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Meeting of the Faculty Council and General Faculty

Friday, April 24, 2009, 3:00 p.m.
Hitchcock Multipurpose Room
Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Chancellor Holden Thorp
Professor Joe Templeton, Chair of the Faculty


3:00    Presentation of the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Award

  • Chancellor Holden Thorp

3:10    Chancellor’s Remarks and Question Period

  • Chancellor Holden Thorp

3:25    Update on Bain & Company Study

  • Representatives from Bain & Company

3:55    Provost’s Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies and Practices Draft Report

  • Prof. Jane Brown, Chair

4:05    Annual Report:  Faculty Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty

  • Prof. Suzanne Gulledge, Chair

4:15    Educational Policy Committee Updates

4:25   Annual Report:  Faculty Research Committee

4:40    Remarks from the University Ombuds Office

  • Mr. Wayne Blair and Prof. Laurie Mesibov

4:45    Annual Update on the Quality Enhancement Project: Making Critical Connections

  • Prof. Bobbi Owen

4:50    Remembrance of Deceased Faculty

  • Prof. Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty

4:55    2009 Faculty Elections Results

  • Prof. Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty

5:00    Adjourn


The Faculty Council and General Faculty 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 61 members of the Council attended: Aaron, Adamson, Andrews, Bagnell, Balthrop, Bechtel, Bickford, Blackburn, Blalock, Blocher, Bloom, J. Brown, P. Brown, Catellier, Chin, Conway, Copenhaver, Cornell, DeSaix, Earp, Egan, Gerber, Gulledge, Halloran, Hartnett, Heenan, Hendrick, Hodges, Kelly, Lee, LeFebvre, Leonard, Lopez, Maffly-Kipp, Melamut, Morris-Natschke, Oatley, Papanikolas, Paquette, Parsons, Pruvost, Quinonez, Renner, Rhodes, Richardson, Rodgers, Saunders, Schoenfisch, Shields, Stotts, Sweeney, Sweet, Temple, Tobin, Toews, Van Tilburg, Vernon-Feagans, Visser, Wallace, Weinberg and Williams.

The following 25 members were granted excused absences:. Ashby, Bangdiwala, Binotti, Boukhelifa, Brice, Campbell, Dilworth-Anderson, Ernst, Hightow, Hobbs, Katznelson, Kendall,  Kirsch, Koroluk, Kramer, Lesneski, Mauro, Moss, O’Connell-Edwards, Orth, Sheldon, Shomaker, Stein, Whisnant and Wilder.

The following 6 members were absent without excuse: Adler, Coleman, McCombs, Rosamond, Thorp and Verkerk.

Call to Order and Chancellor’s Remarks

Prof. Joseph Templeton, Chair of the Faculty, called the meeting to order promptly at 3:00 p.m.

Chancellor Thorp thanked Prof. Templeton for the extraordinary leadership he has exhibited as chair of the faculty for the past three years and noted that today’s Council meeting is Prof. Templeton’s last in that capacity. The chancellor presented to Prof. Templeton as a memento a Carolina basketball player’s jersey.

The chancellor recognized and congratulated Prof. McKay Coble, newly elected chair of the faculty. Her term begins July 1.

Chancellor Thorp reported that the recipient of the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Award is Prof. George Lensing (English). He said that Prof. Lensing is attending a scholarly conference in Rome, Italy, and is not on hand to accept the award in person. For that reason, the formal presentation of the award will take place at the September 11, 2009, meeting of the General Faculty and Faculty Council.

The chancellor congratulated Prof. Carl Ernst (Religious Studies) on having been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Chancellor Thorp reiterated his regrets for the recent disruption of a planned speech by former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo, who had been invited to campus to speak on the topic of illegal immigration. The chancellor said that Carolina remains committed to freedom of speech and inquiry and will not tolerate disruption of speakers by those who disagree with their views.

Turning to the ongoing budget crisis, the chancellor said that there have been no major political developments recently. The state Senate has completed its work on the budget. The bill is now in the House of Representatives, but the House will not begin work in earnest until May 1 when revenue collection results for the first quarter of the calendar year will be announced. Meanwhile, Governor Beverly Perdue has frozen all state budget spending on non-essential items. The chancellor said that he anticipates that the state will capture all unspent state-appropriated funds as of the end of this fiscal year, including the carryforward from prior years, and he reported that there will be no new hires using state funds between now and June 30. He said that UNC President Erskine Bowles is scheduled to address the House Education Committee next week, after which the House will begin its budget deliberations.

Chancellor Thorp reported that the Office of the Chancellor has returned 11 percent of its state funds budget to the budget committee for reallocation. He expressed hope that a permanent 5 percent reduction in state funding for 2009-10 will be all that is required of the University, but he said he could give no assurances in that regard.

The chancellor recognized Provost Bernadette Gray-Little, who announced that Prof. Ruth Walden (Journalism & Mass Communication) has been appointed Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence.

Prof. Susan Bickford (Political Science) expressed dismay that the University Police had chosen the hallway outside a classroom as the place to arrest a student, who was charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the Tancredo incident. Chancellor Thorp replied that the police had followed standard procedures under the circumstances.

Prof. Steve Bachenheimer (Microbiology & Immunology) said that he regretted that it had been decided to schedule a football game in Chapel Hill on Thursday. He acknowledged that he had not been present at the Council meeting when this decision was reported, but he asked why it had been made. Chancellor Thorp replied that he had discussed the matter with the Council, the Advisory Committee, the provost, and others, all of whom expressed support for complying with this ACC requirement by scheduling such games during fall break when there would be no interference with classes. He said that he remains opposed to Thursday games in Chapel Hill when classes are in session. Prof. Bachenheimer pointed out that such games also disrupt the work of faculty and staff, especially hospital personnel. The chancellor replied that plans are being made with the Department of Public Safety and UNC Hospitals to ameliorate those problems. If they don’t work, he said, we will not repeat the experiment.

Update on Bain & Company Study

Chancellor Thorp said that, given the interest that has been shown in the study being undertaken by Bain & Company, he had asked representatives of the study team to speak to the Council about the work they are doing. He said that the team had spoken to the Employee Forum Executive Committee this morning and that a narrated version of the presentation would be placed on the University website [click link for “Bain Interim Report.”] The chancellor then introduced Messrs. Ritch Allison, Jeff Denneen, and Mark Finlan.

Mr. Allison gave a PowerPoint presentation that covered the following major points:

  • Recently, Carolina has experienced significant growth in student enrollment, research awards, and revenue, but it is likely that in the near future revenue growth will slow or decline in the important categories of state appropriations, private gifts, and investment income.
  • The objective of the study is to identify options to improve Carolina’s operating costs structure through more efficient and effective operations to facilitate long-term growth, while being guided by the core principles of
    • compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements;
    • maintaining academic quality;
    • preserving Carolina’s reputation as a leading public institution;
    • cultivating a sound internal control and compliance environment; and
    • evaluating costs against the relative value they return.
  • The study will focus on administration, expenses paid from general institutional support funds, and auxiliary enterprises but will not include the UNC Health Care System, UNC Physicians & Associates, new revenue sources, or capital projects.
  • Preliminary results of the study show that
    • administrative expenses per student have grown faster than academic expenses;
    • Carolina’s organizational structure is extremely complex;
    • Multiple layers of management can exacerbate complexity; and
    • Complexity and related operating issues lead to inefficiency.

Mr. Allison concluded by outlining the next steps in the study, which are to

  • Identify potential opportunities to reduce complexity;
  • Develop a range of options to pursue each of those opportunities;
  • Evaluate opportunities and options with key stakeholders across the University; and
  • Develop business cases to highlight potential benefits, risks, and implementation requirements.

Prof. Richard Weinberg (Cell & Developmental Biology) observed that the UNC Health Care System faces many of the problems just identified but is not included in the study. He asked why. Chancellor Thorp replied that UNC Health Care has recently undergone a similar study and is in the process of implementing many of its recommendations.

Prof. Donna LeFebvre (Political Science) asked about progress with the Enterprise Resource Project. Provost Gray-Little replied that the portion of the ERP project relating to undergraduate admissions is on schedule for implementation in the fall semester.

Prof. Gregory Copenhaver (Biology) asked how the ERP project interrelates with the Bain & Company study. The provost replied that the next steps for ERP are to implement new systems for Human Resources, Finance, and Payroll. She said that the Bain & Company study will be able to anticipate changes that are part of the ERP process.

Provost’s Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies

Prof. Jane Brown (Journalism & Mass Communication), chair of the Task Force on Future Promotion and Tenure Policies, commented briefly on the task force’s draft report. She said that its recommendations cover five major points:

  • Faculty engagement with the public outside the University should be valued and evaluated during the tenure and promotion process;
  • New forms of scholarly work and communication should be included in evaluations of scholarship;
  • Interdisciplinary work should be supported;
  • Expectations and procedures in the tenure and promotion process should be clear and periodically reviewed and revised; and
  • Mentoring of new faculty is an important responsibility of chairs and senior faculty.

Prof. Bachenheimer expressed concern about how increased emphasis on the mentoring process would mesh with encouraging new forms of scholarly research. In particular, he was concerned about how outside references might react to forms of scholarly work that were not standard practice in the discipline. Prof. Brown replied that we now rely primarily on work that has been peer-reviewed in advance through having been published in established journals and similar means. She suggested that we may need to begin to develop ways to assess how influential scholarly work has been after it has been disseminated. She mentioned blogs as an example. Prof. Bachenheimer replied that in his opinion peer review will remain “the name of the game” for the foreseeable future. Prof. Brown replied that she agrees that peer review will remain the “gold standard,” but that the task force would like for each appointing unit to give serious thought to how to evaluate new forms of scholarly work as they develop and become widespread.

Prof. Copehnaver added that thought should be given to how to evaluate a researcher’s individual contribution to collaborative work. He thought that this was not clearly understood in many disciplines.

Prof. Paul Stotts (Computer Science) asked whether the task force had been in touch with an informal group of faculty who have been discussing issues around digital scholarship.

Prof. Mary Hartnett (Ophthalmology) observed that mentoring young colleagues can often be difficult. She would like to have access to resources that might offer advice on how to become an effective mentor.

Annual Report of the Council Committee on Fixed-Term Faculty

Prof. Suzanne Gulledge (Education) briefly summarized the report. There were no questions or comments.

Special Reports of the Educational Policy Committee

Grade inflation. Prof. Donna Gilleskie (Economics) presented a report on Grading Patterns at UNC-CH, 1995-2008, on behalf of the Grading Subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee. The subcommittee members are Prof. Gilleskie, Prof. Kevin Stewart (Geological Sciences), and Mr. David Bevevino (undergraduate student). Prof. Gilleskie said that this report is the most detailed, comprehensive report on grading practices across the University to date. She said that the statistical analysis of grades over the 1995-2008 period supports the following general conclusions:

  • To the extent that similar quality work tends to be awarded higher grades in later years, UNC-CH is experiencing grade inflation;
  • To the extent that continuously improving student performance cannot receive grades higher than A due to the nature of the grading scale, UNC-CH is experiencing grade compression; and
  • To the extent that different departments and/or instructors assign different grades for similar performance, UNC-CH is experiencing systematic grading inequality.

Prof. Gilleskie said that the Educational Policy Committee hopes to work next year on developing recommendations for action based on the findings of this study.

Prof. Thomas Egan (Surgery) asked what effect the continually increasing ability of our students, as indicated by SAT scores, is having on grades. Prof. Gilleskie replied that analysis of that factor requires access to data that she did not have. She hopes it will be possible to include such an analysis in a future report.

Prof. Bachenheimer asked whether there have been studies exploring the correlation between undergraduate grades and Graduate Record Examination performance. He said that it is his impression that there is a growing disparity between graduate students’ undergraduate Grade Point Average and their performance on the GRE. Prof. Gilleskie agreed that this is a relevant issue.

Course withdrawals and drops. The Agenda Committee, on behalf of the Educational Policy Committee, laid before the Council a Resolution On Revising the Regulations Concerning Withdrawal and Course Drops. Prof. Templeton called on Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Bobbi Owen to explain the resolution. Dean Owen said that the changes relating to the W grade are intended to extend this grade to course withdrawals during the Summer Session, and to conform Carolina’s practice to that of peer institutions with respect to the definition of that grade. The changes related to academic withdrawal from all courses are intended to introduce uniformity of practice across the University for all undergraduate degrees. There have been difficulties with applying the current regulations in undergraduate degree programs in some of the professional schools. She explained that the changes will take effect August 15, 2010, after the close of the 2009-10 Summer Session.

The resolution was adopted without dissent and was ordered enrolled as Resolution 2009-2.

Annual Report of the Faculty Research Committee

Prof. Kenneth Bollen (Sociology), chair of the Faculty Research Committee, presented the committee’s annual report. He said that this year the committee had focused on developing ways to more easily identify faculty members and researchers with expertise in specified areas, and to locate resources on campus that would meet their research needs. A searchable database of that nature would also enable students and faculty to locate courses on particular topics without regard to departmental affiliation, and would help match researchers and research assistants. Prof. Bollen said that the committee had been delighted to learn that Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Andrew Johns was already hard at work on developing just such a searchable database. He introduced Dr. Johns, who presented several slides illustrating how the system is designed and the information it can access. Prof. Bollen said that the committee hopes to present a fuller description of the system to the Council next fall.

Remarks from the University Ombuds Office

University Ombuds Officers Laurie Mesibov and Wayne Blair spoke to the Council of the role of the Office. Mr. Blair said that the high level of anxiety on campus has led to a great increase in the number of contacts that he and Prof. Mesibov have had in recent weeks. Often, he said, their role is simply to be a “compassionate reality check.” Prof. Mesibov added that the overriding goal of the Office is to make Carolina a better place in which to work. She encouraged faculty members to think of ways in which that goal can be furthered.

Prof. Jane Brown asked for comment on who consults the Office and about what kinds of troubles. Mr. Blair said that without being specific about individuals, he could say that he and Prof. Mesibov see employees at all levels—faculty, staff, and administrators.  He said that recent economic difficulties are sometimes causing people to take action based on rumor and emotion, and that administrators sometimes ask for help in making very difficult decisions.

Annual Quality Enhancement Plan Update: Making Critical Connections

Dean Bobbi Owen presented the annual update on the Quality Enhancement Plan that had been instituted as part of the most recent SACS accreditation study. Overall, she said, the plan is accomplishing its objectives handsomely.

Remembrance of Deceased Faculty

Prof. Joseph Ferrell, Secretary of the Faculty, presented the annual remembrance of faculty colleagues who died in the past year.

2009 Faculty Elections Results

Prof. Ferrell reported on the results of the 2009 faculty elections. He pointed out that the 26.1% overall voter participation was a distinct improvement over the turnout in recent years, and called special attention to the seven voter divisions with turnout of 40% or greater. They were Fine Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Education, Journalism, Law, and Government.


Its business having been completed, the Council adjourned at 5:05 p.m.

Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty

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