Faculty members and administrators are working to unite opposing views as a result of recent plans to combine teaching efforts with state-of-the-art technological support.
University officials are merging the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Information Technology into one unit. Officials say the merge would be a major step toward a unified mission, but the proposal has not been free of controversy.
Last week, Provost Robert Shelton implemented a decision to transfer the CTL, which oversees curriculum and faculty development, to Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Marian Moore. With the proposed merger, the center's goals would be combined with technological support from the Center of Information Technology.
Shelton said the goal of the merger is a simple one.
"These two groups, while they're different, have similar missions: to support faculty in their teaching," Shelton said.
He added that merging the two groups would help accomplish those missions. Moore declined to comment on the issue, but assured her staff in an e-mail that the transition would be as smooth as possible and that all concerns would be taken into consideration.
A June 19 meeting of faculty and staff working in both groups raised two main of concerns surrounding the issue: the process of the merger and the extent the merger will affect the CTL.
Pauline Kay Lund, president of the UNC Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, said the merger could result in technology being seen as more important than teaching, a situation she said could be harmful to the University.
Lund said that while she and other faculty members definitely had concerns, those concerns are being met openly by the administration.
"The provost is listening to the faculty's concerns," Lund said. "I'm happy about that."
Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff, who attended last week's meeting, said the faculty's opinion on the issue is split.
"Major work concocting a center for these resources is yet to be done," she said. "I understand the work involved."
Estroff added she personally remains neutral on the issue.
She said Shelton is in the midst of reorganizing his own office and appointing responsibilities so that everyone can do their jobs as efficiently as possible. She said the merger of the CTL and CIT is just one aspect of this wider reorganization.
Other faculty members say they feel they did not play enough of a role in the decision to merge of the two groups.
Journalism and mass communication Professor Chuck Stone said some faculty members are upset because they were not part of the decision-making process. Stone, who also attended last week's meeting, said that a majority of the people directly involved are opposed to the merger.
"The problem is that we have a vice chancellor for technology and a vice chancellor for research, but we don't have a vice chancellor for teaching," he said.
Shelton said he recognizes the fear among some faculty members that once the merger is completed teaching will become less important to the University than implementing technological innovations.
He said he is working to minimize that danger as much as possible.
Despite fears to the contrary, Shelton said he is confident that although CIT and CLT faculty were not involved in the decision to merge the groups, they will be involved in the design of the unified group, and so therefore their concerns will be adequately addressed.
CTL Director Larry Rowan said such collaboration will be necessary as the merger proceeds.
"We were not involved in the provost's decision," he said. "But we are involved in the process for the upcoming year."
Ashley Davidson can be reached at email@example.com.