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'Doing more for less,' FEC calls for more University support of faculty

UNC's provost, Chris Clemmons, speaks at the beginning of Friday's Faculty Council meeting on Sept. 9, 2022 in Karr Hall.

The UNC Faculty Executive Committee spoke on the importance of faculty mental health and gave updates on the UNC System’s return-on-investment study. The committee also discussed authority for University hiring approvals at their Monday meeting. 

Here’s the rundown:

What’s new? 

  • Committee members are dismayed by recent news about administrative shifts at UNC Wilmington:
    • An Oct. 12 article published in The Assembly revealed N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore’s  (R-Cleveland) involvement in the search process for current UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety. Moore allegedly dismissed a UNCW Board of Trustees member for her support of Volety.
    • “This adds to my concerns about just about everything about the University and the legislators and the governors,” committee member and Professor of Social Medicine Sue Estroff said. “It just seems like a drip, drip, drip movement all in one direction, which is away from the values and principles we have created for ourselves and which we cherish.”
  • Committee members expressed general concern with faculty mental health and burnout after the pandemic.
    • Committee member and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Jean Cook asked if there is an existing University mechanism for faculty mental health. She said the faculty is "burnt out."
    • “We are being asked to do more and more for less and less,” Estroff said. 
    • Committee member Misha Becker said that, recently, many faculty members have been asked to do extra work.
    • “At this University, every procedure is as clunky as possible," she said. "And the fact that every time I want to pay for a (graduate) student to go to a conference, or a partner of mine in another department wants to get a job ad approved, every single thing takes time to get approved."  
    • Committee member and professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media Francesca Dillman Carpentier raised specific concerns about “veiled demands” for increased enrollment and stagnant staff funding at the journalism school. 
    • “That is the message we are sending: in order for you to keep your job, in order to get promoted, it requires you to no longer sleep and to lose your work-life balance,” she said. 
    • Mimi Chapman, chairperson of the faculty, said that she will look into producing a mental health survey for faculty through the Office of Faculty Governance.
  • Amy Locklear Hertel, the chancellor's chief of staff, joined the meeting to field questions and explain the University's role in the UNC System’s return-on-investment study.
    • A bill passed by the N.C. General Assembly last year requires the UNC System to analyze seven data points for various programs at each of its institutions, including: 
      • the number of students in each program 
      • the number of faculty and other staff employed for each program
      • the related costs required to operate the degree
      • a correlation between the degree of study and the career outcomes and possibilities
      • a detailed return-on-investment analysis for each program
      • a return-on-investment analysis for state funding expenses 
      • a return-on-investment analysis for student expenses
  • Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini clarified aspects of Tier II faculty hiring procedures.  
    • Almost a year ago, administrators on UNC’s campus examined archival documents to determine what exactly lies in the chancellor’s authority and what lies in the hands of other departments and boards — an exercise which had not been completed in decades.
    • Tier II hires includes associate vice chancellors, assistant vice chancellors, associate deans and assistant deans. 
    • The UNC Board of Trustees maintains authority to approve Tier II hires, most of which are development, communication and counsel positions. 
    • Menghini said the BOT has indicated that it will eventually abdicate the authority of Tier II approval, which she believes will happen sometime in 2023. 

What's next?

The FEC will meet again on Monday, Oct. 31 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., though Chapman predicts this meeting may be canceled for Halloween.


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