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'It is so frightening': Faculty Executive Committee concerned by proposed firing rules


Kerr Hall is where the UNC Faculty Council meeting was held, as pictured on Monday, March 28, 2023.

The Faculty Executive Committee discussed proposed language about faculty firing processes and UNC’s civics education at their Monday meeting. 

Here’s the rundown:

  • Committee members held an open discussion with Provost Chris Clemens.
    • He announced the new Provost Distinguished Faculty Leaders Program, which would prepare mid-career and senior-level faculty for provost-level leadership.
    • The committee and Clemens spoke about N.C. House Bill 96, which would require students at public universities and community colleges in North Carolina to take at least three credit hours in civics classes to graduate.
      • Clemens suggested that much of the proposed curriculum is already taught at UNC.
      • Sue Estroff, professor of social medicine, expressed concern about the strictness of the bill. 
        • “It is different," she said. "We’re being told exactly what to teach and how. Just because we already do this, this is, in my mind, a very different move in terms of how the curriculum gets made.”
        • Barbara Entwisle, professor of sociology, expressed concern over the recruitment of faculty away from UNC.
  • The committee discussed language proposed by the UNC System detailing the grounds on which faculty can be fired. The language suggests a decrease in the amount of factual evidence of wrongdoing required in faculty hearings. With these changes, disruption to the University and failure to respond to emails from supervisors could lead to a faculty member’s dismissal.
    • Carissa Byrne Hessick, professor of law and interim chairperson of the Faculty Hearings Committee, explained the proposed policy and offered the committee advice on next steps. Hessick described the language as “vague” and “almost certainly overbroad.”
      • “I’m a criminal law professor, and I tend to take rules that are written about consequences very seriously,” she said. “But this would delegate a ton of power in order to discharge faculty members — much more than we have now — in a way that I just don’t think we want.”   
    • Multiple members of the committee expressed concern with the implications of the language.
      • Rumay Alexander, professor of nursing, expressed concern about the safety and well-being of faculty if the proposed language went into effect. 
      • “I think it is so frightening that it opens every single faculty member to weaponization of this policy and the process,” Anthony Charles, professor of surgery, said. “My question is, as the Faculty Executive Committee, what recourse do we have to push back hard against these changes?”
    • The FEC was asked to provide responses to the provost’s office by Thursday, and the committee worked to create a list of concerns to express. 
      • The committee concluded that the language is too broad and would be disruptive to UNC’s talent base. Members also agreed that the FEC should be able to review the response from the provost’s office. 

What’s Next?

The FEC will hold a faculty town hall on Monday, April 10 at 4 p.m. Its next regular meeting will take place on Monday, April 17 at 3 p.m.


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Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.