January 16, 2009
Meeting of the Faculty Council
Friday, January 16, 2009, 3:00 p.m.
Hitchcock Multipurpose Room
Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History
3:00 Chancellor’s Remarks and Question Period
- Chancellor Holden Thorp
3:15 Provost’s Remarks and Question Period
- Provost Bernadette Gray-Little
3:30 Committee Reports
- Faculty Committee on University Government (Prof. Michael Lienesch, Chair)
- Educational Policy Committee (Prof. Andrew Perrin, Chair)
- January 14, 2009 Draft Report on Grading (final to be presented in April 2009)
4:00 Discussion: Facing University Budget Challenges
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 59 members of the Council attended: Aaron, Adamson, Bagnell, Balthrop, Bechtel, Bickford, Binotti, Blalock, Blocher, Bloom, P. Brown, Catellier, Chin, Conway, Copenhaver, Cornell, Desaix, Dilworth-Anderson, Earp, Egan, Ernst, Gulledge, Halloran, Hartnett, Hendrick, Hodges, Katznelson, Kelly, Kendall, Koroluk, Lee, LeFebvre, Leonard, Maffly-Kipp, Melamut, Morris-Natschke, Moss, Oatley, O’Connell-Edwards, Paquette, Parsons, Pruvost, Renner, Rhodes, Richardson, Rodgers, Rosamond, Schoenfisch, Shields, Stein, Stotts, Sweeney, Sweet, Temple, Tobin, Verkerk, Visser, Wallace and Weinberg.
The following 22 members were granted excused absences: Andrews, Bangdiwala, Blackburn, Boukhelifa, Brice, J. Brown, Campbell, Gerber, Heenan, Hightow, Hobbs, Kramer, Lesneski, Lopez, Orth, Papanikolas, Shomaker, Toews, Van Tilburg, Whisnant, Wilder and Williams.
The following 10 members were absent without excuse: Adler, Ashby, Coleman, Kirsch, Mauro, McCombs, Quinonez, Saunders, Thorp and Vernon-Feagans.
Call to Order
Prof. Joseph Templeton, Chair of the Faculty, called the meeting to order promptly at 3:00 p.m. He reported that Chancellor Holden Thorp was attending the funeral of Mary Burgman Winston of Jacksonville, Florida, wife of James H. Winston. Both are long-time friends and generous supporters of the University.
Provost Bernadette Gray-Little reported on three senior administrator searches:
- The search committee for dean of the School of Information and Library Science has been appointed and will hold its first meeting soon.
- The searches for dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and dean of the School of Nursing have both identified semi-finalists for “airport” interviews. Public announcements will be made when finalists have been identified.
The Provost said that both the Arts & Sciences and Nursing committees report being very pleased with the variety and quality of the pool of applicants for these positions.
On the budget front, the Provost reported that to date we have been required to return five percent of out state budget appropriation, of which four percent came from individual academic and administrative units and one percent from University-wide functions. Governor Beverly Perdue has indicated that an additional one percent reversion will definitely be required and probably two percent. The Provost said that there has been mention of hiring freezes in some state agencies, but so far there is no indication that this will be applied to the University System. Further information is expected next week, she said, and the campus community can expect an email from Chancellor Thorp when the situation becomes clearer. In view of the fact that there is no indication of significant economic recovery in the near future, the Provost said that the University should anticipate permanent cuts for the 2009-10 budget.
Prof. Templeton asked whether various state agencies are being differentially affected. The Provost replied that some agencies have already been instructed to revert seven percent. The University System has so far been given a six percent target and told to expect another one percent. The Provost added that her Office has received more than 70 suggestions for saving money.
Remarks by the Chair of the Faculty
Prof. Templeton complimented the Council on the discussion of the credit-hour tuition proposal at the December meeting, and especially thanked Prof. Judith Wegner for her efforts on that front. He reported that on Wednesday, January 24, General Administration announced that participation in the credit-hour plan would be optional, and Chancellor Thorp promptly announced that Carolina would not be choosing that option. Prof. Templeton also complimented the Chancellor for his decision not to pursue locating a new airport at this time.
Annual Report of the Committee on University Government
Prof. Michael Lienesch (Political Science), Chair of the Committee on University Government, presented the committee’s annual report. He announced that the committee plans this year to undertake a review of the structure and method of selection of the Administrative Board of the Library.
Annual Report of the Committee on Educational Policy
Prof. Andrew Perrin (Sociology) presented the committee’s annual report with the assistance of Prof. Donna Gileskie (Economics), a member of the committee.
Prof. Gileskie briefly reviewed an analysis of trends in grading at Carolina done by a subcommittee which she headed. The study was done in compliance with a Council directive that the Educational Policy Committee report annually about grading practices. The study showed that grades have continued to rise over time. While the rate of increase has eased in the last two years, this is likely in part to grade compression, since the highest possible grade is A. Prof. Gileskie said that the study points to three related, but distinct, issues:
- Grade inflation: to the extent that similar quality work tends to be awarded higher grades in recent years, UNC is experiencing grade inflation.
- Grade compression: to the extent that continuously improving student performance cannot receive grades higher than A due to the nature of the grading scale, UNC is experiencing grade compression.
- Grade inequality: to the extent that different departments and/or instructors assign different grades for similar performance, UNC is experiencing systematic grading inequality.
Prof. Richard Weinberg (Cell & Developmental Biology) urged that the committee revisit the Achievement Index (AI) proposal that was considered and narrowly rejected last year. Prof. Perrin replied that the committee had recently asked the Provost to fund a pilot implementation of AI, but that funding was understandably denied in view of the current budget situation. Provost Gray-Little added that the primary reason for not funding an AI pilot this year is that we are focused on implementing the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) initiative. It is not practical to address AI and ERP at the same time as many of the same support staff would be involved. She added that we may be finding ourselves in a situation where the department and particular faculty member assigning a grade may be as predictive of performance and evaluation as any other factor.
Discussion: Facing University Budget Challenges
Prof. Templeton invited the Council to identify and discuss possible ways of responding to calls by President Erskine Bowles and Governor Perdue for coping with reductions in state budget funding of up to seven percent. The discussion was led by Prof. Maureen Berner (Government), Prof. Ross Simpson (Medicine), Prof. Laura Gasaway (Law), and Dean Steve Matson (Graduate School).
Overall, the discussion indicated strong support for departmental/school flexibility in handling state funds reductions. The panel emphasized strategic planning as preferable to across-the-board solutions. Listed below are several of the specific actions that were suggested by Council members and the panel’s reaction to them.
- Increased energy efficiency. The panel expressed skepticism that further efforts would generate significant savings.
- Voluntary charitable contributions to offset salary and wage reductions. The panel thought this an unpredictable and impractical solution.
- Reduce enrollment, thereby reducing the need for new hires. The panel thought this might actually cost more in revenue reduction that it would save in expenses.
- Decrease graduate student enrollment. This might result in some savings on graduate student stipends, but did not seem to hold great promise.
- Eliminate faculty leaves. The panel thought this might have some symbolic value, but would probably not generate much savings.
- Eliminate faculty travel. The panel thought this to be mainly of symbolic value. It might have favorable public relations impact, but it seemed unlikely to generate much savings in state funds.
- Make greater use of indirect costs for ongoing program support as opposed to capital projects.
- Merge departments, eliminate weak programs. The panel seemed to agree that this could be an effective long-range element of strategic planning, but most of the savings would realized in fiscal years beyond 2009-10.
- Delay computer acquisitions. No one objected to this.
- Use more revenue from athletic programs to support academic programs. This suggestion was probably tongue-in-cheek.
- Freeze hiring. Prof. Berner argued that hiring freezes do not address systematic imbalance, and do not allow for the flexibility needed to maintain current programs when critically important positions fall vacant. If a hiring freeze is contemplated, there must be sufficient flexibility to allow critical positions to be filled.
- Prof. Simpson argued that the University’s mission statement should be the “pole star” in good times and bad. Hiring freezes are a bad way to protect vital interests and vital mission.
- Dean Matson pointed out that hiring freezes could have an unfair differential impact on positions funded by state funds and those funded from non-state sources.
- Dean Matson also pointed out that strategic planning that results in termination of SPA positions must take into account severance pay and pay-out of unused sick leave and annual leave. Savings may be minimal or non-existent in such cases.
- Furloughs. There was an extensive discussion of furloughs. Most of those who spoke were supportive of this approach if it resulted in saving jobs that would otherwise be lost. No one thought it would be disruptive of the academic program. If furloughs are to be implemented, the common sense approach of spreading the furlough evenly over multiple months rather than concentrating the time period of the furlough into one pay period was mentioned.
Its business having been completed, the Council adjourned at 4:38 p.m.
Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty