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Faculty Council discusses campus safety and affirmative action in Sept. 8 meeting

Kevin Guskiewicz, UNC Chancellor, spoke during a press conference outside of the Supreme Court of the United States after the conclusion of oral arguments in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. vs. the University of North Carolina on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.

Faculty Chair Beth Moracco, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens led the Faculty Council on Friday in a discussion about campus safety following a shooting on UNC's campus on Aug. 28.

During the meeting, the council passed a resolution honoring associate professor Zijie Yan as a scientist, mentor, friend and father. Associate Vice Chancellor and Senior University Counsel Kara Simmons and Executive Vice Provost Amy Hertel also discussed how UNC would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the UNC v. Students for Fair Admissions case.

Reflection on Aug. 28 campus shooting

  • In her introductions, Moracco acknowledged the heartache and fear that the UNC community carries following the shooting of Yan. She also praised the first responders and faculty on campus, who worked to protect each other and their students during the crisis.
- “This is the sacred ground where we do our life’s work, and having those spaces violated by violence and the specter of violence is a trauma that we all share and will continue to share moving forward,” she said.
  • Guskiewicz spoke about Yan’s contributions as both a scientist and as a friend to many on campus. He also thanked those who attended the Aug. 30 vigil for Yan.
- “I had the privilege of spending time, as did Provost Clemens and several others from the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, with Dr. Yan's family over the past 10 days, and others who knew him and know how deeply his loss will be felt,” he said.
  • Guskiewicz said he understands that some faculty felt unprepared for the emergency. The faculty will be able to submit comments and suggestions about future precautions and mitigation efforts through an online portal that will be active by this Wednesday, he said.

Campus safety

  • Kevin Stewart, professor of Earth, marine and environmental sciences, suggested that alerts should share a shooter’s known location on campus in future student safety warnings.
- “Knowing how far away you are from the incident can inform what you should do after receiving that alert,” he said.
  • Business professor Allison Schlobohm shared student concerns about the impact of the shooting on Asian-American students and asked about a planned University response.
- “We're very fortunate that [Counseling and Psychological Services] has a Mandarin-speaking counselor, and she was made available and has worked dutifully as part of the full campus response and availability of resources to students,” Clemens said in response.
  • Department of Romance Studies professor Helene De Fays raised the question of multilingual alerts during emergencies. She said students reported that some Spanish-speaking campus employees did not understand the warnings, which were communicated exclusively in English. 
- Guskiewicz said that the "issue will be addressed".

Resolution honoring Yan

  • Moracco read the resolution aloud in English and Chemistry Department Chair Wei You read a Mandarin translation.
- “We mourn the death of professor Yan and extend our deepest sympathy to his family, his students, his colleagues and other loved ones,” she said. “His legacy will live on through all of us, the scholarship of his students and his significant contributions to science.”
  • The resolution passed without objection following the reading.

Supreme Court decision update

  • Simmons summarized the decision held in the UNC v. SFFA case.
  • Hertel described UNC’s efforts to comply with this ruling, including undergraduate and graduate admissions staff no longer being able to see a prospective student’s voluntarily disclosed race or ethnicity in their UNC application.
  • Department of Pediatrics-Emergency Medicine professor Cheryl Jackson asked whether factors other than race, such as gender or other identities, could still influence an applicant’s chances of being accepted to a university. 

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- “The SFFA decision addresses only race and ethnicity, ​​so other characteristics like geographic diversity or socioeconomic diversity or even legacy status are not addressed by the decision,” Simmons said.

The Faculty Council will meet next on Oct. 6.

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