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Sunday January 29th

Faculty Council discusses Wellness Days and community mental health

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks during a virtual meeting of the faculty council on Nov. 5.
Buy Photos Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks during a virtual meeting of the faculty council on Nov. 5.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a Faculty Council meeting Friday that he expects UNC will start next semester fully in-person with the expectation of at least one Wellness Day.

Guskiewicz spoke about the potential for additional Wellness Days and community mental health support. The council also discussed models for sustainability in academic publishing and support systems for resident advisers.

What’s new?

  • Faculty members unanimously approved a resolution to develop standards and procedures for deciding to cancel classes in response to student and faculty news.
  • Guskiewicz attended the annual Association of American Universities conference to discuss COVID-19, sexual harassment policies and the role of universities in promoting democracy. 
    • He said that UNC will develop a partnership with N.C. A&T and receive $500,000 in funding for special initiatives focusing on data science, environment and climate, cybersecurity and health disparities. 
  • Guskiewicz said there will be more discussion regarding the number of wellness days next semester with student and faculty input. 
  • Faculty Council heard from the University of California System faculty about recommended models of sustainability in the academic publishing industry. University Libraries is facing $5 million in budget cuts over the next two fiscal years.
    • Rich Schneider, a professor of basic science at the University of California San Francisco, explained the open access system as a free resource for anyone to reuse a scientific article. 
      • “The open access system is a much more equitable system to read," Schneider said. "By using subscription money from institutions to cover the costs of publishing, we enable any author who has no grant money or no other research funds to publish using the library’s subscription money.”
  • Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson said the University immediately mobilizesStudent Affairs to support students both on and off campus when mental health emergencies occur, including involvement from Caroling Housing, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Dean of Students and other campus student wellness units.
    • Avery Cook, CAPS associate director and clinical coordinator, said CAPS went on a brief wait list for the first time in a number of years, so it launched an online psychotherapy platform to provide brief therapy to students immediately.
    • Allison Schlobohm, a clinical assistant professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, shared multiple anecdotes of students dealing with personal mental health crises.
      • “I just wanted to share these stories because I hear so many of them and I could probably name more," Schlobohm said. "But I beg my fellow professors to recognize that no grade is as important as someone’s life and so if you can reach out to individuals from a human level, it means the world to them.”
  • Executive Director of Carolina Housing Allan Blattner elaborated on the support system for resident advisers, as they are the first touch-point of support for students who live on campus.
    • “Each RA has weekly staff meetings and also one-on-one time with their supervising community directors, where they connect with the RA and discuss issues that they have in support of their floor, but most importantly, any issues that the RA has in terms of their own mental health,” Blattner said. 
  • Regarding University-approved absence request decisions, Dean of Students Desirée Rieckenberg said the office should take no more than ten days to approve or deny absence requests.

How did the committee start?

  • The Office of Faculty Governance was founded with the establishment of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1795 in which faculty make decisions regarding academic matters and serve as advisers to the Chancellor and other administrators.

Who is on the committee?

  • The UNC Faculty Council consists of 91 voting members with Mimi Chapman serving as the Chairperson of the Faculty.  

What’s next?

  • The university will be holding a Mental Health Summit on Nov. 15 to address campus culture, crisis services and prevention. Guskiewicz, Johnson and Chairperson of the Department of Psychiatry Samantha Meltzer-Brody will lead the discussion.
  • The next Faculty Council meeting will be held virtually on Dec. 3.
  • According to Secretary of the Faculty Jill Moore, the Faculty Council is planning to hold a meeting in a hybrid format in January.

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