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Friday December 2nd

Faculty Executive Committee discusses COVID-19 testing, commencement, budget concerns

Screenshot from the Faculty Executive Committee meeting on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Buy Photos Screenshot from the Faculty Executive Committee meeting on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The University's Faculty Executive Committee met with Provost Bob Blouin and several UNC department chairpersons via Zoom on Monday to provide updates on the University’s Carolina Together program, plans for commencement activities and the state of funding for the UNC Graduate School.

This follows Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz's January announcement of cuts to the University's operating and personnel funds for the current and next fiscal years. 

Carolina Together program updates

  • Blouin said that the Carolina Together COVID-19 testing program will conduct its 100,000th test this week and that he applauds students, faculty and staff in keeping the positivity rate below the national, state and county average.
  • The vaccination program faced setbacks due to winter storms, but Blouin said that UNC is in a “much better position this week, and with the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are going to see a ramping up of the program.”
    • Faculty and staff are included in the bottom tier of Group 3 frontline workers, eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 10.
  • A retroactive analysis of students rushing Franklin Street despite COVID-19 risks following the UNC-Duke game in early February found no evidence of it being a super-spreader event.
    • Blouin said as the next UNC-Duke game is coming up, messaging will be going out to remind students about community standards regarding COVID-19.
    • “This is not the year to be rushing on Franklin Street,” Blouin said.

Commencement activities updates

  • Blouin said that University leadership is planning for a spring commencement for 2021 graduates. Finalized plans will be announced by the chancellor soon. 
    • Commencement will have no requirements to attend and will be spread out over five different events for different divisions within the college in Kenan Stadium, maintaining 7 percent occupancy and complying with community standards at all times.
    • Individual schools will not have their own in-person ceremonies. If schools want to have ceremonies, they will have to be virtual due to limited space.
  • The University is also planning a celebratory make-up event for the class of 2020, perhaps with a major event in the fall of 2021.

Graduate School funding updates

  • Blouin reaffirmed the department chairpersons’ assertions on the importance of the University’s graduate program for the overall research and scholarship of the institution.
  • When budget discussions began early last fall, the dean of the Graduate School began preparing for a 10 percent budget cut as the “worst-case scenario," Blouin said. 
  • Blouin updated the committee and the department chairpersons who were present that the University will only cut 0.66 percent from the graduate school program, as opposed to the 10 percent that was being planned.
    • The immediate crisis of funding the graduate program has been somewhat mitigated, but a long-term problem remains of how to scale growth to supplement the state funding of the graduate program that is being cut away by inflation, Blouin said. 
    • The graduate program, along with the University as a whole, needs to dampen the deficit as well as find ways to scale funds for the future, Blouin said.
  • Patricia Parker, the chairperson of the UNC Department of Communications, said that the department chairpersons are ready to work together with University leadership and the North Carolina state legislature to find solutions for long-term funding.
  • Blouin said that this is the first time the University has had “an honest dealing with the budget situation,” and that “reengineering the budget process and finding out what sources are funding what functions” comes with a lot of learning and surprises that requires people to understand and work closely to solve this problem of funding.

What’s next?

  • The Faculty Executive Committee will hold its next meeting on March 15.

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