Academic Plan could bring extensive changes

As the group formed to implement the University’s new Academic Plan works to find its operational rhythm, members of the committee could bring sweeping changes to academic policy across departments.

The committee, co-chaired by psychology professor Gina Carelli and Alice Ammerman of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is tasked with carrying out the comprehensive policy road map finalized during the last academic year.

“This is our blueprint, our road map for the next 10 years as a University,” Carelli told the group Wednesday morning. “These are some concrete steps we can take for our future.”

And if existing internal policy blocks some of the committee’s broader ambitions, the committee might find ways to revise or reform such inhibiting policies.

“As we move forward, we need to be mindful of antiquated regulations,” said Ron Strauss, executive associate provost and chief international officer. “It doesn’t cost money to have regulations, but it can cost a lot to interact with them.”

The plan — the University’s second — includes a list of more than 80 priorities that range from boosting access to first-year seminars to adjusting employee wage parity and increasing the number of faculty with international experience.

The first Academic Plan, which was written in 2003, is credited with spurring a slew of changes at UNC, including the development of the first-year seminar program and the 2006 revision of the undergraduate curriculum.

And while many of the new proposals are either financially or legislatively improbable in the state’s current economic and political climate, many parts of the plan are already under way.

A study exploring wage parity is already being considered, and a program offering fee waivers for economically disadvantaged students is also off the ground.

“We haven’t waited entirely for you to have your first meeting to get going on some of these things,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney.

Carney spearheaded the drafting of the new plan, and his office is charged with carrying the plan through to eventual completion.

Discussion at Wednesday’s meeting was mostly introductory, as members of the committee that drafted the plan, including Strauss, Carelli and Bill Andrews, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explained the purpose of the plan to their colleagues.

Andrews, who co-chaired the drafting committee with professor Sue Estroff — who was not present — was especially blunt in his description of the new committee’s potential power.

“This is Chancellor Thorp’s ‘to-do list,’” Andrews said. “It received the endorsement of the Board of Trustees. This committee has a lot of moral authority to do the kinds of things that we all want to do.”

Despite such authority, the committee made few concrete steps forward on Wednesday’s meeting. Because the plan is meant to carry the University through the next decade, financial and political realities that currently prohibit more substantial work on the plan could easily shift with different administrative staff in South Building and a new General Assembly in Raleigh.

The committee was mindful that exciting big-ticket items — like the proposed “big idea” cross-curricular thematic lectures — might be used to help shepherd in less glamorous policy changes.

“I’m a fan of the Trojan horse approach,” said nursing professor Linda Beeber.

“If we get some excitement going about the big ideas course, it will prevent us from getting bogged down in policy.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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