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Faculty Council addresses University DEI efforts, School of Civic Life and Leadership

Students walk by the Old Well on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz gave updates about recent requests for information about UNC's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from the North Carolina legislature at Friday's Faculty Council meeting. 

Council members also spoke about the School of Civic Life and Leadership and new administrative hires at the University. 

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at UNC

  • Guskiewicz spoke about a request for documents related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility training at UNC that was made by The Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations of the N.C. General Assembly on March 14. The letter sets a deadline of March 28 for UNC to reply. 
    • Guskiewicz acknowledged the letter and said that University leaders “respond to requests like this often."
    • “We are not the only university in the country that is being asked to take an inventory of DEI, so we are not alone there” Guskiewicz said. “I want you to hear that we as a leadership team and you as a faculty are committed to this diverse community that makes us who we are and allows us to accomplish the great things I talked about earlier.” 
  • The UNC Board of Governors also recently approved a “compelled speech policy” in an attempt to prevent viewpoint discrimination in hiring.
    • “Under no circumstances would we hire staff based on their political or ideological viewpoints,” Guskiewicz said. 
  • During faculty comments, Dr. Jennifer Goralski of the UNC School of Medicine expressed concern about the new compelled speech policy.
    • “Reproductive health is not a ‘contemporary political debate,’ and neither is transgender suicide – that is a health care problem,” she said. “Racial biases in medicine are a health care problem. It concerns me that making this policy so broad is going to serve as a slippery slope to narrow down what we are allowed to teach our trainees and future doctors.”
    • Thomas Kelley, a candidate for chairperson of the faculty, said that the compelled speech policy would “almost certainly be challenged as unconstitutional, because it is.” 
  • History professor Miguel La Serna spoke about the request for DEIA information.
    • “It’s hard not to interpret the recent demand that we turn over everything to do with diversity and inclusion, as well as any other word you can associate with that, as anything but an assault on the university,” he said. “I feel like this assault is happening all the way from the Board of Trustees up to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

School of Civic Life and Leadership

  • Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman addressed an op-ed published in the Greensboro News and Record. The article, written by trustee Perrin W. Jones, was critical of the Faculty Council’s response to SCiLL.
    • Chapman said the op-ed “took issue with the timeline that had been presented at a recent Faculty Council meeting, asserting that the faculty had already voted in the past by their participation in discussions of (the Program for Public Discourse).” 
      • According to Chapman, the Faculty Council never voted for the establishment of SCiLL. When former Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Terry Rhodes first announced the formation of the Program for Public Discourse, professor Jay Smith proposed a resolution to delay the implementation of the program. The resolution failed.
  • Chapman said that a trustee questioned her about her political activities because of her involvement with the Coalition for Carolina. She is a founding member of the organization. 
    • “I was told that I was undermining the trustees and the provost in particular,” Chapman said. 
  • Lloyd Kramer, a former chairperson of the faculty, affirmed Chapman's timeline of faculty decisions as accurate. 
    • “I feel that it is a misrepresentation to say that the Faculty Council endorsed a curriculum plan and a strategy for implementing that plan,” Kramer said. “I’m simply here to confirm and give my vehement support to Mimi’s historical memory.”
  • Guskiewicz addressed concerns about SCiLL in his own remarks.
    • “I made that very clear on Jan. 26 in my campus message, after that Board of Trustees meeting, that any curriculum development would start with our faculty, our deans, our provosts,” Guskiewicz said.
      • He also said the Faculty Council would be involved in hiring faculty for the new school.

Other key developments

  • UNC is in the process of hiring a new vice chancellor for research, a new dean for the Kenan-Flagler Business School. The faculty is also preparing to hire a new innovations officer and executive director for Innovate Carolina.
    • The first two searches have finished Zoom interviews and are moving on to on-campus interviews, Provost Chris Clemens said. 
  • Law professor Thomas Kelley and professor of health behavior Beth Moracco gave brief speeches pertaining to their qualifications for faculty leadership ahead of the upcoming vote for the next chairperson of the faculty.