College rivalries, a concept seemingly only present in the United States (perhaps negating our ‘United’ nature), most often stem from athletic events. However, some of these rivalries are so deeply engrained that students and alumni alike claim it is not just the opposing school’s sports teams that divide them, or even the individuals that comprise the student body, but the nature of the school itself. In the following post, I will conduct a brief analysis of the mission and vision statements of two such schools in order to determine the level to which the identities of these organizations differ. UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University have one of the most developed rivalries in the country – is this just perpetual groupthink, or do the schools’ mission statements lend greater insight to fundamental differences in morals and values between the two institutions?
Let’s take a look at UNC Chapel Hill first:
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research, and public service. We embrace an unwavering commitment to excellence as one of the world’s great research universities.
Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Through the efforts of our exceptional faculty and staff, and with generous support from North Carolina’s citizens, we invest our knowledge and resources to enhance access to learning and to foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation. We also extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.
With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.
The mission statement of UNC Chapel Hill highlights the university’s focus on research as well as its contribution to bettering the lives of people across the state of North Carolina. As a public institution, UNC accepts money from the state of North Carolina, and sensibly claims to focus on activities that will benefit the community. It also emphasizes teaching a diverse community of students – again, an obligation as a public school. Overall, I would say this is a well-intentioned, if generic, mission statement. The values of “light and liberty” don’t necessarily shed insight into the goals of the university, nor are any concrete goals listed for the school to aspire to. However, the reader clearly sees that this is a research institution, funded by the state of North Carolina, with the goal of serving North Carolina.
Let’s move on to Duke:
“James B. Duke’s founding Indenture of Duke University directed the members of the University to ‘provide real leadership in the educational world’ by choosing individuals of ‘outstanding character, ability, and vision’ to serve as its officers, trustees and faculty; by carefully selecting students of ‘character, determination and application;’ and by pursuing those areas of teaching and scholarship that would ‘most help to develop our resources, increase our wisdom, and promote human happiness.’
“To these ends, the mission of Duke University is to provide a superior liberal education to undergraduate students, attending not only to their intellectual growth but also to their development as adults committed to high ethical standards and full participation as leaders in their communities; to prepare future members of the learned professions for lives of skilled and ethical service by providing excellent graduate and professional education; to advance the frontiers of knowledge and contribute boldly to the international community of scholarship; to promote an intellectual environment built on a commitment to free and open inquiry; to help those who suffer, cure disease, and promote health, through sophisticated medical research and thoughtful patient care; to provide wide ranging educational opportunities, on and beyond our campuses, for traditional students, active professionals and life-long learners using the power of information technologies; and to promote a deep appreciation for the range of human difference and potential, a sense of the obligations and rewards of citizenship, and a commitment to learning, freedom and truth.
“By pursuing these objectives with vision and integrity, Duke University seeks to engage the mind, elevate the spirit, and stimulate the best effort of all who are associated with the University; to contribute in diverse ways to the local community, the state, the nation and the world; and to attain and maintain a place of real leadership in all that we do.”
The mission statement of Duke University certainly uses sharper wording to describe the members of its academic society. In particular, the use of “selectiveness” of its pupils drives home some degree of elitism, and the aim to provide “superior” education is certainly a more competitive description of its curriculum. The writers definitely want to make clear that, though they intend to contribute to an international body of knowledge, they will be the leaders in every scenario. The statement culminates in a laundry list of aims for the university, ranging from training medical professionals to treat their patients thoughtfully, to a general commitment to “truth”. These goals, though they certainly sound morally upright, do not help me to understand exactly what the school intends on doing in the next decade.
In sum, after reviewing statements from both schools, I find it very interesting that the style of writing does seem to match the stereotype of each school. UNC promotes higher education for all, while Duke harps on its selectivity. UNC hopes to improve the lives of those across the entire state, while Duke hopes to create leaders to dominant every field possible. However, at the end of the day, neither statement leaves me with a clear idea of what action items the school plans on taking to achieve these goals. If we strip the statements of their writing style, I see only two generic statements about commitment to learning and ethics….I personally need these to have more substance for them to feel valuable. How can you show me that you value individuals and individual progress, not just achievements that will bring in donor dollars? What kinds of changes are you trying to make in the world? I’m going to need some more detail.