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FEC discusses Chancellor departure, discourse on campus during first meeting of 2024

Departing Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz spoke to the FEC during Monday's meeting.

As the University returns to campus for the spring semester, the Faculty Executive Committee met on Monday to hear from departing Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and discuss the transition to interim chancellor Lee Roberts, as well as the process of finding a permanent replacement.

Members also considered the creation of a new ad hoc committee to discuss when and how statements should be issued on behalf of the entire faculty, and talked about how to encourage constructive, respectful dialogue on campus.

Here’s the rundown.

What’s new?

  • Guskiewicz spoke to the FEC about his departure from UNC.
    • He said he has met with Roberts three times, and that Roberts is “asking really good questions.”
    • Chair of the Faculty Beth Moracco met with Roberts on Friday, and said the meeting was “very productive, very open.”
    • Anthony Charles, Oliver R. Rowe distinguished professor of surgery at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, mentioned past chancellors leaving and said “it appears that we’re losing the best and the brightest.” He asked Guskiewicz how the next chancellor could maintain stability.
      • Guskiewicz said there was a need to “continue to educate the University’s constituents,” including campus groups, alumni, the N.C. General Assembly, the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees about how the University is moving forward and each group’s respective role in decision-making.
    • The committee unanimously passed a resolution expressing the faculty’s “gratitude and admiration” for Guskiewicz’s “exemplary service” to the University and the state of North Carolina.
    • Moracco said she doesn’t yet know who is on the search committee for a new chancellor. The members will be selected by UNC System President Peter Hans in consultation with BOT Chair John Preyer
  • Secretary of the Faculty Jill Moore discussed the creation of an ad hoc committee to consider when the FEC or Faculty Council should make statements that are “more commentary in nature.”
    • Jean Cook, chair of the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department, said some faculty at the School of Medicine received a document saying not to make statements about controversial topics, and instead let the Chancellor’s office handle that messaging. 
      • “I think that the idea being just don’t send out an email, don’t send out a statement about anything that’s potentially controversial,” she said.
      • Cook also said the Chancellor’s office sometimes takes several days to make a statement, and that waiting for its response creates a situation where “our own communities are saying, ‘you clearly don’t care, or you haven’t noticed this thing is going on.’”
    • The committee discussed the distinction between speaking as individual faculty members and speaking as a collective body.
      • Moore said some faculty have disagreed with previous statements issued by the committee, and the ad hoc committee should discuss how to incorporate differing views.
      • Andy Hessick, Associate Dean for Strategy & Planning at the UNC School of Law, mentioned the possibility of including dissenting views on statements.
    • Moore said the next step is figuring out who should serve on the ad hoc committee.
  • Moracco said the tone of discourse at higher education institutions across the country has become “uncivil” and sometimes “hateful,” and asked the committee about the faculty’s role in promoting a respectful and empathetic dialogue on campus.
    • “We often have found certain voices talk more than others because of their comfort level, and I think our job is to try to pull out, in an inclusive way, the different voices,” Meg Zomorodi, a professor at the School of Nursing, said.
    • Misha Becker, chair of the Linguistics Department, suggested asking the Program for Public Discourse to speak with the Faculty Council about best practices for engaging in difficult discussions with multiple points of view.
      • Claudia Yaghoobi, director of the Center for the Middle East & Islamic Studies, said she works closely with the PPD and they are currently preparing a guide for organizing discussion-focused events.
  • Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens are planning to attend the next Faculty Council meeting on Jan. 19.

What’s next?

The FEC will meet again on Monday, Jan. 29 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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