Chairperson of the Faculty Leslie Parise announced that she would step down from the position by the end of the current semester on Monday, March 25.
In an email to the Faculty Executive Committee, a branch of the Faculty Council, Parise said that while working with the FEC was “a special joy,” she found that the time demands from her position as Chairperson of the Faculty, as well as her other positions, were “just too much to do justice to these roles.”
Parise, who is also the chairperson of the biochemistry and biophysics department, serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry and is the principal investigator of a lab which investigates cancer pathways, platelets and sickle cell disease.
The Chairperson of the Faculty serves as the Chancellor’s representative, per the Chancellor’s request, in all academic matters, and also reports on the state of the faculty to the Faculty Council, a group of elected faculty who legislate on the faculty’s behalf.
Parise was elected to a three-year term in 2017, ending in 2020. Although the Faculty Executive Committee is holding elections this year, Parise’s resignation came too late to put the position on the ballot. Per the Faculty Code of University Government, another elected faculty committee, the Advisory Committee, will therefore select the interim Chairperson of the Faculty.
Joy Renner, professor and director of the Division of Radiologic Science and chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that the interim will serve until the 2020 faculty election.
“The Committee began by listing faculty in previous demonstrated leadership roles on campus such as previous Chairs of the Faculty, previous Advisory Committee chairs, and previous candidates for Chair, all with fairly recent faculty governance responsibilities,” Renner said in an email.
The Committee then reached out to the FEC for suggestions. Faculty can also submit suggestions for consideration through an online portal.
Renner said that the Advisory Committee hopes to appoint an interim chairperson by early April.
Deb Aikat, professor in the school of Media and Journalism and a member of the Faculty Executive Committee, said there are three qualities the new chairperson should have.
“The first quality is obviously that the faculty member would be a senior faculty member who is respected by all," Aikat said. "The second thing is you need a Chair of Faculty who is willing to work with diverse voices, in the sense that, you know, there are a lot of people who could work with challenges and conflicts at the same time.”
Aikat pointed out the controversy over the Silent Sam’s future, which Parise dealt with as Chairperson of the Faculty, as a challenge that a future chairperson might have to address.
“Last but not least, it’s somebody who is willing to work with the various segments of the campus," Aikat said. "You have to work with students, you have to work with faculty, you have to work with staff, you have to work with the administrators. That’s a lot, so you really want a superhuman being.”
Nancy Fisher, microbiology and immunology professor and director of the UNC Flow Cytometry Core Facility, echoed Aikat’s sentiment that the new chairperson should be able to work with all parts of the University’s campus. Fisher is also on the FEC.
“I think probably, the most important thing to have are communication skills, and, of course, dedication to the University and the faculty,” Fisher said. “We deal with issues beyond just faculty, but more as the faculty perspective on what’s going on across campus.”
The position of Chair of the Faculty was created in 1951. Parise is the 23rd faculty member to step into the role, the fourth medical school faculty member and the second professor in a row from the School of Medicine elected to the position.
“Leslie Parise represents the leaders from the medical side of the campus, who got involved in leading as Chair of the Faculty, so everybody is curious to know if the next Chair of the Faculty will be from the medical side or the academic affairs side,” Aikat said.
Fisher said that the trend might simply boil down to the numbers.
“Both Dr. Parise and Dr. Cairns before her were elected, and they ran against somebody from the college,” Fisher said. “So it’s more likely that more people from the School of Medicine vote, so it just might be the numbers.”
Overall, Fisher said, Parise will be missed.
“We’re all very appreciative of the leadership and dedication that Professor Parise has given to the University and the faculty, and we’re sad to see her go," Fisher said. "She really led with full-on dedication and grace.”
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