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University committee discusses retention, grade inflation

Issues of faculty retention and grade inflation dominated the Wednesday meeting of the University affairs committee of the Board of Trustees.

Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, presented statistics on declining faculty retention.

This year, 110 UNC faculty members were recruited by other universities, Carney said. UNC administration attempted to retain 78 of these faculty, but only managed to retain 32 of those 78.

Carney also presented on grade inflation and variance of grade point averages among different schools at the University.

He outlined the new policy approved by the Faculty Council that would provide contextual details on each graduate’s transcript.

Committee members said they approved of the policy.

The committee also unanimously approved the long-debated creation of a third tier of faculty called “master lecturer.”

*Faculty retention*

The decline in the rate of faculty retention is due in part to the economic climate, Carney said in the meeting.

“(Other universities) have become much more predatorial when times are bad,” he said.

Faculty salaries have been frozen for three years, a fact Carney said has loomed large in some faculty members’ decisions to leave.

“One more year without salary increases is not just one more year,” he said, adding that Duke University is increasing faculty salary this year.

When attempting to retain faculty members who have been offered other positions, the University sometimes succeeded by increasing faculty salary on an individual basis.

The average increase was 13.5 percent, but ranged from 3 percent to 30 percent, said Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in the meeting.

Sometimes, granting research funds for faculty members persuades them to stay, Gil said. These grants can be as much as $300,000 for professors in the sciences, she added.

Meanwhile, the college of Arts and Sciences hired 39 new faculty this year, 16 of whom it recruited from other schools, Gil said.

*Grade inflation, variance*

Administrators said they hope the policy of contextual grading approved by the Faculty Council will undermine grade inflation.

The policy will provide information on a student’s transcript that provides context to the student’s academic performance in the form of statistics aside from raw grade point average.

But significant differences in the GPAs of separate UNC schools is also an issue, Carney said.

The School of Education has an average student GPA of 3.7, a fact that elicited laughs from several committee members when it was presented.

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Carney dismissed “top-down” approaches to diminishing grade inflation — such as rationing grades or mandating median GPAs — saying that type of strategy has not historically worked at the University.

Some committee members questioned the merits of the policy but the committee generally approved.

Steve Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions, emphasized the importance of context in the eyes of potential employers at the meeting.

“Context is everything when you’re evaluating someone,” he said.

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