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Faculty Council says new athletics committee will have Faculty Athletics ties

Friday’s Faculty Council meeting ended with applause for the unanimous approval of a resolution supporting academic freedom and English professor Neel Ahuja, whose “Literature of 9/11” first-year seminar drew national attention in earlier September due to a blog post on a conservative forum.

But the meeting, the first full council of the academic year, was not without discord. Debate broke out before a final vote on a resolution to start a new committee on the future of academics and college sports.

Friday’s resolution was a substitute for an original proposal by history professor Jay Smith. The main change made in the substitute version was to ensure Faculty Athletics Committee would have a voice in the new committee.

The substitute resolution, which did pass, said Faculty Athletics Committee “shall establish” the new committee, and at least of its members are required to sit on the new committee members. The original resolution did not mention the athletics committee at all.

Joy Renner, chairperson of Faculty Athletics Committee, said she wants her committee to be involved so that the new group’s work is sustainable beyond the end date for its work, which is June 2017.

History professor Harry Watson, who voted against the substitute resolution, said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges criticized UNC for problems in its faculty governance. He said that means the new review group should be unconnected to Faculty Athletics Committee.

“The athletics issue badly, badly needs a set of fresh eyes to investigate the problem,” he said.

Andy Dobelstein, who represents retired faculty, said the faculty athletics committee has been tone-deaf to problems in the past.

“The general mood of the retired faculty, particularly when the Wainstein report came out, was hurt, shock,” he said.

“Not so much over the fact that some of this, we’ll call it cheating, had gone on, because many of us had known about it while we were at the faculty. We didn’t know specific details, but enough to know there was a lot of slack in the system.”

He said he opposed the substitute resolution and would instead support “a somewhat independent mechanism that can provide an independent set of eyes.”

The substitute resolution passed anyway, although Faculty Council secretary Joseph Ferrell could not determine an immediate consensus from an oral vote and instead ordered all the “aye” votes to stand up so he could count them. The measure passed 51 to 11.

Faculty also voted on another resolution related to Faculty Athletics Committee. Smith had proposed that the majority of elected athletics committee members come from the College of Arts and Sciences, because the college is where “athletes most commonly engage with faculty.”

That measure did not pass.

Chancellor Carol Folt reviewed recent campus developments with the council, specifically the potential privatization of UNC Student Stores and the release of the campus climate survey on sexual assault.

She said she does not take the question of privatizing UNC Student Stores lightly and has made no commitment so far.

“We’ve also added a lot of language to protect the people that work there, the number of student jobs, the things that people are talking about and in that context, though, $4 million more a year for student scholarships is extremely important to all of us,” she said.

“So we’d be irresponsible if we didn’t look, but we’d be irresponsible if we did it without really thinking about all of the ramifications.”

Folt said she wanted to dedicate part of another meeting to discuss the newly released campus climate survey on sexual assault. She praised UNC for cooperating with the 26 other institutions to implement the survey and collect this first data set.

“So I feel good about that and as good as you can about numbers that are disturbing and concerning, but if you don’t know them, it’s a lot easier to run away from them,” she said.

Faculty Chairperson Bruce Cairns was not at the meeting. University Spokesperson Jim Gregory said he’s recovering from a heart attack that initially put him in intensive care.

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Folt said she visited Cairns in the hospital and he has been sending lots of text messages, which she identified as a good sign.


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