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Faculty Council discusses process to create new schools, IDEAs in Action curriculum

UNC's Faculty Council met on Sept. 9, 2022 in Karr Hall to discuss free speech on campus.

In its first meeting since the UNC Board of Trustees voted to accelerate development of the School of Civic Life and Leadership, the Faculty Council primarily discussed the process of the school’s creation so far.

The Friday meeting included a presentation on how the School of Data Science and Society was developed and votes to pass two resolutions regarding the Board of Trustees' actions and the IDEAs in Action curriculum. 

Here’s a breakdown of what the council discussed:

School of Civic Life and Leadership

  • Mimi Chapman, the chairperson of the faculty, began the meeting with an explanation of how she has felt since the announcement of the new School of Civic Life and Leadership.
    • “Part of what has been difficult in recent weeks is the implicit and sometimes explicit disparagement of our faculty by those who are supposed to be our biggest fans,” she said. 
    • Chapman said that Provost Chris Clemens has instructed her to route the proposal of the School to relevant faculty committees, which she said felt like him taking “a monkey off of someone else’s desk” and putting it on hers.
    • “I asked ‘What would happen if the faculty were to say no?’ And he replied, ‘That's okay. Don't do it’” she said. “But in their interviews and writing in the media, the message is quite different — that those messages say that a school is to be formed.”
  • Chapman shared materials showing that no faculty vote had ever been taken regarding the creation of the Program for Public Discourse, which was mentioned in the trustees’ resolution to accelerate the new School’s development. 
    • Elyse Crystall, a professor in the English department, said that the Program for Public Discourse had been explicitly created as a “non-curricular program,” meaning that it would not play a role in any University curricula but would exclusively provide programming for students.
  • Mark McNeilly, a professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School who sits on the advisory committee for the Program, said he thought the council was not recognizing that the provost is a member of the faculty. 
    • “I think we’ve got to be clear as to what’s happening and not be blinded by the publicity,” he said. “We need to understand the process by which this thing is happening, or has happened, and the fact that it is faculty-driven.”
    • Chapman responded that she has not heard of any other faculty involved in working groups or conversations about the new school’s development. 

How schools are created

  • Faculty involved with the creation of the School of Data Science and Society presented on the process of building the school from an idea to give the council an overview of the way new schools have historically been created at UNC.
    • Bob Blouin, the former UNC provost who worked on creating the School of Data Science and Society, said that he knew the School could not be successful without widespread faculty approval, a budget involving sizable new funding and an “intentional, intensive process of discussion” between faculty and administration. 
    • Gary Marchionini, dean of the School of Information and Library Science, and Jay Aikat, the senior associate dean of the School of Data Science and Society, said that the process of creating the new data school included about 100 people and seven subcommittees that met for almost a year to perform “extensive investigation and vetting across the campus for the creation of the school.”
    • Chapman emphasized that she does not know of any faculty who were involved in a process like this regarding the School of Civic Life and Leadership and that she believes she would have heard if anyone had been.

Separate problems with separate solutions

  • Chapman stressed the importance of separating the problem of the new School of Civic Life and Leadership's creation and the issues with the implementation of the IDEAs in Action curriculum.
  • Jim White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he requested that the provost slow down the creation of a School of Civic Life and Leadership for a few reasons — including the impending launch of the School of Data Science and Society. He said that he hadn’t had a chance to talk to faculty governance about the proposed new school and that his number one focus is still the curriculum's Communication Beyond Carolina requirement.
  • Harry Watson, a professor in the history department, brought forward a resolution in support of IDEAS in Action curriculum and expressing disapproval of the creation of a new school at UNC, which his resolution said “did not originate with the faculty, was not communicated to the faculty in advance, and has not been studied by the faculty.” 
    • The council voted to amend the resolution with changes proposed by Richard McLaughlin, the chairperson of the department of mathematics, specifically a change that stated the council disapproved of any further development of the school until it went through the proper procedures of faculty governance. Previously, the resolution said the council “disapproves any further action on such a school under these circumstances.” 
    • The council then voted to divide the resolution in two, one in support of IDEAs in Action and one disapproving of the creation of the new School of Civic Life and Leadership. 
    • Both of these resolutions passed. 

Chancellor comments on the faculty’s role

  • Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz joined the meeting via Zoom to address the Council and speak about the School of Civic Life and Leadership. 
    •  Guskiewicz acknowledged that the process of developing the new School had not been typical and said that they are beginning to bring the proposal into line with how similar initiatives have been developed.
    • Guskiewicz also explained that the provost would not be able to attend as he was originally scheduled to because he was meeting with the faculty of the School of Government to announce Amiee N. Wall as the new dean.

What’s next?

The next meeting of the Faculty Council is scheduled for March 24.


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