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Board of Trustees discuss budget, academic plan

The University affairs committee of the Board of Trustees met with administrators Wednesday to discuss the formulation of the University’s new academic plan and how budget cuts have impacted teaching.

Advising the academic plan

Committee members outlined how the school would approach updating the Academic Plan, which represents UNC’s philosophical goals for how to approach education.

Administrators first created the plan in 2003. The new plan is supposed to be formulated by fall 2010, but the University’s search for a new provost might delay the process.

“One of my priorities is to get this going,” said Bruce Carney, interim executive vice chancellor and provost. “But it shouldn’t be ready until the new person is on campus and engaged to make input.”

The provost will convene a committee to put the new plan together. Two co-chairmen will be selected, one to organize the meetings and the other to organize the deliberations and decisions about the plan.

Carney said the co-chairmen will preferably be from academic affairs and health affairs. Faculty, administrators and students will all be able to participate in the process.

The committee selected to draft the new plan will consult recent reports, assess the status of the 2003 plan’s recommendations and discuss new directions that should guide UNC’s future.

The Board of Trustees will have final approval.

“We need to grade on how we did, then set new and measurable goals,” said Alston Gardner, committee chairman. “I look forward to this. It’s necessary and important.”

Some details of the plan

Public service
: While one of the University’s academic priorities in 2003 was to enhance public engagement, the new plan will better define the term.

The previous academic plan said the University “transcends public service and links Carolina’s research and creativity to the felt needs of the state.” It said through engagement with individuals, communities and businesses, UNC “transforms lives far beyond Chapel Hill.”

Faculty recruitment: Committee members and administrators said another priority, improving faculty recruitment, retention and development, needs some work.

The University has run out of money for a program that hires faculty member’s spouses. Carney promised to explore methods to get it back.

He said faculty recruitment has had a few good years, but the University has struggled with retention efforts.

Budget effects

The trustees also heard from several administrators who discussed the impact budget cuts have had on instruction.

Carney said the number of graduate students at the University has declined.

The Kenan-Flagler Business School cancelled eight courses and five other sections this year. Carney said most losses were in elective classes.

He also said the Ph.D. program decreased 10 percent in incoming class size.

Carney noted that class sizes have increased this semester, filling rooms with 5,000 more seats than fall 2008.

Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, said more families are qualifying for financial aid this year because of unemployment rates, which is putting strain on her office.

In the 2009-10 school year, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of students with need.

“And more students than ever applied on time,” she said.

By the first week of school, Ort said the department was at a “choke point.”

“We were out of money,” she said. But the department received $464,827 more in other funds to keep going.

“I’m just hoping we’ll hit an equilibrium,” Ort said.

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