March 19, 2021
Meeting of the Faculty Council and the General Faculty
Friday, March 19, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Virtual meeting via Zoom
The meeting was streamed live and recorded. The recording is available at this link.
3:00 p.m. Introductory remarks from the Chair of the Faculty
Professor Mimi Chapman (Social Work)
3:05 p.m. Chancellor’s and Provost’s Remarks
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Robert Blouin
3:35 p.m. Budget and Endowment Updates
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Nate Knuffman
Mr. John Townsend, III (Chair, UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Fund Board)
4:35 p.m. Carolina Peer Support Network [PDF] Professor Edwin Fisher (Health Behavior)
4:45 p.m. Annual committee reports by title
- Faculty Information Technology Advisory Committee [PDF], Professor Dan Anderson (English and Comparative Literature), committee chair
- Faculty Research Committee [PDF], Professor Gary Cuddeback (Social Work), committee chair
- Faculty Welfare Committee [PDF], Professor Muge Calikoglu (Pediatric Genetics and Metabolism), committee chair
- Status of Women Committee [PDF], Professors Misha Becker (Linguistics) and Elizabeth Dickinson (Business), committee co-chairs
- University Committee on Copyright [PDF], Professor Amanda Reid (Journalism and Media), committee chair
4:50 p.m. Closed Session: Special Report from the Honorary Degrees and Special Awards Committee
Ms. Monica Figueroa (University Libraries), committee chair
Prof. Vin Steponaitis (Anthropology and Archaeology), Secretary of the Faculty
Nominees for Honorary Degrees [PDF] (Faculty Council members only. Sakai login required)
5:00 p.m. Adjournment
Video of Proceedings
Watch the full video [Streaming]
Journal of Proceedings of the Faculty Council
The Faculty Council and General Faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill convened on March 19, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. via Zoom. Members of the public were able to observe the meeting on a livestream.
The following 75 members were in attendance: D. Aikat, J. Aikat, Alexander, Anksorus, Berkoff, Boon, Brownley, Burch, Burke, Byerley, Cai, Chapman (Chair of the Faculty), Chavis, Clement, Cox, Dewitya, Divaris, Donahue, Entwisle, Estroff, Falvo, Gates-Foster, Gentzsch, Gilland, Guskiewicz (Chancellor), Halpern, Halladay, Holland, Jeffay, Joyner, Krause, Krome-Lukens, Lain, Larson, Lee, Lensing, Levine, Lithgow, Lopez, Mayer, Mayer-Davis, McGrath, Metcalfe, Meyer, Moon, Moore, Moracco, Muller, Neal, Nichols, Olson, Padilla, Pettifor, Plenge, Powell, Rahangdale, Ramaswamy, Renner, Roberts, Rose, Scarlett, Scarry, Steponaitis (Secretary of the Faculty), Thorp, Thorpe, Vaidyanathan, Van Deinse, Vision, von Bernuth, Walter, Watson, Wiltshire, Womack, Young and Zomorodi.
The following 9 members received excused absences: Berkowitz, Floyd-Wilson, Menard, Mock, Nichols, Thornburg, Triumph, J. Williams and M. Williams.
The following 9 members were absent without excuse: Brewster, Clegg, Coble, Freeman, Fromke, Gilchrist, Platts-Mills and Rudder, Santos.
Others in attendance: Provost Blouin and David Burriss (Undergraduate Observer).
Call to order
Chair of the Faculty Mimi Chapman called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.
Chair of the Faculty remarks
Professor Chapman welcomed everyone to the March Meeting of the Faculty Council and General Faculty, and gave brief introductory remarks [PDF]. The theme of her remarks was to express support for members of the Asian, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities, and to condemn the uptick in violence and harmful rhetoric against these community members. As such, she submitted Resolution 2021-3. On Supporting UNC-Chapel Hill’s Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Community (PDF).
Secretary of the Faculty Vin Steponaitis invited a motion to suspend the rules in order to be able to take action on the resolution. The body accepted the motion to suspend the rules and proceed to vote on the resolution.
Resolution 2021-3 passed unanimously.
The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the last 12 months. Chancellor Guskiewicz reviewed key events that took place last March as a result of the virus, from his convening a group of campus leaders to begin developing a strategy for the campus in the face of the pandemic, to the announcement that spring break would be extended, to the switch to remote instruction. At that time, he also announced that all campus events with more than 50 people would be canceled and workplace guidance for employees was sent that discussed the possibility of teleworking. The campus community has been through a lot together and the faculty’s commitment to teaching, research and service has been inspiring. The administration is grateful for everything that the faculty has accomplished over the past year. Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Blouin are confident about the upcoming summer and fall; they anticipate in-person classroom teaching with some safety measures in place.
The administration is sharing communications about the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraging campus community members to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. The chancellor is pleased by the number of people who are fully vaccinated or have received their first dose. Phase four of the vaccination plan is currently underway; all faculty, staff, student employees and students living both on-campus and off-campus in congregate housing will be eligible for vaccination on April 7.
The 2021 Commencement speakers are Drs. Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett. When Chancellor Guskiewicz reached out to Dr. Fauci’s office, there was hesitation because he’s been inundated with requests. Dr. Fauci decided to accept the invitation because of the impact that UNC-CH faculty have had on this pandemic, from the drugs that have saved countless lives to new treatments that have eased the suffering of many people.
Chancellor Guskiewicz and the leadership team are finding ways to strengthen the game-changing COVID-19 research already underway at the University. An initiative called Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery (READY) is an excellent example of convergent science at UNC-CH. The schools of medicine, pharmacy and public health have come together to launch this partnership aimed at developing novel antiviral drugs before the next pandemic arrives. The READY team is holding conversations with dozens of academic and industry partners from around the world. The chancellor has been in contact with members of Congress about the Rise Act, which is providing supplemental research funding for federal agencies along with annual funding for campus research.
Chancellor Guskiewicz (and the rest of the faculty in light of the passage of today’s resolution) underscored that he stands with the Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members in the face of the horrific violence over the past several weeks. Many members of the AAPI community feel unsafe and are worried about their family members. The chancellor was honored to spoke at a vigil held on March 17, 2021 by Carolina’s Asian American Center. The administration is committed to supporting the AAPI community through the work of the Asian American Center. He thanked Director Heidi Kim for her leadership of the Center. He is learning how to be a more informed campus leader from Director Kim and others at the center.
Provost Blouin gave an update on COVID-19 statistics in our community and the State. North Carolina’s positivity rate dropped to 3.9%, Orange County’s positivity rate dropped below 1% and UNC-CH’s positivity rate is 0.08%. He thanked all the members of the University community for their considerable adherence to community standards.
Peter Hans, UNC System President, has discouraged out-of-state travel. All travel requests come to Chancellor Guskiewicz or Provost Blouin for review and approval. The administration is still discouraging international and domestic travel partly due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 variants and the load these variants can place on the healthcare systems of different countries. However, exceptions will be considered; these requests come through the Office for International Travel for review.
The University’s Valuing Inclusion to Attain Excellence (VITAE) Program was created in 2000 and has been one of the most important mechanisms to help diversify the faculty. The campus community has expressed concern surrounding the pause of the program. The provost wants everyone to know that the pause is temporary until the budget is relaunched; the administration is committed to this program.
There has been concern surrounding funding for identity and cultural centers on campus. The budgets for these centers have been restored to pre-coronavirus levels. These centers did not experience an extreme reduction in their budgets. The administration will go through a strategic planning process with all of the centers to ensure that the vision, mission, goals and expectations of each center aligns with campus needs. The strategic planning process will allow the administration to recalibrate center budgets to ensure proper funding to pursue their missions. There will also be a re-examination of the expectations of center directors, particularly as it relates to their roles in development and grant and contract writing.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a moratorium was placed on multi-year fixed-term appointments. After much discussion, Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Blouin have decided to lift the moratorium and restore flexibility to deans in deciding the terms of their fixed-term faculty members.
There have been many questions about the layout of the summer and fall semesters. Some of the plans depend on issues that the administration does not have direct control over, such as community infection levels, and the effects of COVID-19 variants. The administration is anticipating a more normal fall experience for faculty, staff and students. They will continue to evaluate the appropriateness of mandatory testing and continue to examine the community standards currently in place. Any adjustments will be based upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Orange County Health Department, and public health and infectious disease experts on campus.
Professor Deb Aikat (Journalism and Media) asked if there will be a deadline to announce any adjustments to the fall plan. He also asked if 2020 graduates would be included in the 2021 commencement ceremony.
Chancellor Guskiewicz answered that fall classes are scheduled to begin on August 18. He does not plan to set a deadline on announcing adjustments. The administration will continue to receive updates from public health and infectious disease experts, and will adjust as needed based on that input. A commencement ceremony for the 2020 graduates will be held on the weekend of October 9 in Kenan Stadium; the graduates have already been informed. Convocation for incoming students will be held on the evening of August 16.
Professor D. Aikat said the CDC now recommends three feet of social distancing instead of six feet, which will also change fall planning.
Provost Blouin said the CDC is accepting the World Health Organization’s guideline of three feet of social distancing. Public health and infectious disease experts believe that as the country approaches herd immunity, the CDC will likely reduce social distancing even further.
Professor Harry Watson (History) said due to budget cuts to the University Libraries, UNC-CH could lose its status as a Research 1 (R1) university and be lowered to a Research 2 (R2) university. He asked what the administration would do to preserve the University’s academic excellence and its academic ranking in the face of budget cuts.
Chancellor Guskiewicz said budget cuts will not affect the mission of the University. The administration has met with University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks to review proposed cuts and has restored a significant part of the library budget.
Provost Blouin said the UNC-CH will not lose its status as an R1 university. Libraries across the country are under stress right now and several factors are contributing to this stress. UNC-CH is a part of a consortium within the Triangle that discusses how to optimize, maximize and share resources. Running a library has become a real challenge particularly due to the predatory practices of some national and international publishers. The resources that the University Libraries need to remain healthy and viable are in place.
Professor Larry Chavis (Business) is stepping down as director of the American Indian Center, effective this summer. During the February 2021 Faculty Council meeting, he expressed the need for greater funding at the center to pay for staff salaries. The center recently received an extra $200,000 in funding. He shared the feedback he received from members of the campus community after his comments at the previous Faculty Council meeting.
Chancellor Guskiewicz began by congratulating Nate Knuffman for his recent appointment as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations. Mr. Knuffman had been serving in the role on an interim basis and many had been impressed by his work and expertise. He then went on to address the University’s budget, saying that measures put in place last March and April have helped offset a dramatic budget shortfall for the campus, and have allowed the University to avoid drastic steps that other universities had to take in order to stay open. The higher education sector has lost about $120 billion in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic. Schools and units were directed to reduce personnel funds by 1.5% and operating funds by 7.5% for the fiscal year 2021-2022. These reductions, along with identifying new revenue streams, will allow the administration to balance the University’s budget by June 30, 2022. The chancellor’s and provost’s offices have undertaken a critical budget review. The chancellor directed an evaluation of senior-level administrator positions; in addition, he consolidated and reduced overall administrative costs. These actions will allow the administration to work more closely with the Board of Governors (BOG) and the General Assembly. It is often said that budgets are moral documents that can help define who we are and where we want to go. At UNC, budget priorities must align with the Carolina Next strategic plan, which was created as a guide. The chancellor is confident that the University will get to a place where the budget reflects our priorities and values.
Nate Knuffman, vice chancellor for Finance and Operations, gave a presentation [PDF] on the University’s fiscal challenges and an update on the current budget.
Becci Menghini, vice chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance, gave an update on human resources at the University. Faculty have raised questions about House Bill 243, which asks the General Assembly for authority to make some across the board furlough provisions. The bill is a follow-up on the UNC-System Office’s request for legislative priorities as institutions are facing the pandemic. The System has few tools to ensure equity in the way we managed flexible furloughs or temporary base adjustments. If passed, the bill could provide institutions the ability to do furloughs across the board, if necessary. As campus units consider personnel cuts, many unit leaders have asked about early retirement options. House Bill 243 includes a voluntary early retirement option.
Professor Beth Mayer-Davis (Nutrition) said raises for EHRA faculty and non-faculty are disallowed, even when funding is fully available through grants. She asked when this restriction will be lifted.
Vice Chancellor Menghini said the System has imposed a temporary suspension of HR actions. Conversations about lifting the suspension at the System level are taking place; until then HR at UNC-CH cannot approve these actions.
John Townsend III, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Fund Board, gave an overview of the UNC Investment Fund, which is the entity that houses the endowment assets of the University. As of February, the total assets of the UNC investment fund are $8.3 billion, which places the fund among the 25 largest college and university endowments in the United States. Slightly more than $5 billion is in support of UNC-CH, the remainder represents assets that are managed on behalf of other institutions in the System. The UNC endowment is composed of thousands of individual accounts that have been established by donors over many years to fund specific professorships, scholarships, fellowships and other programs and initiatives across the University. He provided some examples of various campus foundations: the Educational Foundation has $375 million, the Arts and Sciences Foundation has $339 million, the Morehead-Cain Foundation has $250 million, the Medical Foundation has $196 million and UNC Hospitals and UNC Health Care have over $1 billion.
More than 92% of the $5 billion endowment is restricted by the terms established in individual gift agreements. One of the common misperceptions is that the endowment is a big pot of money that is unrestricted and available to be spent, but this is not the case. The money placed in the investment fund is for the perpetual benefit of the University and is invested with a very long-term view, the objective being to compound capital and achieve investment returns at 8% or better over time. This enables the Board to support an annual spending rate of about 5.5% and it assumes a long-term inflation rate of about 2.5%. The UNC-CH Endowment Fund Board must also protect the principal of the endowment and preserve the purchasing power of the assets.
In recent years, the investment performance of the endowment has been quite strong across many different periods, all to the benefit of the University. During the first eight months of this fiscal year, the endowment has appreciated almost 22%. During the calendar year 2020, the endowment appreciated approximately 15%. When a portfolio is diversified across many asset classes and is invested for the long term, what happens in a given quarter or year makes less difference than what happens to the investment results over long periods. Over the years, the average return of the endowment is approximately 10%, which puts UNC-CH’s endowment in the top percentile. There will be periods when the performance is not as strong as it has been in recent years.
The average spending rate of 5.5% is paid annually to the underlying fund accounts and this spending rate is consistent across most major educational endowments as being generous to the extent possible, while at the same time being prudent and financially responsible. Members of the campus community asked if the spending rate can be increased since the University is facing so many challenges. An increase would not provide much in terms of discretionary spending because the 8% of unrestricted funds, which amounts to $400 million, could be within the purview of an individual school or department.
The Board wants to do as much as possible to support the University. To that end, they’ve had extensive conversations with the administration over the past 12 months about ways to increase support to the University. Mr. Townsend said the Board is working on ideas and its members are hopeful that they can free up some additional funds in the next several months. However, these funds would not be enough to cover the structural deficit in our budget. The Board also wants to find ways to support the University’s strategic plan.
As an aside, Mr. Townsend stated his opinion that the best alternative for the state of North Carolina to support all education would be a large bond issue, as was done several years ago. The State has AAA credit, the most highly rated credit in the country, it has substantial borrowing capacity without risking its credit rating, especially in this period of historically low interest rates.
Other issues the Board is studying are divestment; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI); and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) in an attempt to act on these issues. One challenge is that UNC-CH does not make security selection decisions. The investment team identifies who they think are the best investment managers in a given area. For example, if they want to increase the real estate allocation, then they locate the best real estate investors and allocate capital to those managers. The same is true for technology, venture capital and private equity. After capital is allocated to the managers, they invest in specific securities and assets. Divestment is the action or process of selling off subsidiary business interests or investments. On the surface, divestment seems like an easy solution, but it does not influence the performance of the company. The board has discussed how they can be a responsible and active proponent in the areas of DEI and ESG. He added that there is an encouraging movement across the country to make corporate boardrooms more inclusive and diverse.
Professor Anna Krome-Lukens (Public Policy) asked if gift agreements can be renegotiated if the original purpose is no longer relevant or useful.
Mr. Townsend answered that if the donor is alive, that individual can be approached to renegotiate the terms of an agreement. In many cases, the original donor is no longer alive, which makes renegotiation more difficult. Opportunities do exist that the development effort at the University understands, and where possible, is amenable to working on.
Professor Elyse Crystall (English and Comparative Literature) asked if the investment portfolio can be accessed by the public. She is interested in how much is invested in fossil fuels and military contractors. She also asked where the funds came from that were used to pay the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
Mr. Townsend said the money to pay the Sons of the Confederate Veterans did not come from the endowment fund. The Board can show how much of the investment fund is devoted to asset classes like equities, venture capital and real estate. It is more challenging to provide information on specific securities because it would require the board to ask hundreds of investment managers how much they invested in fossil fuels or other topical assets. The way investment returns are being achieved today is being driven less by assets such as fossil fuels and more by the digitization of the global economy, which is a secular wave that this endowment and many others have been riding for the last few years.
Professor Donald Haggis (Classics) asked if there has been substantive discussion with the NC Legislature on increasing state revenues or a bond initiative to cover the structural deficit.
Mr. Townsend deferred that question to the senior administration as it is not in the purview of the Endowment Board to negotiate. Chancellor Guskiewicz said the administration works closely with the System Office to set priorities for all 17 schools in the System, which will be sent to the General Assembly. He does not think the NC Legislature will assist with the structural deficit. However, the administration is requesting one-time funding to assist with the University’s $850 million deferred maintenance challenges. There have been conversations about the possibility of a bond referendum that would be used to potentially help with many of these needs. Mr. Knuffman added that there are limitations on being able to borrow operating funds, but they are cautiously optimistic about one-time funding.
Professor Eric Muller (Law) asked whether UNC Development has initiated conversations with living donors about renegotiating the terms of their gift agreements.
Mr. Townsend said UNC Development understands the opportunity in renegotiating gift agreements, but pointed out that doing so requires a lot of detailed negotiation with each donor. Thousands of gift agreements throughout the University make it challenging.
Chancellor Guskiewicz added that as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences he did renegotiate gift agreements with donors. Some gift agreements were signed by someone who is now deceased, which means the gift agreement has to be renegotiated with their family, which can be challenging. Sometimes gift agreements have no living donors or descendants and the issue has to be considered by the courts. Renegotiation can happen, but it does happen often. Anyone considering opportunities for renegotiation should contact the dean of the school or the director of the center that holds the gift.
David Burriss (undergraduate student observer) asked if there is a set of criteria to evaluate the work of the investment managers and, if so, how often they are evaluated.
Mr. Townsend said the board evaluates every single investment manager on a relatively frequent basis.
Mr. Burriss asked how quickly the fund is adapting to renewable energy sources and if they are up to date on the innovation in these spaces.
Mr. Townsend said they are trying to stay on the front end of renewable energy investments. They have reduced the allocation to natural resources and they are finding ESG driven investment opportunities. They are making several direct investments in companies that are at the forefront of renewable energy.
Carolina Peer Support Network
Professor Ed Fisher (Health Behavior) gave a presentation on the Carolina Peer Support Core [PDF]. The Core’s intent is to provide a variety of peer support across campus, not one single program. He highlighted two programs of the Peer Support Collaborative: the Peer2Peer program for undergraduates and the School of Nursing’s Organization for Peer Support. The overall goal is to create a culture of caring on campus.
Mr. Burriss said providing greater support for graduate students is valuable because they express some of the same pressures as faculty members, which affects their mental health.
Annual committee reports by title
The annual reports of the Faculty Information Technology Advisory Committee [PDF], the
Faculty Research Committee [PDF], the Faculty Welfare Committee [PDF], the Status of Women Committee [PDF] and the University Committee on Copyright [PDF] were all accepted by title.
Closed Session: Special Report from the Honorary Degrees and Special Awards Committee
Secretary of the Faculty Vin Steponaitis entertained a motion to move into closed session to prevent the premature disclosure of honorary degree information. The motion was seconded and approved by Faculty Council. While in closed session, candidates for honorary degrees were approved by the Council.
After returning to open session, the Faculty Council adjourned at 5:00 p.m.
University Program Associate
Secretary of the Faculty