During its general meeting on Monday, the Faculty Executive Committee discussed UNC faculty members' concerns and feedback on a recent special committee report by the American Association of University Professors that criticized the UNC system.
In the meeting, the committee discussed recent listening sessions that gave faculty a chance to address issues described in the report, including the claim that political pressure in the UNC system has jeopardized UNC academic freedom and reinforced institutional racism.
- “I think what struck me first was I really wasn't sure whether anyone would come to these listening sessions, and more than 50 people signed up to come to the four sessions,” faculty chairperson Mimi Chapman said.
- Faculty members that attended the listening sessions discussed the personal impact the report had on them.
- “The report became a portal to talk about particular things that are happening now on campus or that have happened within the last academic year in their departments and units,” Chapman said.
- During the meeting, the committee read anonymous comments from the listening sessions. Some committee members discussed concerns over hiring processes and the fear of getting in trouble with University leadership for voicing their criticisms.
- “I think part of the problem is that as much as we want to be honest with people, the institution does not want to hear the truth," said Dr. Anthony Charles, a committee member and associate professor of surgery at the UNC School of Medicine. "And within that environment, it's very difficult to know what to say and how to manage this.”
- Committee members also discussed overreach by the Board of Trustees, along with professors that have been discouraged from speaking out on issues "with their UNC hat on."
- "I’m not surprised by any of the comments that you've mentioned," Charles said. "But the larger issue is, do we have a remedy?"
- The committee then suggested solutions from members and University leadership.
- Chapman said she and faculty secretary Jill Moore recently had a meeting with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens to discuss the findings of the report and encouraged University leadership to take specific action on faculty issues.
- “I think there's work to do with talking with deans and associate deans and making sure people are clear about, you know, people don't check their rights to free speech and they need to be standing up," Chapman said. "I think our Trustees need to be standing up for faculty on this campus.”
- Deb Aikat, a committee member and professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, spoke about his experiences in the school when the BOT initially failed to grant tenure to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah Jones.
- Aikat has been at the University for 27 years and said many faculty members, including himself, didn’t know the difference between the BOT and Board of Governors until around ten years ago.
- “I do want to tell you that they [the Board of Trustees] seem very passionate for their University. Their children go to the University. They are very involved,” Aikat said.
- Committee members also discussed drafting a resolution that would attempt to address faculty concerns about the report.
- “As you can well imagine, fall is the time when we can re-energize efforts and the conversation about this report, especially after what the AAUP decided in June about ratifying their concern about UNC Chapel-Hill,” Aikat said.
- The meeting ended with acknowledging professors Aikat and Jennifer Larson, director of undergraduate studies in the department of English and comparative literature, whose terms with the committee end in 2022.
- “It really has been an honor and privilege to serve with you all. It's been an amazing experience,” Larson said.
- The committee will meet again at the start of the fall semester on September 9, 2022.
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