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Minutes of the General Faculty and Faculty Council

October 10, 1997, 3:00 P.M.

This meeting of the General Faculty and Faculty Council was primarily devoted to discussion of the Report of the Task Force on Intellectual Climate. A full transcript of the meeting can be found on the Faculty Governance web page and also the University Gazette web page.

Faculty Council Attendance

Present (65): B. Anderson, Bangdiwala, Barefoot, Bluestein, Bose, Brice, Brink, Bromberg, Carl, Clegg, Conover, Cordeiro-Stone, Covach, Cravey, Crimmins, J. Dalton, R. Dalton, Debreczeny, Devellis, Estroff, Favorov, Fink, Fletcher, Graves, Haggis, Harrison, Hattem, Holmgren, Hooper, Howard, Hyatt, Johnson, Lachiewicz, Lentz, Loda, Lord, Lubker, Margolis, Marshall, Mauriello, L. McNeil, Melchert, Moreau, Owen, Pagano, Panter, Pfaff, Plante, Platin, Rabinowitz, Raper, Salgado, Schaller, Searles, Shea, Skelly, Stabler, Stidham, Strauss, Tauchen, Tysinger, Vevea, Weiss, D. Williams, M. Williams.

Excused absences (18): L. Bailey, Collins, Daye, Eckel, Farel, Foshee, Fox, Gasaway, Gatzy, Hodges, Irene, Jackson, Maffly-Kipp, Mandel, Matson, Passannante, Pielak, White.

Unexcused absences (3): C. Anderson, Mill, Rosenman.

Chancellor’s Remarks

Chancellor Hooker commended the work of the Task Force on Intellectual Climate and asked Provost Richard Richardson and Vice Chancellor Sue Kitchen to report on aspects of the report that are already at some stage of implementation.

Provost Richardson cited several examples of undergraduate involvement in research, spoke of the recent establishment of an office for prestige scholarships. He pointed out that the Office of the Provost is funding publication of the Twenty-Four Seven supplement that appears in each Tuesday issue of the Daily Tar Heel, and has contributed funding to the Taste of the Arts program. He spoke of the ongoing program of classroom improvements for which $2 million was spent last year and another $2 million has been allocated for this year. The Provost estimated that about 20% of the report’s recommendations are at some stage of implementation at this time.

Vice Chancellor Kitchen reported that the Student Affairs office is being reorganized, and that she has put together a student learning team with representatives from many offices in Student Affairs that is looking at ways to expand the leadership curriculum. She looks forward to building on the living/learning courses now in place in the residence halls with a view toward a more collaborative experience with faculty and graduate students. Finally, she hopes to use the Task Force recommendations as a guide in plans for expanding the Carolina Union.

Chancellor Hooker commended the plan that Dean Risa Palm has proposed for freshman seminars in the General College. The proposal is for 160 seminars with 20 students in each.

Question Period.

Professor Barry Lentz (Biochemistry) asked the Chancellor to comment on (1) why the faculty were not brought into discussions about the Nike contract and (2) the relative importance of academics and athletics at this institution.

Chancellor Hooker said that if he had it to do over, he would have made an effort to have a dialogue with the faculty about the Nike contract as well as the larger issue of corporate sponsorship for any part of the University’s activities.

As for the relative roles of academics and athletics, the Chancellor said that as a philosopher he thinks societal values are “entirely out of kilter.” He said that at the press conference announcing Coach Dean Smith’s retirement, Coach Smith had remarked to him “there’s something wrong with the values of a society that would place this much emphasis on a coach retiring.” The Chancellor said “the institution of intercollegiate sport in society has reached a point that [makes] it difficult for us to manage the tension between what we know we are and want to be and what we have become. [Insofar as intercollegiate athletics is concerned] we have become a purveyor or provider of public entertainment.” However, “one institution simply cannot unilaterally disarm.” He recalled the unsuccessful attempt that Frank Porter Graham made to de-emphasize football. The Chancellor thinks that the problem is more one of the society at large than it is of the university. “The challenge as manager at this university is simply to keep things in balance,” he said. He thinks we are doing a good job of managing our athletic program and noted with pride that we have not had a scandal in that program in the past 35 years. The last one resulted in our hiring Dean Smith as basketball coach which some say was “an effort to de-emphasize basketball—hiring an assistant coach rather than going out and getting a big-name coach.”

Annual Reports of Standing Committees

The annual reports of the Faculty Grievance Committee and the Faculty Hearings Committee were received without comment.

Report of the Task Force on Intellectual Climate.

Professor Andrews, Chair of the Faculty, summarized the origins of the Task Force. Professor Pamela Conover, Chair of the Task Force, thanked those involved in producing the report and stated that the Task Force’s basic goal is to make UNC the leader among public universities. “The success of our efforts does not depend upon the implementation of any one recommendation,” she said; “it’s the plan as a whole that matters.” She added “there is always room for more good ideas; this is the beginning of the conversation, not the end.”

The General Faculty and Council took up the Report of the Task Force first as a whole and then by chapter.

Professor Philip Bromberg (Medicine) asked to what extent the fact that we are a public institution influenced the recommendations. Are there differences in how to achieve intellectual climate in public and private institutions?

Professor Conover replied that one principal difference is that many private institutions have greater resources than we. Our mission as a public institution does have some influence on how we go about our work, but she does not think that there is much substantive difference.

Professor Marila Cordeiro-Stone (Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) thought that the sheer size of most public institutions makes it more difficult to cultivate intellectual climate than may be the case in smaller private institutions.

Professor James L. Peacock (Anthropology) thought that public universities may actually realize an advantage from the close connection between the university and the people of the state. “In the words of Ernest Boyer, ‘practice can be reflective.’ Combining intellectual and practical contributions may stimulate in a way that is not always possible in a private, more insulated setting.”

Professor Joseph Pagano (Medicine) commended Dean Palm’s proposal for freshman seminars. He sees that as an excellent opportunity to make progress in encouraging inter-disciplinary work.

Professor Catherine Marshall (Education) asked how the report addresses the integration of professional schools into the intellectual climate.

Professor Conover said that the report did not focus as heavily as it might have on professional school subjects, but that she hoped this would be an area for future discussions.

Professor Lawrence Grossberg (Communication Studies) said that he finds the Task Force report flawed at every level, despite the efforts and good intentions of those who worked on it. It claims to offer a vision of the 21st century university but fails to articulate what that vision might be. It lacks serious consideration of the unique situation of UNC-CH as a public research university. One might have expected the report to begin with a definition of the ideal intellectual climate, followed by a descriptive diagnosis of the actual intellectual climate. That would have led to a discussion of solutions that would move the university from the latter to the former. Instead, the report is a potpourri of ideas that have been tried elsewhere with mixed success. For example, he doubted that providing for each first-year student one seminar course would have much effect. He knew of many other universities that have instituted such programs, but none where it changed the intellectual climate in any significant way. Professor Grossberg made available copies of his “Open Letter on the Intellectual Climate” which develops extensively these themes and others.

Professor Conover referred Prof. Grossberg to the SACS reaccreditation report which examines in considerable detail perceived problems with the intellectual climate at UNC-CH.

Professor Lloyd Kramer (History) wanted to emphasize that the report does not intend to take a coercive stance with either students or faculty. Rather, it hopes to suggest ways to channel and affirm the tremendous intellectual energy that already exists here.

Professor Stephen Leonard (Political Science) remarked that the fact that we cannot solve all the problems of society is not a reason to do nothing at all. He thought that if some of the measures tried at other institutions had a good effect on some students that would be sufficient reason to attempt them here. “If we can’t touch everyone, we should at least try to reach some.”

Chancellor Hooker spoke to the challenge of educating students for the 21st century. The basic task of preparing students for a technology-infused 21st century is not greatly different from what we’ve been doing for two centuries, which is to provide a good liberal arts education. The ideal is to prepare students to live meaningful and productive lives in an economy that will be greatly transformed from the one in which they have grown up. To enable students to live a productive life in any economy where technology is in constant flux, you don’t provide only knowledge of the latest state-of-the-art principles; you teach the subtending epistemology of your discipline. The most important thing we can impart to our students is the ability to think analytically and critically and to make judgments in environments of ambiguity and uncertainty. That is the essence of a liberal arts education.

The discussion next turned to the Task Force recommendations regarding the First Year Initiative. This portion of the report was summarized by Professor Leon Fink (History).

Associate Dean Darryl Gless spoke briefly of Dean Palm’s proposal for first-year seminars. The goal is to give each entering student a first-rate intellectual experience in a freshman seminar with full-time, established faculty who are active researchers and skilled teachers. The College will accumulate available vacant faculty positions and allocate them to departments and inter-disciplinary units that are interested in participating in the program. The new positions will not be ear-marked for this purpose; each unit will be able to deploy any of its faculty in the seminar program. Additionally, the College will devise criteria that will ensure that the new faculty hired through this program will have expertise in computer-aided instruction. Such persons can become catalysts for the entire department. Essentially, the College is attempting in this program to cover several bases at once: “Active learning in undergraduate seminars with full-time faculty. Active learning together with students. Active learning that brings research and teaching together immediately at the entry level.”

Professor Miles Fletcher (History) spoke of the success of the honors program and hoped that the first-year initiative would not take funding away from that program. He thinks Dean Palm’s proposal will not harm the honors program.

Professor Laurie McNeil (Physics & Astronomy) spoke of the benefits of exposing entering students to a small class. She thinks this would encourage students to seek out smaller classes as they move to upper levels in the College or professional schools.

Professor Madeline Levine (Slavic Languages & Literature) agreed with Professor McNeil. From the perspective of a department that of necessity always teaches small classes, she has found that students attach great value to the experience and are profoundly influenced by it.

Professor Hugon Karwowski (Physics & Astronomy) suggested that retired faculty would be an excellent resource for offering freshman seminars.

Professor Jaroslav Folda (Art) thought that the report’s proposals on residential life could be implemented more broadly than suggested. He also thought that postponing fraternity/sorority rush until the second year would be an improvement, and that student athletes should not participate in varsity sports until the second year.

Professor Richard Soloway (Assoc. Dean, Arts & Sciences) wanted to make clear the relationship between computer technology and the new hires to be undertaken as part of the freshman seminar initiative. The idea is not that the seminars would necessarily be computer-based. Many of them would most likely be taught in traditional ways.

Professor Deborah Bender (Health Policy & Administration) said she has heard students say very complimentary things about the alcohol-free event that opened the Fall semester.

The discussion next turned to discussion of the recommendations affecting Inside the Classroom. This part of the report was summarized by Professor Marshall Edgell (Microbiology & Immunology).

Professor Richard Pfaff (History) disagreed with the recommendation for an academy for distinguished teachers. He suggested that there is no reason to distinguish distinction in teaching from distinction in research or in service. If there is to be an academy for distinguished teachers then logically there would be others for research and service as well. The result would be a trifurcated faculty and no discernible benefit from the effort.

Professor James L. Peacock (Anthropology) spoke of the potential role of graduate students in fostering intellectual climate for undergraduates. He thought graduate students could be especially helpful in the freshman seminar context.

Professor Edgell responded to Professor Pfaff’s objection to the academy proposal by saying that the recommendation is for an academy of distinguished teaching scholars. One must first have impeccable credentials as a scholar.

Professor George Rabinowicz (Political Science) spoke to the unhealthy influence on intellectual climate of grade inflation and the difficulty of obtaining meaningful evaluation of teaching.

The discussion next turned to Faculty Roles and Rewards. This part of the report was summarized by Professor Laurie McNeil (Physics & Astronomy).

Professor Joseph Pagano (Medicine) observed that there is a definite link between excellence in research and excellence in teaching. He does not think that a really good faculty member will be deficient in either area. He suggested that the we have not yet arrived at an optimal reward system that will bring out the best in our faculty. The most severe problem is the prospect of relatively trivial salary increases.

Professor Arlen Anderson (Physics & Astronomy) thought it important that each department foster a better sense of community. Some faculty may really excel at teaching, others at research, but all are contributing to the common goal of the department.

Professor George Rabinowicz was skeptical of the value of compiling teaching portfolios. Does this not simply generate more paperwork for an already overworked faculty?

Professor Madeline Levine said that she regrets the necessity of compiling and reporting information on public service. Faculty members should engage in service to the community because it’s the right thing to do, not in hope of some reward.

Professor Craig Melchert (Linguistics) noted that the principal problem with giving greater weight to teaching in the reward structure is the difficulty of evaluating it fairly. He thinks there is a need for some kind of measure that is not entirely subjective. He, too, is skeptical of the value of additional reporting requirements.

Professor Janice Dodds (Public Health) reported favorably on her department’s experiences in discussing how to evaluate teaching.

Professor John Evans (Kenan-Flagler Business School) gave several examples of benefits that the business school has realized from having faculty compile teaching portfolios.

The discussion next turned to the recommendations regarding Outside the Classroom. These were summarized by Professor Lloyd Kramer (History).

Professor Conrad Neumann (Marine Sciences) spoke of the benefits of field trips, but lamented the risk of personal liability to which faculty who take students in the field are exposed and the inadequate insurance coverage available.

Professor Ronald Hyatt (Physical Education) spoke warmly of the excellent job being done by advisers.

The discussion then turned to the recommendations regarding Education for Civic Responsibility. These were summarized by Linda Carl (Office of the Provost).

Professor Richard Pfaff objected to the notion of giving academic credit for ordinary community service. He thinks that one of the most important values we can communicate to our students is that one owes service to the community without hope of reward.

Professor Pamela Conover reported that students have responded very positively to a community service requirement in a course that she teaches. Ms. Carl said that the term “service learning” is very broadly defined. In the Division of Health Affairs, the term “community-based education” is more often used to describe a close academic and intellectual relationship between the service rendered and the academic content. The proposal for a service center is intended to coordinate the university’s many service activities. Otherwise, there is a danger of confusing the people with whom we serve and work.

The report’s recommendations on Common Space were presented by Professor Melinda Meade (Geography) but, due to the lateness of the hour, they evoked no comment.

Professor Andrews proposed that he, as Chair of the Faculty, set up a small coordinating committee composed of the Provost, the President of the Student Body, himself, and perhaps a few others, to oversee implementation of the Task Force report. The coordinating committee would then identify appropriate working groups for each of the major recommendations.

Professor Bobbi Lubker (Education) moved that the Council endorse Professor Andrews’ proposal. Seconded.

Professor Pfaff hoped that some channel would remain open for addressing the kinds of concerns articulated by Professor Grossberg. He would not want the faculty in general to think that a Faculty Council vote has ended a conversation that should continue at the level of first principles, not just implementing mechanisms. He did not think that it could be said, in fairness, that today’s discussion has resolved any of the first principles.

Professor Miles Fletcher (History) asked if there would be a report back to the Council at least by April. Professor Andrews replied that he hoped to have an interim report before then, especially since the incumbent student body leadership will change in February.

Professor Frayda Bluestein (Institute of Government) asked how recommendations in the report might be modified. Professor Andrews replied that the report itself has been delivered but whether and to what extent its recommendations should be implemented is still an open question.

Professor Susanna Rinehart (Dramatic Art) hoped that the discussion of intellectual climate would be ongoing.

Professor Celia Hooper (Medical Allied Health Professions) asked that that faculty members in Health Affairs not be forgotten in developing plans for the freshman seminars.

Professor Lubker’s motion was put to a vote and adopted without dissent.


Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty


Pdf of meeting materials

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