The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

Recent court rulings affect UNC committees

New federal legislation has forced some UNC Faculty Council committees to rethink how they will recommend and implement changes to the University.

During its meeting Friday, the Faculty Council heard from several of its standing committees, including the Committee on the Status of Women and the Undergraduate Admissions Advisory Committee.

In its presentation, the admissions committee updated the council on its activities from the 2012-13 academic year as well as including provisions for changes that happened this academic year.

“There is a changing landscape for undergraduate admissions,” said Bobbi Owen, senior associate dean for undergraduate education. “It has a lot to do with litigation that has occurred on various levels, including the Supreme Court.”

Owen said the committee approved a plan to consider race-neutral admissions processes after the Supreme Court ruled on Fisher v. University of Texas, which asked lower courts to continue to review the use of race in college admissions after a student said she was denied admission to open up a spot for a less qualified minority student.

The committee will also monitor any additional changes made to the SAT

The College Board has changed the exam, making the essay portion of the test optional, scrapping obscure vocabulary words from the widely-used admissions test and no longer deducting a quarter point for wrong answers.

“These changes that other entities are making — the new SAT that’s been launched, the new AP tests being given — are going to affect how students are admitted to this University,” Owen said.

While she focused on the School of Medicine during her presentation for the Committee on the Status of Women, committee chairwoman Nancy Demore said the problem with gender-associated discrepancies in promotions and hirings is wide-reaching at UNC.

“In four of the six units we looked at, there were substantial discrepancies in academic rank and gender status,” Demore said.

At the School of Medicine, the committee found there were twice as many tenured male professors as tenured female professors. Also, the school has nine male distinguished professors to in comparison to just one female distinguished professor.

“This is not a School of Medicine problem,” Demore said. “This is something we saw in all of the units we looked at.”

Demore said the group originally recommended the Provost monitor the blatant gender discrepancy as part of the five-year review of academic deans. If a discrepancy was found, the group tasked the Provost with developing and implementing an action plan.

But last week, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law barring public colleges from granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

It’s legislation like that that makes her committee's job tougher, Demore said.

“We really may not be able to do this,” Demore said. “It really may limit the extent in which gender may be considered in state university hiring and promotion.”

Now, Demore said her group wants the general counsel for the University to work with existing laws and propose a set of rules that will meet the needs of female faculty.

Demore also said the committee will continue working with women’s groups on campus to further support female faculty getting promoted.

“Many people feel that childcare is a big issue,” she said. “If there were an on-site childcare facility, that would enable them to work harder and longer hours. That might help.”

Notable:

The UNC School of Law dethroned the UNC School of Government for the Faculty Council Secretary’s Gold Medal for voter turnout in the election for faculty council chair.

About 76 percent of faculty members in the law school voted in the election, Secretary of the Faculty Joseph Ferrell said.

Bruce Cairns, a surgery professor in the UNC School of Medicine and director of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, will assume the role of chairman of the faculty once current chairwoman Jan Boxill’s term ends on July 1.

Quotable:

Jan Boxill gave her final speech as chairwoman during Friday’s meeting. In creating her remarks, Boxill said she went back to the speech she gave during the first meeting she chaired in Sept. 2011.

“The university is not simply a separate set of students, faculty, staff and administrators,” Boxill said.

“We are not islands unto ourselves.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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