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The Daily Tar Heel

Faculty OK Trimming Fat From UNC Calendar

The council approved Friday afternoon a resolution asking the Faculty Assembly, which is composed of faculty representatives from all 16 system schools, to recommend a return to a previous system policy mandating 140-day academic years. System students now must attend classes for at least 150 days each year.

Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said the change would allow faculty and students to have more time for educational summer activities such as research projects and internships. "Being in the classroom isn't the only way (students) learn," Estroff said.

UNC-System Vice President for Academic Affairs Gretchen Bataille said the General Administration is not considering adopting the resolution.

Bataille said that if the length of the academic year was changed, it would have to be done systemwide. "The semester length is a Board of Governors policy," she said. "Right now I understand this is just a Chapel Hill thing."

The 150-day year was implemented by then-system president C.D. Spangler in the 1997-98 school year in response to concerns from legislators that the number of days in an academic year was steadily declining. The number of days had in fact declined from 174 in the 1968-69 school year to 142 in the 1996-97 school year, the year before the current policy began.

Estroff said the day-increase implemented by Spangler was a mistake. "There wasn't enough consultation and analysis about what the consequences would be," she said. "The thought was that more was better."

Estroff said that according to data she collected, UNC's academic year contained at least seven more days than most of its peer institutions such as the University of California at Berkeley.

But some politicians are still skeptical of the policy. Rep. George Holmes, R-Yadkin, vice chairman of the N.C. House subcommittee on universities, said while there are no bills pending in the legislature on the issue, he would not be in favor of the policy if it was solely for the benefit of faculty. "If it is primarily for faculty research, they are neglecting students."

Holmes did not want to comment further until more details became available.

Estroff said contrary to what the resolution's detractors suggest, while students might have 10 extra days of summer vacation, faculty members would not.

She said the extra days could be used by professors to prepare for class or to meet with students. She said faculty members are increasingly involving students in their research.

She added that the majority of University faculty members are nine-month employees and would not receive an extended vacation if the proposed policy was implemented.

Estroff said professors are under "constant scrutiny" about how much they are teaching. "What is difficult for us is this tension between being successful at doing research and the expectations that the primary thing we do is teach," she said. "There needs to be a balance."

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