With the North Carolina budget at a stalemate, and amid mounting concerns over the UNC System's Silent Sam settlement, Kevin Guskiewicz joined a Faculty Council meeting last week — his first as UNC's permanent chancellor
The agenda for the Faculty Council meeting included presentations about the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward and Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.
Interim Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer began Friday’s meeting by thanking Guskiewicz for taking on the chancellor position permanently.
Kramer emphasized the importance of Guskiewicz’s faculty background and mentioned other universities where leaders appointed administrators without experience in higher education.
Kramer said Guskiewicz’s appointment was something to celebrate, citing him bringing back the Tar Heel Bus Tour in October and meeting with faculty, students and staff to develop teaching plans for the future.
“And as we know, he has already faced a challenging, disruptive action by the Board of Governors, especially this misguided BOG settlement with Silent Sam,” Kramer said. “So, he came right into a whirlwind, but we appreciate it.”
Guskiewicz said he has been actively engaged in conversations with interim UNC System President Bill Roper about the settlement since raising "serious concerns" about it in a letter to Roper and the BOG on Dec. 11.
“I do believe that with the pending litigation that there are opportunities for us to have a better outcome with this, and I promise you I will continue to be a voice for you in those conversations,” Guskiewicz said.
Co-Chairpersons of the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward Jim Leloudis and Patricia Parker later presented to the faculty about the commission's goals. Parker said their work comes at a critical time when the University must reckon with its past to move forward.
"It calls us to reckon with the histories of how our University was built in part on the values of white supremacy and how those legacies continue to shape current inequities," she said. "So we have our work cut out for us.”
They emphasized their multidisciplinary approach and their use of history to discern the present.
“We really do, as we go into this work, think about history as a discipline, as an enterprise that is fundamentally forward-looking, and part of our mission here is to give voice to histories long silenced," Leloudis said.
Carolina Next: Innovation for Public Good
Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin updated the faculty on Carolina Next, the mechanism for implementing the Blueprint for Next.
They announced that an advisory committee made up of “broad representation” from the community — including trustees, senior leadership, faculty, staff and students — to report to the Chancellor on its progress. They also said there will be a team captain and team leads working on each of the eight initiatives within Carolina Next.
One member of the faculty voiced concerns about the lack of the word “research” from any of the initiatives. Guskiewicz and Blouin reassured the faculty that research is an important part of the Blueprint for Next.
“We didn’t use the word research,” Blouin said. “We used the word discover. And it’s because your colleagues across campus have different meanings in terms of what research means to them, and to many it doesn’t resonate. So, something that is common to all of us is that we are committed to discover.”
The budget impasse
Guskiewicz provided updates on a resolution the BOG unanimously passed to plea to the General Assembly to finalize a budget. If a budget is not finalized, Guskiewicz said, there will not be an annual raise process.
Larry Chavis, director of the American Indian Center at UNC and a member of the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward, said the budget issue can be discussed in connection with the University’s history.
“When I became interim director two and a half years ago I had a staff of five additional people,” Chavis said. “I’m down to two now.”
Chavis said these budget constraints are disheartening because the American Indian Center does important work embracing the tribes of North Carolina and for him, their history is not "abstract." In 1865, two of Chavis’ relatives were killed by Confederates.
“While the sons of Confederates are well-funded, the sons of their victims struggle to have their voice heard on this campus and in our state,” Chavis said.
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