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Faculty Council focuses on core values in response to Wainstein report

Faculty members have been in an identity crisis since the release of the Wainstein Report a month ago. 

At Friday’s Faculty Council meeting, Jim Thomas, a professor in the school of public health, said it begins with the faculty defining who they are. He spoke of the shock many people have felt over the report’s findings. 

“These (events) are not us. We are something else,” he said. “But we’re having trouble articulating what exactly it is that we are. We don’t really have a shared language to appeal to and say these are the things that we are.”

He said the University needs to clarify what its identity is. The failure to articulate the foundation of the University’s identity could lead to drawing too tight of a circle around a particular problem, he said.

“If that circle is too tight, we could neglect other issues,” he said. “Also, if that circle is too tight, and we’re focusing on that, it fills our whole field of vision, and when we react to it, we’re at risk of overreacting.”

Faculty members then engaged in a discussion about what brought them to the University and what they believed its core values should be.

Some of the most commonly named values were honesty and integrity.

“(Honesty) should be the core value at the University mainly because honesty leads to trust and a sense of faith in each other,” said Brian Sturm, a professor in the school of information and library science. 

“And when you can’t assume that there is honesty, then the whole sense of community begins to dissolve.”

A statement by the Council of Chairs of the College of Arts and Sciences demonstrated this value.

Jim Hirschfield, the chairman of the council and art professor, read the statement of behalf of the Council. 

“We write today to acknowledge that the failures chronicled by the Wainstein Report — including a shadow curriculum of sham courses perpetrated by the academic community — represent a betrayal of our most fundamental obligation to our students,” the statement said.

It specifically noted how the events occurred because of the failure of a department chairman to fulfill his responsibilities to students. The chairs apologized for this failure and how it deprived students of opportunities.

The statement emphasized the’ common goal to provide a rigorous, effective and sophisticated education to all students and said it would not be possible without the vigilance of chairs and faculty members.

“We are firmly committed to this goal,” the statement said. “We welcome the assistance, oversight and recently implemented reforms provided by our dean, provost and chancellor as well as accrediting bodies to help us in this mission.”

Chancellor Carol Folt said she felt encouraged by these comments, even in light of receiving what she called a “very tough” letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

She assuaged the concerns of those in attendance, saying faculty members should not feel upset or worried about the letter.

“I think that gives us just one more opportunity to reinforce what we said here and to make sure we’re really holding ourselves to that principle,” she said.

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