The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday October 17th

UNC's academic plan inches toward goals

With an eye on quick and noticeable policy changes, the committee charged with developing the University’s latest academic plan has begun to chart out its opening projects.

Those projects could include pilot programs in faculty-student mentoring, fast-track bachelor’s to master’s degrees and a series of large team-taught lecture courses focused on global themes.

In a meeting Monday morning, the Academic Plan Implementation Committee didn’t take any sort of decisive action. Conversation focused instead on procedural minutiae.

“We’re kind of making this up as we go along,” Gina Carelli, a psychology professor and co-chairwoman of the committee, told the group.

At times, the co-chairmen of the group that wrote the plan seemed to be steering the new committee from the meeting’s sidelines.

But the committee might soon assert its presence and power with a comprehensive report on cumbersome academic regulations currently in place.

“We need to figure out the obstacles that are in the way of what we want to do,” Carelli said.

The plan’s timeline telescopes out for a decade, making any rapid motion forward unlikely.

In her first appearance before the committee, Student Body President Mary Cooper highlighted the parts of the plan that interest current students.

“Students that I’ve spoken with are especially excited about improved student and faculty relationships,” Cooper said. “Advising can be a difficult process.”

Many committee members questioned the feasibility of codifying intangible personal relationships between students and faculty.

“This has to be voluntary,” said Bill Andrews, senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It comes from a kind of intellectual climate idea, not policy.”

The four pilot projects will be coordinated by unspecified individual subcommittees.

As the committee takes a piecemeal approach to implementation, members expressed concern that other parts of the plan might appear ignored or underdeveloped.

“Diversity and inclusion issues need to be woven throughout all of these other areas of interest,” said Rumay Alexander, director of the School of Nursing. “We’re under the scrutiny of a community of diverse groups that are waiting on a hair-trigger right now, and we need to include them.”

The plan includes a major section on equity and inclusion, but the issues central to that subsection — wage parity and diversity in hiring practices, for example — would require lengthy ground work on an extended completion timeline.

“We were deliberate in our word choice,” said social medicine professor Sue Estroff, who co-chaired the steering committee with Andrews.

“Diversity is a loaded word.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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