The election for the next chair of the faculty takes place this week. Bruce Cairns and Andrew Perrin are running for the position. Gabriella Kostrzewa sat down with the candidates to talk about some of the most pertinent issues for faculty, students and the entire UNC community. The interviews were edited for brevity.
What makes you the most qualified person for the job?
I have been involved in faculty governance for a really long time ... So I have been involved in the past big things ... over the past decade and a half, from grading reform, honor system reform to some big and fairly contentious questions about academic freedom and intellectual autonomy. Now I find myself in the middle of athletics, and I find myself developing a moderate position between the sky is falling people on one side and everything is fine on the other.
What is the role of the faculty chair but in the greater context of the UNC community?
I feel that there are two distinct roles and combining them is what I would really like to do. One of them is the commitment structure ... there is a lot of involvement and vibrant work going on. I think that maintaining that and ensuring that the work continues is the first process. The second task is promoting outside to the world, and that means everyone from the provost to the chancellor internally to the Board of Trustees ... and the general public promoting the idea of Carolina and why the public deserves a first rate public flagship university
Quite frankly countering some of the misrepresentations that are out there in the world to some extent about athletics but much more importantly the value of the liberal arts and the value of education in general. I think those are the things we are charged with.
Do you think that UNC is handling the academic scandals any better than it has in the years past?
I think the University is doing a very good job of this. I obviously think there were some earlier missteps, and I think I would have liked to see the University be open earlier on ... I think early on in the process there seemed to be a sense that this wasn’t going to be this big of a deal and as it developed it became a big deal. I think the process that we are going through now, especially the working group with Provost Dean is exactly the right thing to do, which is to take a look at every single process that goes on between the boarder of academics and athletics.
What can UNC do to help retain more faculty, especially students?
Unfortunately, first and foremost the question is budget. We are in a position where we are under paying faculty members and they are seeing opportunities for better pay elsewhere and that is the world of academia ... that said there are things we could do to spend the budget we have a little better.
I think the other thing we can do is culturally, and I think it is to develop a culture where faculty question if they can leave ... I think the other piece of it is that students can be excited, involved and enjoying learning, and I think that most students already are.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing faculty at UNC today?
The biggest issue are the ongoing budget cuts ... and probably even more important than that is the growing skepticism in Raleigh for the value of the University ... I think they demand that we shift gears a little bit and try to really demonstrate the value of the entire University. We do a remarkably good job of our three missions: teaching, research and service. So I think we need to be making our case better.