The last Faculty Council meeting of the academic year covered higher education issues in the state legislature, accessibility concerns and an update on salary equity review.
The April 21 meeting was also the final one for Chair Mimi Chapman, Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor for Human Service Policy Information in the School of Social Work, whose three-year term ends June 30. The council passed a resolution in appreciation for Chapman’s service.
The council’s next chair will be Beth Moracco, associate professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and associate director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. Moracco won the 2023 election, which concluded April 12.
Chapman reflected on a term dominated by COVID-19, saying that that the pandemic taught the faculty what it takes to reach a common goal. “This faculty is willing to dig in, to disagree, to make time, to listen, to learn, to try things and to persevere,” she said.
Moracco thanked Chapman for the legacy of her leadership and told council members in attendance at Kerr Hall and on Zoom, “Your vote of confidence means the world to me.”
Moracco plans to have more open forums. “We have an important voice in the future of the University, particularly as we navigate issues of curriculum, accreditation, promotion, inclusivity and free speech,” she said.
Chancellor and provost Q&A
Those issues came up in remarks by Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Provost J. Christopher Clemens and in the question-and-answer session that followed. In mentioning a bill filed April 18 in the state House that would eliminate tenure for future faculty hires, Guskiewicz emphasized that University leadership and staff will continue to talk with legislators about the value of tenure for the University and the state.
Likewise, he added, the University is watching closely any proposed state legislation affecting diversity, equity and inclusion that could impact Carolina’s eligibility for federal funding. So far, the legislature has requested information about DEI programs.
Guskiewicz assured council members that their elected officials appreciate their work. “I want you to know they love this great university,” he said, referring to recent meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
State legislators also “believe in you and in they believe in the University of North Carolina, so let’s just continue to work with them and work closely with the (UNC) System office on these issues,” the chancellor said.
Campus accessibility issues
In their presentation to the council, students from the accessibility advocacy group Tar Heels at the Table talked about building access and classwork accommodation issues and shared their “lived experience” with them.
The group’s chair, Eleanor Bolton, and member Christine Mendoza expressed concern that faculty are not required to take training in providing accommodations and that extracurricular activities and even some class content is not made accessible for students. The students encouraged faculty to take training that will be available through Accessibility Resources and Service in August.
They described their work with Christi Hurt of the chancellor’s office and Rick Wernoski of operational excellence to develop a strategic plan to update accessibility of classroom and lab spaces. Their group is also working with the College of Arts and Sciences’ computer science department to create an accessible navigation app for campus.
Campus accessibility “is a top priority for us,” Guskiewicz said in his remarks. He mentioned the work of teams in facilities, campus operations, student affairs and other units to make buildings more accessible and encouraged faculty to work closely with ARS to provide accommodations.
Salary equity update
Linc Butler, associate vice chancellor for human resources, gave faculty an update about the work of the Salary Equity Advisory Committee. The chancellor charged the committee in October 2022 to review University and UNC System policies and procedures related to compensation in response to a Faculty Council resolution. Butler said the committee is reviewing information compiled by the Committee on the Status of Women and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
Next steps for the committee include hearing from external assessment experts, reviewing salary policies at the school level for consistency and developing a website to keep everyone updated, Butler said.
Faculty Council also honored the memory of those faculty members who died in the past year with its annual In Memoriam presentation.