Letter: Story fails to highlight UNCA’s strengths

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[Regarding “From Asheville Watchdog: Enrollment, Retention Plunge at UNCA as Leaders Depart,” published on Xpress’ website, Dec. 26:] I recently read your story on UNC Asheville and, as a longtime Asheville resident, became very concerned that what I believed was a hidden gem has become a school that is falling apart at the seams, losing students, teachers and administration and is being challenged for the viability of its unique liberal arts education.

After talking to a current professor and a student I mentor, I am convinced that the story is extremely biased and has neglected to highlight many positive aspects of the school by not giving equal air time to students, teachers and administrators who are proud of many aspects of the school and also committed to addressing its shortcomings.

I appreciate that “investigative reporting” by definition is looking to uncover hidden issues and bring them out into the open. However, when it is biased, it can cause additional damage to the reputation of a school, reducing its appeal to prospective students, teachers and administration, as well as its donors, creating a vicious cycle.

Can I please ask that you do some additional research and interview others who understand all the benefits that UNCA brings to its population as well as our community? You can then present a more balanced report on the school. Thank you for your consideration.

— Ayla Ficken

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Asheville Watchdog reporter Barbara Durr with the letter writer’s comments, and we received the following response: “UNCA has, according to its own top administrators, been underfunded by the UNC system for more than a decade. Its dramatically declining enrollment and retention are important signals of poor institutional health. These issues had not been brought to light by any publication, and they merited attention by the community.

“I spoke extensively to UNCA leadership, UNC system leadership, and faculty both still at the school and those who left. Even faculty who love the school and want it to succeed were still concerned with the enrollment decline and leadership turnover. It is also worth mentioning that liberal arts education has been in decline for more than a decade, and consequently schools such as UNCA are having a harder time than they once had. I hope that UNCA is able to recruit a first-rate chancellor who can help put the school on a healthy path.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

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