The Faculty Executive Committee met Monday to discuss ongoing COVID-19 trends at UNC, the search for a new vice chancellor of communications and recent changes in the nomination process for the Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Award.
- Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin began the FEC meeting by talking about COVID-19 on campus and within the local community.
- Blouin said the University receives COVID-19 data twice a week and continues to work closely with the Orange County Health Department and the faculty of UNC’s School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health.
- According to UNC's COVID-19 dashboard as of Tuesday, 93 percent of students have attested that they are vaccinated. Blouin noted the high vaccination rate in the community.
- “We are a very conscious community,” Blouin said. “And these numbers reflect that.”
- Despite an ongoing downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases at UNC, Blouin said that concerns remain about the spread of the virus following Labor Day and recent football games.
- Blouin said that the University has been conducting careful contact tracing and trend monitoring following these events, and there has been no indication that either of these events have influenced the number of COVID-19 cases on campus.
- Blouin additionally said that there have been “no documented transmissions within the classroom setting.”
- "Though there was one inference of close contact in a UNC classroom, contact tracing ruled it invalid," he said.
- In an effort to maintain reduced levels of COVID-19 cases, Blouin said the University will require all unvaccinated employees to get tested regularly beginning in early October.
- Committee members asked Blouin about updates on current UNC COVID-19 policies.
- Barbara Entwisle, a professor of sociology, asked Blouin whether he thought the current requirement for professors to wear a mask while teaching will change in the near future.
- Blouin said, although he was an advocate for letting professors choose to wear a mask or not, it is unlikely that the rule will change.
- Blouin also said there will be no changes to the current pass/fail option for students, which has returned to pre-pandemic requirements.
- Blouin said that the University gets 4,500 COVID-19 test results per week, half of which are from vaccinated students. “Is it excessive? Probably. But is it reassuring to them? Probably,” Blouin said.
- Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, a professor in Gilling’s department of nutrition, asked about the gray area regarding the time window a student should quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19.
- Students should take whatever actions they believe are in their own best interest when it comes to quarantining, Blouin said.
- Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman brought up the search for a new vice chancellor of communications, as Joel Curran, who is currently in the role, leaves UNC on Oct. 8.
- Chapman asked FEC members to speak on qualities that they believe a new vice chancellor of communications would need.
- Professor Deb Aikat said he and his journalism colleagues are frustrated about UNC’s tendency to delay the release of information to the public.
- Entwisle said it is most important for this new vice chancellor to understand the University as an entity.
- “There is often a tendency to make a parallel between the corporate world and university world,” Entwisle said. “We need someone who is not just going to deliver one message, but continuously and carefully communicate.”
Distinguished Alumni Award
- Chapman brought up issues with the Board of Trustees' involvement in the nomination process of the Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Awards, which was previously a faculty responsibility.
- UNC’s Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution, amending the original nomination policy in March 2021 to give the BOT a voice in nominating recipients in addition to faculty members.
- "The intent of the resolution in 2021 was to broaden the input and ask multiple University stakeholders and people who are interested in the University, professors, staff and trustees their input when it came to generating individuals who were deserving of the honor," BOT Chairperson David Boliek told The Daily Tar Heel.
- Chapman said she met with BOT members, along with Secretary of the Faculty Jill Moore, to make a case for why these degrees should be selected by the faculty.
- The BOT paused the implementation of this resolution for a year at its meeting last week.
- Entwisle said she is “disturbed with Trustees awarding degrees.”
- Chapman said, regarding future involvement from the BOT, that there is “no guarantee that this won’t happen again.”
- To close the FEC meeting, English professor Jennifer Larson raised questions regarding the role of the Faculty Executive Committee at the University.
- “We should do a temperature check and see what we all think about the role of this committee,” Larson said. “We’re overdue for that kind of question."
- Larson said part of the FEC's role is to be advisors to Chapman. However, there are other roles as well.
- “I don’t know if we are always thinking about our roles, and they’re not always very clear,” Larson said.
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