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Meeting of the Faculty Council

Friday, December 7, 2007
3:00 p.m.
Hitchcock Multipurpose Room
Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Chancellor James Moeser
Professor Joe Templeton, Chair of the Faculty


3:00 Welcome, Opening Remarks, and General Questions

  • Chancellor James Moeser
  • Provost Bernadette Gray-Little

3:30 Committee Report

3:35 Priority Registration Proposal: Discussion and Vote

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 52 members of the Council attended: Aaron, Bagnell, Balthrop, Barreau, Belger, Bickford, Binotti, Blackburn, Blocher, Bloom, Boukhelifa, Broome, Conway, Copenhaver, Couper, DeSaix, Dupuis, Earp, Gerber, Gilligan, Gulledge, Halloran, Heenan, Hendrick, Kamarei, Katznelson, Kelly, Kendall, Koroluk, Kramer, Lauen, LeFebvre, Maffly-Kipp, Mauro, McGrath, Meade, Melamut, Moss, Murray, Oatley, Papanikolas, Paquette, Parsons, Peirce, Perrin, Pruvost, Renner, Rhodes, Rodgers, Saunders, Sheldon, Silversmith, Stein, Sweeney, Temple, Threadgill, Toews, Visser, Weinberg, and Wilson.

The following 23 members were granted excused absences: Ammerman, Andrews, Ashby, Bachenheimer, Bangdiwala, Brice, Campbell, Chin, Ernst, Ewend, Hightow, Hobbs, Hodges, Leonard, Lesneski, Orth, Votta, Wegner, Whisnant, Wilder, Williams, Wissick, and Yankaskas.

The following 7 members were absent without excuse: Coleman, Marshall, McCombs, Rosamond, Thorp, Vernon-Feagans, and Weil.

Chancellor’s Remarks and Question Period

Prof. James Moeser called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m. He began by thanking the Council for devoting today’s agenda to priority registration and especially thanked Prof. Steven Reznick (Psychology), the Educational Policy Committee, and the Faculty Athletics Committee for their part in developing the proposal. He said that in his view it is important for the faculty to take the lead in formulating University policy in this area because it is fundamentally an issue of academic policy. Now, we have no publicly announced policy, he said. A formal policy can achieve fairness to students who face unusual challenges. Several of our peer institutions have priority registration policies, he said, but none of them approach the clarity and comprehensiveness of what is being proposed today. The chancellor said that he understands that many faculty members have reservations about the wisdom of the proposed policy, but, he added, “I believe the proposal before you is appropriate and thoughtful.” He concluded by saying that he supported the proposal and hoped the faculty would as well.

Prof. John Sweeney (Journalism & Mass Communication) asked what the University is doing to address the extreme drought conditions we are now facing. Chancellor Moeser asked Assoc. Vice Chancellor Carolyn Elfland to respond.

Ms. Elfland explained that the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), which serves the University and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, has three reservoirs: University Lake, Cane Creek Reservoir, and an abandoned stone quarry. At the moment, these sources are at about 45% capacity, which is enough for 215 days. She said that five years ago, during a severe drought, capacity was down to 28%. Since then the University has achieved a sustained reduction of 10% in usage. Ms. Elfland pointed out that OWASA recovers slowly from drought because the Cane Creek Reservoir is six times larger than University Lake but the size of the two watersheds is the same. This means it takes six times as much rainfall to fill Cane Creek as it does for University Lake. She listed several things being done to permanently reduce University water consumption and temporary measures now being taken. One of the most effective in the long run will be the reclaimed water system just now in the bidding stage, which will not be complete until 2009. Meanwhile, the University is working with OWASA to develop a temporary above-ground system to use reclaimed water in our chiller plants. That project will require a number of roadway cuts for which expedited permission is being sought. Ms. Elfland said that the largest remaining opportunity for water conservation is in research laboratories.

Prof. Christopher Armitage (English) said that as the semester draws to a close, he believes the University has achieved a high rate of success in teaching our students. Comparing that success rate with Head Football Coach Butch Davis’ 33% win rate this year, he wondered what size salary bonus he might expect in his Christmas stocking.

Chancellor Moeser said that the decision to give Coach Davis a salary increase and extended contract was fundamentally a business decision. He pointed out that the Department of Athletics is entirely self-supporting and does not compete with academic departments for funding. Essentially all athletics revenue comes from football and men’s basketball. Before Coach Davis was hired, football was rapidly becoming an unsustainable business that threatened to send the Athletics Department to the budget committee for a bailout. That would have put athletics into direct competition with academics for funding. Chancellor Moeser disputed the widely-held assertion that intercollegiate athletics is out of control. He pointed out that the Athletic Department’s percentage of the total budget has remained constant since 1985 and has grown at a lower rate of increase than other areas of the budget such as research. He agreed that across the nation intercollegiate athletics operates in an exaggerated marketplace, but we have chosen to compete there and must accept the realities of the situation. He asserted that we have attempted, in the football program, not to compete at the highest levels of the marketplace with the financial results that we now experience. Chancellor Moeser said that he firmly believes that the decisions that have been made with respect to the football program have been correct, and that Coach Davis is committed to the same academic values shared by other coaches in our athletic programs. He said that we have a clean program here and that Carolina is a national leader in conducting its intercollegiate athletics programs in the right way. He concluded by saying that speaking as a faculty member and professor of music he understands the faculty’s frustration, but as chancellor he must deal with the world in which we live.

Prof. Ed Halloran (Nursing) said that his older brother had played on Yale’s last undefeated and untied football team in 1960. He wondered whether there was any hope that Carolina might move toward the approach to athletics shared by members of the Ivy League. Chancellor Moeser said that the fundamental issue is whether any group of institutions can change the market culture in which we now operate. He noted that the NCAA is putting in place new ways of gathering data that will enable institutions to benchmark against other institutions in order to inform their decision-making. He said that he doubts there is any “silver bullet” for the situation because it is driven by television revenue which, in turn, is driven by popular demand for sports entertainment. Overall, he said that he continues to believe that athletics is a positive force for Carolina.

Annual Report of the Faculty Executive Committee

Chair of the Faculty Joseph Templeton filed the Annual Report of the Executive Committee by title. There were no questions.

Prof. Templeton noted that Prof. William Leuchtenburg (History) and Prof. Darrel Stafford (Biology) were recipients of the 2007 North Carolina Award. This award was established by the General Assembly in 1961 and is the highest honor bestowed by the State of North Carolina.

Priority Registration

Read the Priority Registration Proposal materials here

Prof. Reznick, chair of the Priority Registration Task Force, opened the discussion. He chaired a task force originally appointed by the Faculty Athletics Committee in 2006 that was charged with exploring the possibility of proposing a priority registration system to assist varsity athletes and other students with difficult scheduling issues. Prof. Reznick summarized the proposal, highlighting the following points:

  • The central feature is a Priority Registration Advisory Committee (PRAC) that will oversee the program and advise the University Registrar on its administration.
  • Meetings of the PRAC will be open to the public.
  • The Registrar will report annually to the Educational Policy Committee on PRAC activity.
  • Priority registration would be instituted for a four-year trial period, after which it would be reviewed by the Faculty Council and a decision made whether to continue it.
  • The goal is to limit students eligible for priority registration to not more than 10% of the student body.
  • We already have elements of a priority registration system in place: seniors register before juniors, who register before sophomores. Also, it is long-standing policy that deans may recommend individual students for priority registration.
  • Priority registration is not inherently unfair; it is reasonable and just to accommodate special needs and challenges faced by certain students.
  • Direct evidence of the need for a priority registration system is found in exit interviews with graduating seniors in athletics programs; empirical data from other sources is difficult to find.
  • Peer institutions have priority registration systems that are not necessarily transparent; the committee did not find a model worthy of emulation.
  • Priority registration will not override the existing authority of departments to ensure that majors are able to enroll in required courses on a timely basis.
  • Although the proposal recommends that not more than 25% of the seats in a given section would be open to priority registrants, it is not clear how this idea would mesh with departmental control over course enrollment and, furthermore, we do not at the present have software capability to implement such a cap.
  • Student opinion appears to be divided.

Prof. Susan Bickford (Political Science) spoke against the proposal. She said that she favors priority registration for students with disabilities and those who need particular courses for curricular reasons, but she did not support it for student athletes. She acknowledged that the challenges student athletes face due to practice schedules are “quite alarming,” but she contended that those challenges stem from decisions made by the coaches. The proposal put forward by the task force assumes that practice schedules are unchangeable and that the rest of the University must adapt to them. She felt that the better solution is to place constraints on practice time. Prof. Bickford also pointed out that the proposal recommends no accommodation for students who must work to support themselves, students with children at home, and others whose need for schedule accommodation is at least as great as that of student athletes. Finally, Prof. Bickford expressed concern at the effect the proposal will have on departments and curricula.

Prof. Donna Gilleskie (Economics) spoke in favor of the proposal. She said that her service on the Educational Policy Committee this year had exposed her to more viewpoints on this issue than she had experienced before. She said that she was initially opposed to the idea, but when she learned about the “back door” means by which priority registration may presently be obtained, she moved to the other extreme and came to support the proposal.

Mr. Steve Malamut (Law Library) spoke against the proposal. He emphasized that the mission of the University is tied to academic endeavors. Extra-curricular activities have a place, but participation in them should not be a grounds for academic advantage. He, too, found it difficult to prefer student athletes over single mothers or students who have to work for their support. He understood that the present “covert” system would be replaced by the proposal, but he felt that compromise is sometimes an unacceptable result and that this is one such occasion.

Prof. John Papanikolas (Chemistry) spoke for the proposal. He said that before the November Faculty Council meeting, he knew nothing about priority registration and had given it no thought. Having read the task force report and background materials, he agrees that we now have a “murky, cloudy, back-door” system. The task force’s proposal, by contrast, is “open, transparent, and open to scrutiny.” The question, he said, is whether their proposal is the best solution. He thought it to be reasonable and well-presented. To develop the ideal plan, we would need to know more about the problem than we do now. He thought one of the best features of the proposal was the four-year sunset, by which time we should know much more about the whole issue. He concluded by urging “let’s try it; do the experiment, gather the data, then decide.”

Prof. Patrick Conway (Economics) spoke against the proposal. He agreed that some kind of priority registration program is needed, but he felt that the University Registrar already has ample authority to address this issue on a case-by-case basis and that the task force proposal, with its overly-broad reach, is not needed.

Prof. Peter Gordon (Psychology) said that he and other members of the Educational Policy Committee were initially strongly opposed to the proposal but that, having worked through the issues carefully, he and other members of the committee had come to support the proposal enthusiastically.

Mr. Michael Tarrant, Vice President of the Student Body, opposed the proposal. He said that the Executive Branch of Student Government supports having a written policy on priority registration, but does not support the policy proposed by the task force. He said that the primary beneficiaries of the task force proposal are student athletes, students with disabilities, students preparing for student teaching, and nursing students about to begin clinical work. He said that there is no convincing evidence that these students, other than those with disabilities, experience difficulties greater than a number of other students not covered by the policy. He mentioned students in ROTC and the marching band as examples.

Prof. Bill Balthrop (Communication Studies) spoke for the proposal. He said that his initial reaction was negative but that he had changed his mind. The equity issue most often discussed arises from challenges faced by student athletes and others engaged in certain extra-curricular activities that involve mutual agreements between the student and the institution. He said there is a qualitative difference between participation in an extra-curricular activity that is purely voluntary and one that entails mutual commitment between the student and the university.

Prof. Andrew Perrin (Sociology) asked whether there would be any means of priority registration next semester if the task force proposal is rejected. University Registrar Alice Poehls replied that she will terminate the present informal system if the task force proposal is defeated, and the Educational Policy Committee supports her in this decision.

Prof. Perrin said that he commends the task force for its proposal because it has clarified the issue, is completely clean, and takes into account all of the considerations. Nevertheless, he said that he opposes the proposal because the basic concept is fundamentally flawed.

Prof. Shielda Rogers (Nursing) asked, rhetorically, whether other students with special needs would be considered, mentioning care-givers for elderly parents or disabled children and others as examples. She said that nursing students do not actually need priority registration.

Prof. Suzanne Gulledge (Education) remarked that the special needs faced by education majors arises primarily from subject-matter content requirements for certification, not so much from practice teaching.

Prof. Sweeney said that he found the transparency argument persuasive, but was not convinced that the four-year sunset would actually work. He asked who would remember to bring the proposal back in 2011-12. Prof. Reznick said that would be the responsibility of the Educational Policy Committee and the University Registrar.

Prof. Ellen Peirce (Business) asked how the task force arrived at the proposed 25% cap on priority registration enrollment. Prof. Reznick replied that the task force thought there should be some safeguard against a course being filled during the priority registration period, but the 25% figure was arbitrary.

Prof. Peirce moved to amend the proposal to reduce the cap to 15%. Prof. Melinda Meade (Geography) seconded.

Prof. Lloyd Kramer (History), recalling that Prof. Reznick had said that current software does not accommodate an enrollment cap, asked what would happen if a given section was filled by student athletes during the priority registration period. Ms. Poehls replied that such an occurrence would be revealed only after the fact; there is currently no way to police it in advance. The Registrar added that she had analyzed registration data to identify the most popular courses and those that filled first. The analysis did not reveal that any of those courses were disproportionately filled by student athletes; in fact, there was no pattern.

Prof. Jessica Katznelson (Pediatrics) spoke forcefully against the proposal on grounds that it is fundamentally unfair.

Prof. Donna LeFebvre (Political Science) moved the previous question on the amendment proposed by Prof. Peirce.

The amendment was adopted.

Mr. John Blanchard, Senior Assoc. Director of Athletics, asked consent for two student athletes to address the Council. Mr. Christopher Litchford (Senior) and Ms. Katie Miller (Senior) spoke in favor of the proposal.

Prof. Jack Evans (Business) said that the principal justification for according priority registration to student athletes is that most of them are scholarship students who are subject to requirements to maintain eligibility that are not applicable to other students.

Prof. Peirce asked again if priority registration would be terminated should the proposal fail. Registrar Poehls reiterated her earlier assertion that it would and added that this would be the case for students with disabilities as well as student athletes.

Discussion having concluded, Prof. Templeton called for a vote by roll call. Thirty-five members of the Council voted in the affirmative, 17 in the negative. The proposal was adopted and enrolled as Resolution 2007-13.


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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