The University’s Faculty Executive Committee gathered Monday in South Building, where major discussions included the future of Silent Sam, vandalism on campus and updates on the interim faculty chair position process.
Faculty Chairperson of the FEC Leslie Parise, who will step down from her position in the beginning of May, led a discussion on the future of Silent Sam on campus. This discussion was in light of the upcoming decision concerning the future of the Confederate monument the UNC Board of Governors is expected to make during a May meeting.
Parise said that about half of the members from the Faculty Advisory Committee on the Confederate Statue met at the end of March to discuss why the statue should not return to campus. Members from the committee cited a variety of reasons why the monument should not return, including the University’s reputation, safety of students and even similar cases of monuments in 16th century European countries while still considering the role of the statue’s historic mission, Parise said.
After the Faculty Advisory Committee on the Confederate Statue’s meeting adjourned, students met with some committee members to convey their positions.
Deb Aikat, professor in the School of Media and Journalism, asked Parise whether she thought the statue could return to campus at some point in its original glory.
“I think that’s much less of a possibility,” Parise said. “I think Chancellor Guskiewicz has been sounding reasonably positive about things and some of the discussion where (it) has kind of touched on the law and the potential loopholes in the law so that one could follow the law, but not have it back on campus – nobody went into detail on that, but there was a plea to kind of find the loopholes.”
Some members of the FEC then weighed in on the potential future ramifications Silent Sam’s return could have on campus and in their particular departments if it were to return to the University in the future.
Another topic the committee discussed was the issue of vandalism on campus, especially recent occurrences in locations like Cameron Avenue with unclear jurisdiction. In light of such discrepancies, Parise pointed out that interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz would like roads that run through campus to be included under the jurisdiction of UNC police.
Eric Muller, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics, conveyed his concerns related to the police not disclosing the content of the graffiti discovered on the Unsung Founders Memorial March 31, which the University described as "racist" and "deplorable" in a statement by Guskiewicz.
Prominent anti-Silent Sam activists Lindsay Ayling and Maya Little have stated on their respective Twitters that the graffiti contained their names.
“When I saw 'racist and other deplorable language' and an unwillingness to say anything more, I was left feeling a bit insecure to know exactly ‘who are these people’ and ‘who are they after,’” Muller said. “It’s entirely possible that it was racist and then just a bunch of curse words — that’s completely possible. Or it’s possible that it was racist and was brutal comments directed to individuals who should be protected and not possibly named — that’s possible, too.”
The FEC also discussed electing a new faculty chairperson in light of Parise's resignation. Parise was elected to lead the committee for a three-year term starting July 2017 and ending June 2020.
Lloyd Kramer, director of Carolina Public Humanities and professor in the Department of History, will serve as interim faculty chairperson starting May 8 until the committee’s next chairperson election is held in 2020. Kramer had run against Parise as a candidate for the FEC faculty chairperson position back in 2017.
Parise outlined the current process to elect an interim committee chair in situations like these, when the current chair of the FEC steps down. She said that the Advisory Committee in the Office of Faculty Governance helps name the interim chair after taking nominations from UNC faculty members.
Vin Steponaitis, secretary of the faculty, pointed out that the Advisory Committee does not always resort to selecting the alternate candidate from the previous FEC chairperson election, but instead chooses a candidate best suited to serve based on the present circumstances.
Present committee members also debated among themselves about the possibility of amending the current process of electing an interim chairperson. Some suggested the idea of automatically replacing the chairperson with the alternate candidate before involving the Advisory Committee in the first place.
Beth Mayer-Davis, chairperson of the Department of Nutrition, proposed that future chairpersons of the FEC might benefit from sharing their role with a Vice Chairperson because of the magnitude of the role on campus and in American higher education.
“It is a really big job, and I’m quite sure it’s always been a big job,” Mayer-Davis said. “But it does seem to me in higher ed, in general, and in our university, there’s so much happening in terms of expectations of Gen-X students, all the issues we will need to continue to address in terms of racism, inclusion – all of these things in addition to the normal business.”
Many members of the committee supported Mayer-Davis’ suggestion to have future chairpersons share the work load with a vice chairperson. Some recommended the idea of allowing future chairperson candidates to run with a partner, who would serve as vice chairperson if elected, as a way of diversifying their stance and representation on the council.
Members suggested a variety of points to Kramer, including cultivating a greater spirit of integrity on campus, improving the fixed-term faculty experience, increasing the presence of the humanities in University Governance, increasing the FEC’s proactive role and recruiting the best faculty talent to campus, among other concerns.
Kramer then laid out his vision for his time as interim faculty chairperson, which includes advocating for the core mission of the University through leading faculty governance and affirming the work of faculty who teach students, conduct research and serve North Carolinians beyond UNC.
“I just share this with you because I want you to know where I’m coming from,” Kramer said.
Although Parise will sit in on the next FEC meeting scheduled for April 22, the members ended their meeting by thanking Parise for her time and leadership as Chairperson during the past two years.
“This is an awesome group to work with,” Parise said. “They are so much fun.”
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