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Meeting of the Faculty Council and the General Faculty

Friday, April 27, 2007
3:00 p.m.
Hitchcock Multipurpose Room
Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Chancellor James Moeser and Faculty Chair Joseph Templeton presiding


3:00 Welcome, Opening Remarks, and General Questions

  • Chancellor James Moeser
  • Provost Bernadette Gray-Little

3:25 Presentation of the 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award

3:35 Remembrance of Deceased Faculty

  • Prof. Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty

3:45 Resolution 2007-8: On Ratifying An Amendment to the Charter of the Faculty Assembly of The University of North Carolina

  • Prof. Bonnie Yankaskas, Faculty Assembly Delegate

3:50 UNC Quality Enhancement Plan Annual Update [ppt]

  • Prof. Bobbi Owen, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, College of Arts and Sciences

4:00 Resolution 2007-9: On Adopting the Achievement Index as the Metric for University-wide Comparative Rankings of Students

4:30 Resolution 2007-7: On Membership of the Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty

  • Prof. Suzanne Gulledge, Chair, Fixed-Term Faculty Committee

4:35 Committee Report: Faculty Committee on Research

  • Prof. Harvey Seim, Chair

4:50 2007 Faculty Election Results

  • Prof. Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty

5:00 Adjourn


The Faculty Council of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill convened at 3:00 p.m. in the Hitchcock Multipurpose Room of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

The following 68 members of the Council attended: Alperin, Arnold, Bachenheimer, Bagnell, Barreau, Belger, Bennett, Blocher, Booth, Boukhelifa, Cairns, Cantwell, Chapman, Collichio, Conway, Copenhaver, Couper, Dalton, Degener, DeSaix, Dupuis, Eble, Fisher, Gerber, Gilligan, Glazner, Gulledge, Halloran, Hendrick, Hobbs, Jonas, Kamarei, Kirsch, Kramer, Lastra, LeFebvre, MacLean, Maffly-Kipp, Matson, Matthysse, Mazzocco, McCombs, McGrath, McIntosh, Murphy, Murray, Oatley, Papanikolas, Pruvost, Rustioni, Salmon, Sandelowski, Saunders, Silversmith, Strom-Gottfried, Sulik, Sweeney, Taylor, Temple, Tiwana, Votta, Wallace, Wegner, Weinberg, Whisnant, Wilson, Wissick and Yankaskas. The following 19 members were granted excused absences: Alice Ammerman, Bill Balthrop, Marci Campbell, Andrew Chin, Robert Connolly, Lisa Hightow, Evelyne Huber, Cheryll Lesneski, Stephen Marshall, Rita Moss, John Orth, Ellen Peirce, Charlotte Peterson, Bereket Selassie, Deborah Threadgill, Carroll-Ann Trotman, Barbara Wasik, Amy Weil and Rebecca Wilder. The following three members were absent without excuse: Matthew Ewend, Blair Keagy and Wayne Rosamond.

Welcome, Opening Remarks, and General Questions

Chancellor Moeser began by asking the Council to rise for a moment of silent reflection in memory of the 33 colleagues and students at Virginia Tech who had died there on April 16 in a mass murder and suicide perpetrated by a deranged student. He mentioned that one of those killed was Jamie Bishop, who worked here at Carolina in the College of Arts and Science’s information technology office while his wife, Stefanie Hofer, earned her Ph.D. in German.

The Chancellor reported that the day after the event at Virginia Tech, the Cabinet met with Interim Director of Public Safety Jeff McCracken. Subsequently, the Emergency Warning Committee, chaired by General Counsel Leslie Strohm, has met and reviewed our emergency plans. The Chancellor said that the following actions are being taken immediately: (1) we are testing a pilot project of text messaging in residential units; (2) we are installing a siren system that will warn the community of emergencies. He advised faculty members who become concerned about a student’s actions or state of mind to contact the Dean of Students Office. Winston Crisp and Melissa Exum are available to help both the faculty member and the student. They will call on our Emergency Evaluation and Action Committee. Members of that committee take into account psychological evaluations and witness statements and have conversations with the student and his or her parents. The key questions are whether the student’s behavior poses a danger to the student or the University community and whether the danger warrants emergency action. In some cases, the student may be able to remain on campus with some safeguard measures in place to reduce the risk of future harm to self or others. Other emergency actions can include banning the student from campus until the risk has been reduced to the point that the student can return safely to participate in campus life. If the student appears to be on the edge of violence, the faculty member should contact Public Safety immediately and directly.

The Chancellor said that the Virginia Tech incident was discussed thoroughly at the American Association of Universities meeting earlier this week. The AAU is gathering best practices from among its members. The Chancellor said that conversations among chancellors and presidents indicate agreement that Congress is likely to amend the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and perhaps the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) to enable information-sharing about students and others who seem likely to pose a threat to the community. Under current law, university administrators and health professionals are unreasonably constrained in informing faculty members and parents of troubling information.

The Chancellor reported grave concern among AAU members at current rule-making proposals put forward by the United States Department of Education that would undermine the accreditation system for institutions of higher education. These efforts were spurred by recommendations of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The proposed rules would have the federal government direct accreditors to impose student outcome standards on institutions—a move that would undermine our ability to determine academic standards. Chancellor Moeser also expressed concern that the UNC System may be about to require all sixteen constituent institutions to administer Collegiate Learning Assessment, a means of assessing student learning developed by the Council for Aid to Education with the assistance of the Rand Corporation. He said that Carolina and North Carolina State University are opposing this initiative.

The Chancellor concluded his remarks by assuring the faculty that recent scandals in administration of student financial aid at some institutions have not infected Carolina. He said that this campus and North Carolina as a whole has been a model of how to administer financial aid for college students. This has been due to the splendid work of the College Foundation of North Carolina, which was one of the innovations of Governor Terry Sanford’s administration.

Presentation of the 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award

Chancellor Moeser presented the 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award to Prof. Stephen Fredrick Weiss, Department of Computer Science. Prof. Fred Brooks read the citation.

Provost’s Remarks

Provost Bernadette Gray-Little thanked the members of the Council for their support and cooperation during her first year as provost. She reported briefly on the following items:

  • Dean Jean Folkert will chair the search committee for dean of the School of Education.
  • University Librarian Sarah Michalak will chair the search committee for chief information officer.
  • Clara Sue Kidell, Professor of History and Director of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, has been appointed director of the Carolina Indian Center, effective July 1.
  • The UNC Institute for the Environment has been launched under the leadership of Prof. Douglas Crawford-Brown. The Institute was formed through expansion of the existing Carolina Environmental Program. It adds new degree programs, research sites and outreach initiatives throughout North Carolina.

Remembrance of Deceased Faculty

Prof. Joseph S. Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty, read the names of members of the faculty who have died since the April, 2006 meeting of the General Faculty. The faculty stood and observed a moment of silent remembrance.

On Ratifying an Amendment to the Charter of the Faculty Assembly of The University of North Carolina

Prof. Bonnie Yankaskas, Chair of the Faculty Assembly Delegation, presented a resolution ratifying an amendment to the charter of the UNC Faculty Assembly. She explained that the change apportions the assembly on the basis of an institution’s percentage of the total number of faculty in the System, rather than on the basis of a bracket system. She said that the change would have no effect on Carolina in the foreseeable future since no institution may have more than five delegates, no matter how numerous its faculty. The resolution was adopted without dissent and is enrolled as Resolution 2007-8.

UNC Quality Enhancement Plan Annual Update

Dean Bobbi Owen reported on progress in implementing the Quality Enhancement Plan that was adopted in 2006 as part of the University’s decennial reaffirmation of accreditation. Accomplishments so far include:

  • Establishment of the Maymester program with 23 proposals and 300 spaces likely to be filled;
  • Beginning of the interdisciplinary program with nine proposals in process of approval;
  • Addition of five full-time advisors and one support position;
  • Addition of a full-time associate director in the Office of Undergraduate Research;
  • Approval of four new term-based professorships in the College (one in each Division);
  • Significant increases in course offerings in which students carry out original research and in the number of SURF applicants and awards;
  • Additional funding for ESL positions in the Writing Center and the English Department;
  • Salary supplements in the Study Abroad Office staff; and
  • A number of assessment efforts designed to track progress.

On Adopting the Achievement Index as the Metric for University-wide Comparative Rankings of Students

Professor Joseph Templeton, Chair of the Faculty, placed before the Council a resolution presented by the Educational Policy Committee that would adopt the Achievement Index (AI) as the metric for University-wide comparative rankings of students. He noted that the proposal had been explained in written materials made available to the Council and in an oral presentation by Prof. Peter Gordon at the March 23 meeting of the Council, and that it had been debated at a special faculty meeting on April 13. He suggested that the Council prepare to vote on the resolution today after hearing three-minute presentations by Prof. Kevin Stewart (Geological Sciences), Student Body President Eve Carson, Prof. Joy Kasson (American Studies), and Prof. Andrew Perrin (Sociology). Following these presentations, he proposed up to 15 minutes for questions and discussion, followed by a vote. The Council agreed to this procedure.

Prof. Stewart, a member of the Educational Policy Committee (EPC), summarized the events that led up to the proposal. He recalled that in 2000 EPC issued a report entitled “Grade Inflation at UNC-CH,“ which documented the steady onset of grade inflation over a number of years. As a result of that report, a Task Force on Grading Standards was created. The task force issued a report in 2001, and the Council adopted a resolution requiring EPC to report annually on grading policy. Prof. Stewart briefly summarized the reports and recommendations of EPC over the intervening years, culminating in appointment of a subcommittee in 2006 charged with addressing issues raised in previous years and identifying appropriate courses of action. This subcommittee developed the resolution that is before the Council today. It is the result of many years of work by EPC that has been carried out at the direction of the Council.

President Carson urged the Council to reject the resolution. She reported that the Student Congress has adopted a resolution opposing adoption of the AI, and reported that 800 students had signed a petition condemning it. She advocated a longer process of studying grading practices.

Prof. Kasson spoke against the resolution. She said that she had been a member of the Task Force on Grading Standards. She said that she feared that the current proposal has the potential to set various elements of the faculty and student body at odds with each other. She especially feared distancing between the Humanities and the Natural Sciences. She said that the AI introduces a system of ranking and comparison that will heighten competition among students and departments. It will encourage the belief that some disciplines are “soft” in comparison to others, and it devalues grading decisions by faculty members who teach courses in which grades tend to run high.

Prof. Perrin spoke in favor of the resolution. He pointed out that the principal reason for preferring the AI for academically ranking students rather than the more familiar Grade Point Average computation is that the Index corrects for variations in grading policy from instructor to instructor in the same course, and in grading philosophy from department to department. He emphasized that students appear to be vitally interested in identifying particular instructors and courses in which the chances of receiving a high grade appear to be greater. He illustrated that point by navigating to the website of an organization called “Pick-A-Prof” which, for a fee, provides detailed comparison of grades among individual instructors and courses.

Prof. Gregory Copenhaver (Biology) spoke against the resolution.

Prof. Judith Wegner (Law) spoke against the resolution. She said that the principal stated purpose of adopting AI is to decide which students graduate with distinction, but the proposal goes much farther and adds complexity without solving much. Prof. Gordon replied that EPC focused on award of distinction because there are clear, disciplined-based criteria for awarding Honors. Distinction, on the other hand, is University-wide and is now based solely on GPA.

Prof. Ed Halloran (Nursing) asked whether EPC had noticed that the 30-year history of grade inflation corresponds to the 30-year history of women’s enrollment at Carolina. Prof. Gordon said that the committee had not.

Prof. Lloyd Kramer (History) said that he does not think that AI avoids the problem of students choosing specific courses in order to improve their class ranking. He said that in the History Department, the size of the class is the single most significant indicator of grades: the smaller the class, the better the grades. Prof. Perrin replied that an analysis of honors classes had revealed that students in small classes where grades are high tend to have high AI scores because their classmates tend to do better in other classes. He also noted that the AI should be understood as a ranking, rather than something that can be calculcated individually.

Prof. Todd Taylor (English) said that AI appears to be based largely on the same assumptions as standardized testing, and that the effect was to negatively handicap some individual instructors’ grades. He found that to be an offensive invasion of the faculty’s academic freedom.

Prof. Patrick Conway (Economics) asked about the cost of implementing AI. Prof. Templeton replied that the cost is not known at this time, but that the Council should not be making an educational policy decision primarily on the basis of cost.

Prof. Frank Wilson (Orthopaedics) said that he was struck by the strong inference that members of the faculty are now completely autonomous in making grading decisions. He felt that any instructor who is teaching in the context of an external reference system is not entirely free to grade as he or she pleases. He was also troubled by the strong disparity of student and faculty views on grading policy. He said that students have not been in a position to see the situation from the other side of the desk.

Prof. Templeton called for a vote by show of hands. As the Council appeared to be almost evenly divided, a second vote was taken by roll-call. Voting in the affirmative were: Alperin, Bachenheimer, Boukhelifa, Cantwell, Conway, Couper, DeSaix, Eble, Ferrell, Gerber, Glazner, Gulledge, Hobbs, Jonas, Kamerei, Maffly-Kipp, Matson, Matthysse, McIntosh, Pruvost, Salmon, Saunders, Sulik, Temple, Templeton, Tiwana, Wallace, Weinberg, Whisnant, Wilson, and Yankaskas. Those voting in the negative were: Arnold, Bagnell, Barreau, Bennett, Blocher, Booth, Cairns, Chapman, Collichio, Copenhaver, Dalton, Degener, Fisher, Gilligan, Hendrick, Kirsch, Kramer, Lastra, LeFebvre, Mazzocco, McCombs, McGrath, Murray, Oatley, Papanikolas, Rustioni, Sandelowski, Silversmith, Strom-Gottfried, Sweeney, Taylor, Votta, Wegner, and Wissick. Thirty-one having voting in the affirmative, thirty-four in the negative, the resolution was defeated.

On Membership of the Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty

Prof. Suzanne Gulledge (Education), Chair of the Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty, said that the committee had been appointed late in the academic year and had just begun to organize and develop a work plan. Two of its current members will be completing their terms on the Council at the end of this academic year and, under the terms of the resolution creating the committee, would become ineligible to serve. To enable those members to continue serving on the committee for the 2007-08 academic year, she offered a resolution entitled On Membership of the Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty. The resolution was adopted without dissent and is enrolled as Resolution 2007-7.

Annual Report of the Faculty Committee on Research

Prof. Harvey Seim (Marine Science) reported on behalf of the Faculty Committee on Research.

2007 Faculty Elections Results

Prof. Ferrell distributed a document showing the results of the 2007 faculty elections and reporting on faculty participation by electoral division. He pointed out that only 395 ballots were cast, which is the worst election participation rate in his memory.


Its business having been completed, the Council adjourned at 5:00 p.m.


Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty


Pdf of meeting materials

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