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Minutes of the Special Meeting of the General Faculty

May 3, 2001, 10:30 A.M.

The meeting of the General Faculty was called to order at 10:30 a.m. by the Chair of the Faculty, Professor Sue Estroff. This special meeting was called in response to the magnitude of proposed budget cuts which may be imposed on the University. The task of the faculty, Professor Estroff said, is to be informed about the scope and proposed focus of the reductions, and to express its views to the Provost and the Chancellor about these proposals. Professor Estroff said it was important that the faculty are full partners in decision-making and implementation of changes in their circumstances and daily work. The years the faculty has spent in building programs could be undermined by the actions of lawmakers. She said this was a time for both passion and pragmatism, being resolute and respectful of the needs and potential losses of others on this campus. It is time for asking for help and assistance from members of the legislature, whose decisions will have such an impact on this University. Professor Estroff said the budget is not yet final, and that there are a few weeks left to develop our case, to work with our delegation, to pull together in pride and in optimism. She said she endorsed the position of Chancellor Moeser to work for no cuts at all. There is a larger student body than ever, more external funding than ever, more ambitious endeavors in scholarship and education than ever, and yet there may be fewer resources. She said that most professionals get rewarded for their successes, not threatened with losses. It is now time to speak out with confidence, clarity, and with comity and to work with the administration on this campus, and with those elected to serve us, to stem this foolish plan to destroy our libraries, decimate the ranks of the faculty, cut the ranks of the staff, and educationally malnourish generations of students to come. Now is the time to be wily, eloquent, and as persuasive as possible.

Professor Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty, made a presentation about the legislative budget process. He explained that there are three parts to the State budget: the continuation budget, the expansion budget, and the capital budget. Cuts in only the first of these are currently under consideration. In his presentation, he informed the faculty of the basic legislative timetable at work. In summary, there is a five-step process. Committee and sub-committee consideration in one House is followed by action taken within that House as a whole. Then the procedure is repeated in the other House, comprising two more steps. Finally, a conference committee makes its final decisions. The role of the Governor in the process was also explained. Revenue increases, Professor Ferrell said, are handled separately and usually require the political leadership of the Governor.

Provost Robert Shelton said it is essential that everyone communicate their views and concerns as the Legislative process proceeds. He said he has been meeting with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council (ECFC) regularly and will continue with these meetings during the summer. He said the University leadership is continually meeting with leadership of the legislature to minimize any negative impact of the budget situation on the University. They are discussing how to help the legislature make some tough decisions to raise income for the State, and are seeking to demonstrate the value of the University to the citizens of the State of North Carolina. There are a variety of scenarios for dealing with the current budget shortfall, and the University has been asked to come up with hypothetical cuts of given percentages. There was only a 48-hour turn-around for dealing with these scenarios, and this was counterproductive for dealing with the amount of detail requested. Provost Shelton said he wanted to emphasize that plans for cuts in the acquisition budget for the Library are not plans that the University has developed with a desire that they be implemented. In March he had asked the heads of the departments how they would deal with a 2% or 4% cut in the recurring budgets, and that information is coming back to him. There will be more meetings with the deans for discussion, but no decisions will be made during this month. He said that if the University has to sustain cuts of up to 7% it will be many years before these losses are recovered. Provost Shelton said that these cuts are in stark contrast to the message that the voters sent last fall in the bond issue referendum, which showed great support for building the buildings and retaining the quality of the people who work in those buildings. The faculty needs to continue to make an extraordinarily strong, positive, and supportive series of arguments going back to the wishes of the voters of North Carolina for a great University at Chapel Hill. The University intends to move forward, and cannot have a year of absence in faculty recruitment efforts to bring the best people to the campus. Provost Shelton said he needs the best thinking of the faculty, collectively and individually, because it is the goal that the message of what the University does for the State is heard loud and clear in Raleigh. However the final budget decision comes out, the University must be in a position to move forward.

Professor Kerry Kilpatrick (Health Policy and Administration) said that some of the programs that he is involved in have hypothetical cuts of 50%, such as Distance Education and the Libraries, and he is concerned with the doomsday scenarios that have been circulating. Provost Shelton said it is important to respond to the requests from the legislature, through the office of the President of the University System, in a way that will alert the University’s allies of what the impact might be.

Professor Alicia Rivera-Potter (Romance Languages) asked what has happened to the faculty retirement funds, and what has happened with respect to the State lottery. Provost Shelton said he only knows what he reads in the newspapers about the chances that there will be a State lottery.

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield assured all of the faculty who are involved in the TSERS system that is a retirement program referred to as a “Defined Benefits” program, which means that benefits are calculated on the basis of a number of factors, and that, since the retirement program is already over-funded, there will be no effect by the current shortfall on the calculation of the eventual retirement benefits. She assured the faculty that there should be no concerns about their future retirement benefits if they are part of the State system.

Professor Carol Pardun (Journalism and Mass Communications) said she is concerned as a faculty member, and also as a parent, about what the University has heard from parents across the State about what effects budget cuts could have on the upcoming school year. Provost Shelton said he did not know of any coordinated effort among Carolina parents, but he has heard from a number of parents, and he felt others in the University have also heard great expressions of concern about what the cuts might mean. There has been an extraordinary expression of positive response from first-year admits, with more deposits than have ever been received before, to lock in their admission to the University.

Professor Laurence Avery (English) said that there is widespread concern among the faculty that the Libraries were not considered part of the instructional program when the budget cuts were contemplated. The faculty depends heavily on the quality of the Library, and considers it part of the instructional program. The Library is one of the real treasures on the campus. The last time the Library was threatened by cuts, there was a groundswell of protest by the faculty all over the campus in support of the Library being part of the Instructional program. Provost Shelton said there can’t be a great University without having a great Library. He said the University will find some way to assure that the Library maintains its effectiveness.

Professor Lenore Arab (Public Health) asked what was the most effective thing the faculty could do right now. Provost Shelton said that when Chancellor Moeser talked with the Employee Forum, he said the local representatives have heard the University’s concerns and support them as well, and it is important to reach them and others in Raleigh. He said it was important that the letters be written on personal letterhead, and they needed to be the person’s own independent opinions. A premier example was how the faculty was effective in the bond issues.

Professor Estroff said the really critical time for faculty support is after the Education Appropriations Sub-Committee reports its budget proposals. The critical time will be when the recommendations are discussed in the full committee, and the faculty needs to be active as citizens and taxpayers, as people who contribute to the economy of the State, and to the quality of life of the State. She said the faculty should make it clear to the Legislators that, even though salaries and benefits are important, the basic concern is for the well-being of the whole institution. Letters to legislators should mix urgency with good will.

Professor James Peacock (Anthropology) said that funding for the Library is a long-term investment that can be lost instantly.

Professor Philip Bromberg (Medicine) asked whether there might be cuts in administration. He asked the Provost about two Vice Provosts positions and whether they are necessary. The Provost said that the two Vice-Provost positions were very important positions that needed to be filled, but that there would be some cuts in administration as well as in any other areas, if it is necessary. He said it is a mistake to allow the proposed budget cuts to prevent the University from going forward with its essential administrative activities.

Professor James Porto (Health Policy and Administration) asked about possible State revenue increases. Provost Shelton said that his comments point out the very difficult job that the legislature has, and that the University has taken a position to try to help them make the difficult decisions, and that there has to be some attention paid to the revenue side. The faculty needs to help demonstrate the extraordinary economic value of the University of North Carolina.

Professor John Halton (Computer Science) stated that the best thing would be not to have any cuts, because the University is such an asset to the country and to the State. He suggested that, if it comes to a crunch, bricks and mortar should give way to people.

Professor Jerzy Linderski (Classics) rose to the defense of, and praised, the Library. It is not prudent, he said, to even suggest cuts of the magnitude discussed for the Library. The Library is counted 20th in the country, but he felt it is much better than that. The Library has suffered in the past from cuts, and the Library will have to take some loss, but if the Library suffers large cuts then the whole University will suffer. When there is a good library there will be good faculty and good colleagues. He said that only a small cut for the Library would be acceptable. Provost Shelton said that the kind of eloquence expressed by Professor Linderski needs to be heard in Raleigh and asked him to express his feeling through a letter to the leaders there.

Professor Adam Versenyi (Dramatic Art) said that cuts in instruction involve all of the other facets of the University. All facets of the University are integrated with one another, and the legislature needs to be educated about that fact.

Professor Wesley Wallace (School of Medicine) said that very little has been said about increasing revenues, and that the faculty should think about encouraging the legislature to look at ways to do that. He suggested a temporary tax burden on those in the State who could afford it.

Provost Shelton said the University is fighting the cuts in many ways. There is a strong case to be made for what the University does for the State, and he asked for the faculty’s help and advice in making that case.


The business of the day having concluded, the General Faculty adjourned at 12:00 noon.


Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty

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