“In some ways, aren't we all interim in what we do?” Guskiewicz joked, to laughs around the room. “I would not worry about interim tags.”
Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer mentioned worries among his peers that UNC isn't doing enough to increase faculty pay. He said many of his colleagues feel like they’ve barely had pay bumps since the great recession.
“There was concern over losing faculty also because we’re not competitive on salary,” Kramer said. “Is there any hope for any raise?”
Guskiewicz said the current uncertainty in the state legislature budget process is contributing to the lack of action on salary increases.
“It does not look very good for faculty salary increases,” he said.
Guskiewicz added that UNC’s devotion to keeping tuition low also plays a role in salary difficulties.
“We pride ourselves in low tuition and affordability. At some point that catches up with you,” he said. “Because other universities, that have not made that the same priority that we have, have more resources to provide salary increases.”
Another committee member added their thoughts.
“If we never catch up on salary with the privates then we have to really pay attention to these other things that increase the quality of life for faculty.”
The other major talking point raised in the meeting was a concern held by many faculty that the Office of Sponsored Research is inhibiting faculty research from progressing smoothly and efficiently, sometimes leading to faculty sending their grants outside UNC to be managed.
According to the the office's website, it functions to review research proposals, manage and negotiate research awards and oversee other elements of faculty research.
Kramer said faculty have been raising concerns about the research process for a while.
“When Carol was here she kept saying, we’ve fixed the problem,” Kramer said. “But I’ve been hearing from a lot of faculty—”
“It’s not fixed,” Associate Professor Keisha Gibson said, finishing his sentence.
Committee members said that sometimes it’s fairly difficult to move even routine processes forward when conducting their research.
“So many faculty feel demoralized by this,” Kramer said.
Rohit Ramaswamy, professor in the Public Health Leadership Program, said that sometimes his student employees go without pay for weeks at a time.
“It leaves us in the awkward situation of having to tell students that even though you're not supposed to work without the money coming in — work and then back charge, and I will approve it even though that’s not accepted policy,” he said. “Because my projects need to move on.”
Guskiewicz said the Office of Sponsored Research is restructuring, and some of the efficiency problems could be attributed to UNC’s large sum of research expenditure this year: close to $1.2 billion.
He added that members of his administration would work with the faculty on refining the process and fixing some of the inefficiencies that might have contributed to some faculty’s decision to leave UNC for other institutions.
The interim chancellor acknowledged that making the research environment at Chapel Hill ideal is a strong priority in UNC’s work to optimize faculty morale.
“At some point, the dam's going to erupt.”