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Undercover cops, new curriculum and free speech discussed at Faculty Council meeting

Professor Hassan Melehy expresses his concerns about the general education curriculum during the Faculty Council meeting on Nov. 10, 2017. 

Professor Hassan Melehy expresses his concerns about the general education curriculum during the Faculty Council meeting on Nov. 10, 2017. 

Friday’s Faculty Council meeting covered everything from undercover cops to curriculum changes. Here’s what you need to know:

Chief of Police Jeff B. McCracken and Derek Kemp, associate vice chancellor for campus safety and risk management, addressed and defended the use of an undercover officer around the Silent Sam monument.

To address the motive behind the undercover officers, McCracken first described the heightened tensions around Silent Sam. 

“(Silent Sam) has kind of been a lightening rod for a number years,” he said. “Most recently, it got more intense with the events that took place in Charlottesville. A number of people from all different points of views show up in that area, and it’s obviously a potential for conflict.”

McCracken said the undercover officer began his operation on Aug. 26 and his last day was Sept. 7.

“We don’t normally run undercover operations,” McCracken said. “This was extremely rare and the circumstances necessitated it.”

Law professor Eric Muller gave an update on the Board of Governor’s Freedom of Speech and Expression draft policy.

The Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech, or House Bill 527, which prohibits protesters from disrupting campus events, was enacted on July 31. Muller gave background of the legislation, stating it was modeled after the Goldwater proposal.

“I think it is important for people to understand that this legislation is a model legislation that was initially proposed by the Goldwater Center, which is a conservative/libertarian think tank that looks at a variety of campus issues,” Muller said.

He said the Freedom of Speech and Expression draft policy, which the BOG is required to draft because of HB527, is still undergoing many developments and changes.

“Part of the reason that we are a little bit hesitant in describing this, is that it is still a working progress,” Muller said. “Changes are still being made, even as we speak.”

Andrew Perrin, sociology professor and chairperson of the General Education Curricula Coordinating Committee, gave an update about the proposed revisions to the general curriculum. 

Perrin explained the rationale behind the changes, and how the Coordinating Committee responded to expressed concerns and ideas. 

“The current curriculum has a vast number of hours under requirement, and many students, faculty and advisers told us that students find it difficult to navigate,” Perrin said.

Perrin also said in order to foster the outcomes they desire from the curriculum, they look to research student success and learning.

“We look at what are called high impact practices, which are widely tested in the educational literature,” Perrin said. “They are shown to be beneficial for college students from lots of backgrounds. In particular, they seem to promote persistence and success among first-generation and low-income students.”

Among the identified high impact practices are first-year seminars, writing intensive courses, collaborative assignments and diversity/global learning.

Changes to the curriculum can be expected to arrive in 2019, and available to the class of 2023.

Chris Clemens, senior associate dean for natural sciences, gave a resolution in appreciation of professor Dan Reichart’s service.

Reichart was injured while trying to extinguish the fire at the Davie Poplar tree on Nov. 2.

The last line of the resolution states, “Now, therefore, be it resolved, that we commend his courage, thank him for his dedicated service to our university, and wish him a speedy recovery.”

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