To Tweet or Not to Tweet: The PJ Hairston Question


I would not have wanted to be a member of the UNC press staff on Friday afternoon. At approximately 2:00pm on Friday, the University of North Carolina issued a landmark press release announcing the unanimous decision to name Dr. Carol Folt the first female chancellor in the school’s 224 year history. The UNC Board of Governor’s decision ended a seven month search for the school’s top leader after Holden Thorp resigned last September. And we are all well aware of the circumstances prompting his resignation. It was an afternoon for the university and academics to shine. Regarding the search UNC-system President Thomas Ross said, “I wanted someone who will always make academics a priority, but who appreciates that athletics is also a vital part of campus life that helps build a sense of community . . .” I think PJ Hairston might have misunderstood Ross’s statement.

Jan 12, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Pj Hairston (15) shoots the ball past Florida State Seminoles forward Okaro White (10) during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at the Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Tar Heel state reporters and journalists barely had time to read their emails when a single sentence suddenly shifted attention from UNC academics to UNC athletics. A little over an hour after UNC made its historical announcement, PJ Hairston tweeted, “My junior year will be one to remember.” At that point, UNC could have just named Jerry Tarkanian the new chancellor, and no one would have cared. PJ was coming back. What was supposed to have been a historic afternoon for UNC academics and administrators turned into a media frenzy over a single tweet sent by one Tar Heel basketball player. Welcome to Chapel Hill, Dr. Folt.

I do not think PJ Hairston deliberately intended to steal the spotlight from UNC’s new chancellor. But, I also know that Roy Williams probably wishes that Hairston had never opened a twitter account. Some of you might recall that this is not the first time one of Hairston’s tweets has given Coach Williams a headache. During Hairston’s freshman season, he tweeted the night before the Kentucky game that he would not be playing. I’m quite certain this was information UNC did not wish to give UK coaching staff prior to the game.

Earlier last week, Roy said in a radio show that he expected all three players (McAdoo, Bullock and Hairston) to announce their decisions together and most likely at a joint press conference. What I’m sure Coach Williams did not expect was for his leading scorer and three-point ace to announce his decision via twitter not only without his fellow teammates but also on the same afternoon that UNC announced a new chancellor.

So, who is Dr. Carol Folt and why should we care about her as much as  whether or not PJ Hairston spends one more year in a Tar Heel basketball uniform? The university chancellor is the top leadership role on a university campus. He/she is the person in charge to ensure academic integrity and that NCAA rules and regulations are not being violated. Whether it was fair or not, Holden Thorp got the blame for UNC football’s academic integrity scandal. So, if you like to watch the Tar Heels playing football in the post-season, you should care who the chancellor is.

Folt comes to UNC from Dartmouth where she served as interim-President. Her background is in environmental science, but she has served in administrative positions at Dartmouth including Dean of Graduate Studies and Provost. She and her husband claim that they caught “Tar Heel fever” during the UNC/Duke game last month in Chapel Hill. (1. I don’t see how that could be possible 2. I hope she gave it to Wiggins). Folt also attended UNC’s Spring football game on Saturday where the new Tar Heel football uniforms were unveiled. As the new chancellor of one of the nation’s largest and top public universities on the heels of an academic fraud scandal and NCAA sanctions, Folt is going to face more than her fair share of challenges and obstacles. So, I guess in the end getting upstaged by twenty-year-old basketball player isn’t that big of a deal. Welcome to Chapel Hill, Dr. Carol Folt, and welcome back Mr. Hairston.