That the remainder of its faculty lines be collected into a new sequence in Media Arts within the Department of Speech Communication;

4. That the Department of Speech Communication’s name be changed to the Department of Communication Studies.

(From the Records of the Department of Speech Communication #40455, unprocessed)

The review was poorly received by many RTVMP students and alumni as it also proposed the elimination of “radio production, broadcast management, corporate video, studio production, and broadcast journalism.”  Perceived lack of support for production classes was one of the primary complaints students and alumni reported in 1990, and it had remained a sticking point among students who planned to seek media production jobs following graduation.

The university largely followed recommendations set out in the review and on August 1, 1993, merged the Department of RTVMP and Department of Speech Communication into the Department of Communication Studies. The Daily Tar Heel reported in September 1993 that despite fears that the media production program would suffer as a result of the merger, the new department allocated “$38,500 for production equipment and maintenance—$25,500 more than the RTVMP department had to work with during the last academic year.”

Now in its 22nd year, the Department of Communication still offers specialization in Media and Technology Studies and Media Production.

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Edward Kidder Graham’s 1915 Inaugural Address

Edward Kidder Graham (left) with Kemp Plummer Battle on the UNC campus, ca. 1910s. NCC Photo Archives.

Edward Kidder Graham (left) with Kemp Plummer Battle on the UNC campus, ca. 1910s. NCC Photo Archives.

In her University Day address earlier this week, Chancellor Carol Folt looked to the past, marking several turning points in the history of the University, including the inauguration of President Edward Kidder Graham in 1915.

Chancellor Folt pointed to Graham’s presidency as the beginning of the rise of UNC toward becoming a major research institution. Graham also pushed UNC to look beyond Chapel Hill, fulfilling the university’s fundamental responsibility to serve the entire state of North Carolina.

Graham’s inaugural address, delivered on 21 April 1915, has been digitized by the UNC Library and is available for viewing online. It is a lengthy and lofty piece, but worth reading for anyone interested in the history of UNC and of higher education in general. Graham begins by examining the founding vision of the state university as expressed by Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia in the 18th century. But he argues that the internal conflict that led to the Civil War and the long period of recovery, especially in the South, prevented UNC and other state universities from reaching their true potential.

Edward Kidder Graham inaugural address, 12 April 1915.

Edward Kidder Graham inaugural address, 12 April 1915.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, an era of rapid change and development, Graham looks to the university as a vital component of the “productive democratic state.”  The University, he argues, must look beyond what at the time was a standard curriculum of strictly classical education and emphasize that “no knowledge is worth while that is not related to the present life of man.” This University’s extension program, serving people around the state, was a direct expression of this belief.

However, Graham argues that the University can be most useful to the state of North Carolina, and most effective in educating future leaders, by continuing its focus on the liberal arts. His strong defense of liberal arts education echoes many arguments we still hear today:

“[T]he college of liberal arts and sciences, has as its mission now as always the revelation of the full meaning of life in its broad and general relations, and to fix in the heart of its youth a point of outlook on the field of human endeavor from which to see it clearly and to see it whole.  It fears no criticism of an interpretation of its mission as ‘impractical’ ; but it does regard as fatal any failure to evoke the best powers of its own student body.”

Graham supported the development of professional schools, but was quite clear in his commitment to providing more than just job training at UNC, saying, “It is not the function of the university to make a man clever in his profession merely. That is a comparatively easy and negligible university task. It is also to make vivid to him through his profession–not merely proficiency in making a good living, but productivity in living a whole life.”

Like Edward Kidder Graham, Chancellor Folt is leading the University at a time of dramatic change and in the middle of a lively debate about the purpose of higher education, especially at state universities. Her call for a need to embrace innovation and change in order to better serve the community, the state, and the world, build upon the words and actions of Edward Kidder Graham 100 years ago.


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