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FEC discusses free speech, distinguished professorships in Monday meeting


The UNC Faculty Executive Committee reviewed a resolution concerning the right to free speech and protest on Monday afternoon. 

Committee members also discussed plans to counter the Board of Governors' recent attempt to cut fund matching for non-STEM distinguished professors, as well as ways to communicate more efficiently with the general faculty. 

Here’s the rundown.

What’s new?

  • Mark McNeilly, a professor of marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, introduced a resolution to the FEC regarding protests, free speech and impartial law enforcement. 
    • “Protests are an ongoing fact of life,” McNeilly said. “Given that, I thought it was useful to lay out some principles that I think our faculty would agree that we should uphold.”
    • His proposed resolution has several key points: 
      • Supports the right to free speech and to protest, while asking that protests comply with the law and University policy in a way that supports academic freedom, free expression and safety.
      • Asserting that law should be applied impartially and consistently.
      • Says the University should provide education, training and resources to faculty, staff and students as to what their rights and responsibilities are through the First Amendment. It provides clear and specific guidance to administrators on executing institutional neutrality.
      • Asks faculty to the example by ensuring an environment where every member of the academic community can fully pursue knowledge. 
    • Andy Hessick, a professor at the UNC School of Law, said that sometimes it is not the right call to enforce a law.
      • "The world would be a complicated place if we all got arrested for jaywalking every day,” Hessick said.
    • Meg Zomorodi, a professor at the UNC School of Nursing, said that things like protests happen naturally, and there is not going to be a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
    •  “I don’t think we can address every single faction as comprehensively as we should,” Anthony Charles, professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said.
  • Faculty chair Beth Moracco announced a new policy that limits the Endowed Distinguished Professor fund to only professors in STEM fields. Jill Moore, an associate professor at the UNC School of Government, said a policy revision to comply with the new state law has passed through the Committee on Education Planning, Policies, and Program within the BOG but will not be voted on by the full BOG until November. 
    • Under the new policy, she said, the state is attempting to limit Endowed Distinguished Professorship funding for non-STEM departments. 
    • Sue Estroff, professor of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, said the policy is yet another legislative incursion into University business.
      • "I mean, it’s just one more amputation, legislative amputation of the University's guts,” Estroff said. “These professorships are what push us forward, what help us to bring the best and brightest to the campus.” 
    • Barbara Entwisle, a professor of sociology, said that she is outraged and offended by this policy. 
    • Misha Becker, a professor of linguistics, said that the faculty needs to rally support for the humanities and that it is going to take everybody across the spectrum of disciplines to do so. 
    • Associate professor of radiology Joy Renner said getting something out there, such as an op-ed or letter, before the BOG votes on this policy is important. 
    • “We’re not playing the short game. I think we lost the game but I want to win the tournament,” she said. 
  • Renner, who is also chair of the Faculty Committee on University Government, informed the committee that messages have been sent out to all chairs of appointed and elected committees, asking them to review their charges and composition.
    • Renner said this is to ensure that there is no overlap between committee responsibilities or gaps, and asked committee chairs to let the Faculty Committee on University Government know if there is something they feel needs to be considered.
    • Some committees have seemed to age out of their usefulness, Morocco said. 
    • Renner said that there is no timeline for these potential changes – this is just a topic she wants committees to begin thinking about. 
  • Moracco asked members for suggestions on how to improve communication between the FEC and the broader faculty. 
    • She said she hears from individual faculty often but wants to hear the voice of the faculty as a whole.
    • Misha Becker suggested a survey, so the FEC could hear from a wide range of respondents.
    • Zomorodi said she would like to inform the faculty of how they can get involved and how they can join the nominating committee. 
    • An anonymous suggestion box could be a way to remove that power dynamic and get more input from the faculty, Moracco said. 
    • “The more interaction we have and the more that they see us as, you know, people who are doing this work for the University, the better,” she said. 

The FEC will meet again on Monday, Nov. 13 from 3-5 p.m. 

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article did not specify that the new policy on distinguished professorships was not created by the BOG. The Board revised a policy to comply with a change in state law.

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