Sriram Kalyanaraman, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will leave UNC for the University of Florida to be part of their new preeminent faculty — a plan meant to catapult Florida into the top 10 of public research universities.
“Ultimately, when I had to weigh it, it really was their focus on a really exciting opportunity with tremendous financial resources and it’s also part of a campus vision for research,” said Kalyanaraman, whose last day at UNC is June 30. “It was really just a Godfather offer.”
The Preeminence Plan will receive $15 million every year for five years from Florida.
“The really interesting, exciting thing about this is that this is something that’s received the benediction and blessings of the state unlike our state,” Kalyanaraman said.
Susan King, the dean of the journalism school, said she is sad to see Kalyanaraman go.
“We certainly would like to have been able to match (Florida’s offer),” King said. “But there’s nothing equivalent here in North Carolina at the moment that’s like this.”
Other up-and-coming public research universities have the money to steal professors UNC has spent years grooming, King said.
“We consider the Florida communications school one of our peers,” King said. “I think all of us are worried that if the state doesn’t help us grow the University, particularly in the digital space, we might not remain at the top.”
In the last five years, Jack Richman, the dean of the School of Social Work, has seen seven of the school’s 28 tenured or tenure-track professors leave after receiving better offers.
His top-ranked school risks becoming just a good training ground for junior faculty members, Richman said.
“There are horror stories,” he said. “We get them as juniors, and if they get good, they get tenure. By the time they’re associates and fulls, that’s when they get taken. That’s really the problem, that’s what concerns me long haul.”
On average, between the 2004-05 academic year and the 2007-08 academic year, about 41 faculty members would receive offers from outside universities every year. Between the 2009-10 academic year and the 2012-13 academic year, that number grew 112 percent to an average of 87 professors receiving outside offers each year.
Ron Strauss, the Executive Vice Provost and Chief International Officer, said his office saw no evidence of a “mass faculty exodus.”’
“I see the excellence, I see the kinds of people we have,” he said . “I know why some of these schools are going after our faculty. But the very good news is we have a very good rate of them trying to remain here when we have a offer for them.”
That is because the Provost’s Office is still largely successful with logging counteroffers. Between 2004 and 2013, the office successfully retained more than 50 percent of the faculty who retained counteroffers.
The office has done well at quickly producing counteroffers for those who might leave, Richman said.
“They really bend over backwards,” he said. “They know it’s a problem.”
In Kalyanaraman’s case, Strauss said he just didn’t have enough time to find the money.
Kalyanaraman said he had to commit to Florida before a counteroffer was made.
“I love this place, just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean my ties and connections will be cut. I’ll always be a Tar Heel at heart. But now I’ll also be a Gator.”
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