The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

Academic plan draws input

Students reflect on future of UNC

A meeting meant to draw feedback on a draft of the University’s new academic plan from undergraduate student leaders evolved into a more nuanced discussion on academic culture and policy Thursday evening.

The meeting — one of many that the academic plan steering committee has held with campus stakeholders for input on the plan’s development — was especially important to the committee, said Sue Estroff, the committee’s co-chairwoman.

“Of all of the people we’ve met with, I consider you to be the most important group,” Estroff told the collection of more than 20 campus leaders, including student body president Hogan Medlin and at least two potential candidate’s in this year’s election.

“This plan is really about you,” she said.

The academic plan will set the tone for the University’s next decade of financial and academic policy decisions.

The last plan, completed in 2003, played a highly influential role in the development of such popular initiatives as the first-year seminar program and the construction of the FedEx Global Education Center, among other changes.

The first draft of the new plan was released in November.

A revised draft was released Wednesday. Estroff will present the final version of the plan at the Board of Trustees meeting later this month with Bill Andrews, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences and the other committee co-chairman.

“This is our long range plan to guide the University’s academic programs and priorities,” said administrative assistant David Bevevino.

Thursday’s meeting sought to involve undergraduate students in the drafting process, but the evening focused on more complicated issues of campus diversity, student access to professional schools and the apparent inevitability of population growth on campus.

“I’m concerned with how can you begin to actually accommodate all students,” said sophomore Justin Huang.

Huang and others also questioned language in the plan promoting a fast track four-year bachelor’s to master’s program and ease of entry to professional school.

“At my orientation, we were told that Carolina didn’t have a pre-law path or a pre-med path so you wouldn’t get stuck in a narrow focus,” said junior Camile Jones.

“I’m curious about what’s so different about this new idea.”

Other students expressed concern that the plan’s proposed changes to the undergraduate academic experience — improved advising, universal access to first year seminars and enhanced interdisciplinary opportunities — were too focused on certain high achieving sectors of the student body.

“I don’t really see a lot of attention given to students taking a non-traditional route to college,” said junior Lily Roberts, co-chairwoman of the student government academic affairs committee.

Thursday’s discussion could spur further adjustments to the plan before the final draft is released.

“Meeting with students is the best cure I know for malaise and thinking the world is going to hell,” Estroff said.

And although the University faces some harsh budgetary decisions in the coming months, Estroff said she is certain that the plan’s vision of the future will ring true.

“We’re already in trouble, and we just have to hold tight,” she said.

“This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end.”

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