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Faculty Executive Committee discusses chancellor search and curriculum at meeting

20220922_Board_of_Govenors-2.jpg
President Peter Hans speaks at a UNC Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 22, 2022, in the board room at the UNC Center for School Leadership Development.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article listed "Foundations of American Democracy" as a proposed three-credit-hour course and that North Carolina community colleges would be affected by the proposed change. The article has been updated to correct these statements. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Faculty Executive Committee met on Monday to discuss the Board of Governors' proposal to mandate Foundations of American Democracy” coursework, as well as the minimal faculty representation in the ongoing search for a new chancellor.

Members also mentioned a handful of graduate programs that have insufficient return on investment rates and discussed the need for more structured procedures at Faculty Council meetings.

What’s new?

  • Beth Moracco, the faculty chair, began by discussing responses to the surveys FEC members and all other faculty in the UNC System were requested to complete with feedback on the new proposed requirement of Foundations of American Democracy coursework.
    • The proposal said students enrolling in UNC System universities on or after July 1, 2025, will be required to engage with seven readings including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. 
    • Some FEC members expressed concerns about the authority UNC System President Peter Hans exercised over curricular matters in this case.
      • UNC School of Medicine professor Sue Estroff said Hans' role was “dictatorial.”
      • “I feel that, in the strongest terms, we have to mark this in a considered way because it goes so far, unless I'm naive and the president has always had this kind of power,” she said.
  • Sociology professor Barbara Entwisle said she also feels there should be more faculty input in curricular matters.
    • “What I do know is that the very best universities in this country, the ones that really are leading institutions within their states, within the country and globally, are the ones that look to faculty to provide that kind of leadership in the development of the curriculum and all of what they do to achieve the mission of the university,” she said.
  • Members also discussed how the mandated coursework could potentially impact the timeliness of students’ graduation, especially for STEM students.
    • Psychology and neuroscience professor Viji Sathy said that the general education curriculum was a faculty-driven process that took years to develop, and a lot of courses were cut out of consideration for the amount of time students have to complete required credit hours for degrees.
    • "What precedent might this set for courses in the future that might be deemed essential for students to partake in, let alone the resources required to implement a required course for all undergraduates at UNC or whoever has to take this requirement?" she said.
    • Feedback from the surveys expressed similar concerns about how the proposal has an unprecedented lack in development, given the implementation of the course could be as soon as next year. Other themes in the responses included thoughts that the material for the course is already covered in the K-12 curriculum.
  • As the search for a new chancellor continues, the committee shared concerns regarding the representation of different departments on the search advisory committee.
    • Moracco, who is on the search committee, said that there is no representation from the College of Arts and Sciences or the Graduate and Professional Student Government. Members discussed how the search for a chancellor should include more graduate and professional student input, as well as a broader spectrum of faculty.
    • Sathy said that people are not willing to give feedback if they think it will not be heard, so there should be a protocol to ensure their input is included, such as appointing a representative from each department.
    • "The faculty who are going to be here presumably longer than the students might feel like they have more stakes in it," biochemistry and biophysics professor Jean Cook said.

What’s next?

The FEC will meet again virtually on March 4 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Their next meeting will include representatives from the Department of Environment, Health and Safety to address the state of UNC-Chapel Hill campus buildings in light of North Carolina State University's toxic chemical concerns.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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