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Faculty Executive Committee examines UNC image

A picture is worth a thousand words, and Monday, the Faculty Executive Committee met and discussed the picture that UNC is presenting of itself to the world.

Topics discussed at Monday’s meeting included the recent controversy over the articles of faculty member Gene Nichol published in The (Raleigh) News and Observer, the role of Vice Chancellor for Communications Joel Curran and the instituted reforms in undergraduate academics developed in reaction to the athletic scandal.

Nichol, a professor in the UNC School of Law, has published editorials in the News and Observer that criticize the policies of the state government, including Gov. Pat McCrory.

Administrators have since asked Nichol to provide a few days’ notice before his writing is published as well as a disclaimer that he does not speak for UNC. Emails published by the News & Observer show that both UNC-CH and systemwide leaders worried about the implications of the columns.

The faculty members on the committee discussed what UNC’s policy should be in these situations in the future.

“Gene is a public intellectual,” said Mimi Chapman , a member of the committee. “He’s stood for his principals for many, many years, and to try to put him in a box is to try to put something precious to this University in a box.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean defended UNC’s policies, and said the aim was not to limit Nichol’s freedom of speech.

“Even though we have been accused of limiting peoples’ speech, I don’t think we have,” Dean said.

“I don’t think we’ll sort this one out today.”

Curran spoke to the committee about his time in his new role, and how his position can be adjusted to best fit the needs of UNC. He explained that he recognized the need for a new way to handle the athletic scandal, and mentioned Carolina Commitment, a new website that lists academic reform efforts, as a way to meet this need.

“(The website) is our best attempt to ensure that we are operating transparently, and as best we can, providing information in real time,” Curran said.

Bobbi Owen , senior associate dean for undergraduate education, discussed a report written by a subcommittee for the implementation of 17 recommendations in different areas of academic policy.

“Everything (in the recommendations) that can physically be done has been done,” Owen said.

The one recommendation which was not implemented was the idea that all students should have their schedules signed off on by an adviser before the start of each semester.

“It would take another 50 full time advisers for every student to get their schedule signed off on every year,” said Owen. “We took on two so that this could happen for athletes.”

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