The Faculty Executive Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss UNC's strategic plan and the recently-voided Silent Sam settlement, among other topics.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin opened the meeting with a discussion on the recent motion by Judge Allen Baddour to dismiss the settlement between the UNC System and The North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc.
The settlement originally transferred possession of Silent Sam to the SCV and provided the group with a $2.5 million trust for the care and preservation of the monument. On Feb. 12, Baddour vacated the settlement and dissolved the trust.
Eric Muller, Committee member and a professor in the UNC School of Law, described the shock of the courtroom two weeks ago as Baddour decided against his initial approval of the settlement in November.
“I think the courtroom was sort of stunned to hear the judge reverse himself,” Muller said. “The lawyers spoke for close to an hour, and the judges spoke for about three minutes. This was exceptional from the very first nanosecond of the proceedings.”
Muller asked Blouin about the most appropriate next steps the University should take regarding the Silent Sam monument. Blouin responded that the judge was clear in his decision that the monument should return to the authorities responsible for the initial SCV settlement – the Board of Governors and the UNC Systems office.
“I take it that the Board of Governors would probably like time to reflect and reevaluate, and I guess our position would be to give them as much time as they need,” Blouin said. “I don’t know timing-wise when the Board of Governors would make a judgment as to what the next steps should be. Personally, I think they should be very deliberate and cautious.”
Blouin also brought up the UNC Board of Trustees’ recent official endorsement of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.
Blouin said the voluntary faculty team captains for the initiative have been named. He said the next steps with this project include adding faculty and staff members as team leads to work with the captains, as well as developing annual reports to relay updates on each component of the initiative.
Midway through the meeting, Senior Director for Public Records Gavin Young discussed the recent renovations to the University’s public record request system. Young described how the previous system by which UNC faculty and students could request public records led to substantial backlogs and hundreds of unfulfilled requests, some of which were filed up to two years prior.
The new system, implemented a few years ago, uses an online service called NextRequest that streamlines this process and has helped close the gap between fulfilled and unfulfilled requests, Young said.
“We actually had a 30 percent increase in the number of open requests – we’ve taken more requests than ever before – and we’ve closed 60 percent of requests,” said Young. “We just do a better overall job with communicating with people.”
George Battle, vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, also spoke at the meeting. Battle, a graduate of UNC and UNC School of Law, talked about the responsibilities he faces in his new position.
“I think the biggest challenges are changing the mindset in terms of identifying and acting on the risks that we face,” said Battle. “I think we often don’t think about risk.”
The meeting concluded with an update on the work of the Campus Safety Commission. Frank Baumgartner, professor of political science and co-chairperson of the commission, shared some of the stories and experiences he has heard through his work on the commission.
"Our mission is really to fix the crisis of trust," said Baumgartner. "People are really concerned. They want to make sure that University administrators and University police really understand the anxiety and fear they feel toward white supremacists."
Baumgartner discussed the short and long-term goals of the initiative, which include suggestions to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz regarding topics such as improved safety with anti-racist activism and increased protection against sexual violence, among other recommendations.
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