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Faculty Executive Committee talks vaccination rates, racial equity and provost search

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Over 300 people have been considered in the search for a new provost to replace Bob Blouin after his departure set for the end of the year, Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson said at a meeting of the Faculty Executive Committee on Monday. 

Committee members also discussed vaccination rates and the racial equity roadmap at their meeting.

What’s new?

  • According to UNC's COVID-19 dashboard, 92 percent of students, 96 percent of faculty and 85 percent of staff have attested their vaccination status.
    • Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman said that after Saturday's football game, communication and contact tracing practices are improving.
    • Chapman also said UNC instructors have flexibility, within limits, to do what they see fit to make classrooms safer. 
  • Committee members discussed the Roadmap for Racial Equity, which was published during the summer of 2020. The roadmap compiles a list of requests by faculty and students regarding racial equity at the University.
    • G. Rumay Alexander, a clinical professor in the School of Nursing, said she and other committee members have been responding to compiled lists from students and faculty in the Carolina Black Caucus and the Black Student Movement.
    • “I don't see a lot of change in the composition of our student body in the med school," Sue Estroff, a professor of social medicine, said. "We have some wonderful leaders, but the progress is very, very slow.”
    • Leah Cox, chief diversity officer, said issues of not tenuring, promoting or hiring faculty of color have long existed at the University. She referenced the UNC Board of Trustees' initial failure to offer tenure to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.
    • Cox and Karla Slocum, the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chairperson in Public Policy, suggested adding new requirements to the roadmap that would lead to tangible action items.
  • Misha Becker, a professor of linguistics, said female faculty salaries are about 80 percent of male faculty salaries. 
    • “The studies that have been done tend to look very broadly across campus, but the decisions happen very locally,” Becker said. 
    • Chapman suggested looking at issues that have the largest impact on campus. These may involve the faculty government in resolving them.
  • Nadia Yaqub, a professor of Asian & Middle Eastern studies, said there needed to be a space for the college faculty to come together and discuss issues, including the need for better communication with college administrators and the faculty governance. 
  • The committee also discussed updates to the search for a new provost.
    • “We’re seeing CVs with a lot of experience and knowledge at some really good institutions and a lot of diversity, which is very exciting for us,” Magnuson said. 
    • Terry Rhodes, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there will be a hybrid search. When candidates arrive on campus, they will meet with select groups across campus but will not conduct a formal presentation. 
    • Committee members expressed interest in having a provost who understands the depth of issues at the University.
  • Dean of Students Desirée Rieckenberg brought up concerns of student mental health and absences in the classroom relating to COVID-19.
    • Rieckenberg said there has been an increase in students referring to University services for mental health issues compared to fall 2020, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
    • Students who have been medically directed to quarantine or isolate will be sent their documentation within 24-48 hours to have their absence marked as excused, Rieckenberg said. 
  • The committee discussed recent actions of University administration, including a statement from UNC Media Relations on behalf of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz that referred to a meeting of the Campus President's Council as a “publicity stunt.”
    • “We have an obligation to our students to defend them,” Eric Muller, a professor in the School of Law, said.

What’s next?

  • The next meeting of the Faculty Executive Committee is on Sept. 27.

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