The collapse of the USSR and the unraveling of UNC-Chapel Hill share some common characteristics.
In both cases, few saw it coming. One moment the Soviet Union was gesturing menacingly; the next thing you knew, the highest profile communist nation in the world had imploded.
The USSR and UNC share another key similarity: Both operated behind a wall of secrecy. As the Soviets rattled sabers and played the global geo-political game with verve, the closed and decaying society within its borders was cloaked from public view. At UNC, what went on within its walls was protected from scrutiny by muscular public relations and a conspiracy of silence.
The press has made tiny inroads, but alumni, concerned about the disintegration of the school, are shut out of their own alma mater by the association director who has ignored old boys and girls who asked for a forum to air the problems they sense are tarnishing their degrees.
At UNC, the traditional liberal arts curriculum was marginalized and eventually evaporated. Traditionalist professors found themselves ostracized and slandered. Administrators cowered and did nothing, fearing that the radical scholars would demonize them too. Today, applicants who do not toe the party line need not apply.
As in the USSR, the campus purges were not televised, to borrow from jazz singer Gil Scott-Heron. Nor are the inner workings of the present-day apparat in Chapel Hill. But the public is realizing the campus is an impenetrable redoubt, contemptuous of outside criticism. The UNC samizdat, like Soviet Russia’s, has been revealed as a carefully tended myth, portending that it too will be consigned to the dustbin of history.