Higher Ed, race

UNC System Racial Equity Task force launches community survey, pushes deadline to December

The UNC System Racial Equity Task Force  has extended the deadline for its final report to the UNC Board of Governors. It will now deliver the report December 16 rather than in October, as was previously announced.

The task force launched a system-wide community survey Tuesday that will collect suggestions for that final report.

UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison, chair of the Racial Equity Task Force

“We have spent the last few months learning from students, faculty, staff, listening to ideas that will help us improve the UNC System,” said UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison, chair of the task force, in a statement Tuesday. “As we continue examining our policies and asking tough questions, I know we’ll come away with some excellent ideas for strengthening our System.”

The board of governors established the task force in June “to examine the legacy of race and racism in North Carolina’s public higher education system.” The group’s work has focused on three major priorities: equity in the recruitment and overall academic experience for students, equity in employee recruitment, hiring, promotion, and leadership opportunities, and building and maintaining safe, inclusive campuses, where students and employees feel a sense of belonging.

The task force was assembled after board members and faculty from various schools called for the system to concentrate on long-neglected race equity issues. It was instigated by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the resulting weeks of international protest against police violence and systemic racism.

“George Floyd died a horrible, violent, and unjust death at the hands of a white police officer,” UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper wrote in a message to members in June. “This immoral and indefensible act cries out for justice and compels all of us fully to recognize and grapple with our country’s history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence. As members of the University community, it is our obligation and responsibility to do the hard work needed to address inequities in the UNC System for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and all North Carolinians.”

The force’s next public meeting is scheduled for October 7.

Education, Higher Ed

UNCG faculty oppose potential changes to chancellor search process

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Faculty Senate and the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors are opposing a change to how chancellors are selected for UNC System schools.

As Policy Watch reported in July, new UNC System President Peter Hans has proposed changes that would allow the system president to insert final candidates into search processes that traditionally happened at the Board of Trustees level.

Under the current system, an individual school’s board of trustees conducts an independent search and forwards at least two finalists to the UNC System President. The president chooses a final candidate to submit to a final vote by the UNC Board of Governors.

Hans’s proposed change would allow the UNC System president to add up to two candidates to search process. Those candidates would go through the same interviews as other candidates, but would automatically move forward as part of a slate of finalists for the position.

UNC System President-elect Peter Hans.

In effect, the president would have the power to insert finalists into the search process without approval from the board of trustees. The president would then choose a final candidate from a slate that, in part, he or she already had chosen.

The UNC Board of Governors is expected to vote on the change at its regular meeting Thursday.

“These proposed changes will undermine the integrity of these important searches,” the UNCG chapter of the AAUP wrote in a statement on the issue. “First, the changes will discourage high quality candidates of national and international standing from entering a search when the results can be easily overridden. Second, citizens of integrity will not serve the many hours required by these important searches if their efforts can be ignored.  Finally, the substantial costs paid by the taxpayers of North Carolina to hire executive recruiting firms will be for naught if the President of the UNC system can determine the result of any chancellor search.”

“The UNCG Faculty Senate has voted unanimously in opposition to this proposal, and the UNCG Chapter of AAUP joins our Senate in unanimous opposition to this proposal,” the chapter wrote in its statement.  “We call upon our campus leaders to fight this proposal:  Chancellor Frank Gilliam, Provost James Coleman, the deans of our respective schools, and our Board of Trustees.  We are dismayed by this proposal as we know you must be, and you have our support to publicly oppose this policy change.  UNCG faculty and students will fight for shared governance and stand with you when you stand with us in opposition to this  policy change.”

Faculty at East Carolina University has also condemned the proposed changes, as has Higher Ed Works, one of the state’s leading higher education non-profits.

 

Education, Higher Ed, News

East Carolina University faculty oppose potential changes to chancellor search process

The East Carolina University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) passed a resolution this week condemning proposed changes to the chancellor search process at UNC System schools.

As Policy Watch reported in July, new UNC System President Peter Hans has proposed changes that would allow the system president to insert final candidates into search processes that traditionally happened at the Board of Trustees level.

Under the current system, an individual school’s board of trustees conducts an independent search and forwards at least two finalists to the UNC System President. The president chooses a final candidate to submit to a final vote by the UNC Board of Governors.

Hans’s proposed change would allow the UNC System president to add up to two candidates to search process. Those candidates would go through the same interviews as other candidates, but would automatically move forward as part of a slate of finalists for the position.

In effect, the president would have the power to insert finalists into the search process without approval from the board of trustees. The president would then choose a final candidate from a slate that, in part, he or she already had chosen.

The ECU AAUP resolution calls the proposed changes “a radical and dangerous expansion in the powers of the system President and would eradicate institutional sovereignty and shared governance in the process where it is most critical; that is, in choosing an executive leader who has the trust and support of the University community.”

The changes are particularly of interest at ECU, which is currently holding a chancellor search. In February two trustees told Policy Watch that N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) was aggressively seeking the chancellor’s position. The board, which has been divided on a number of contentious issues, has seen tensions over whether Moore’s candidacy would be a flagrant conflict of interests.

Several board members said they do not believe it would be proper for one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, responsible for appointing members of both the Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors, to take a job on which those boards would ultimately vote.

In February Joseph Kyzer, Moore’s communications director, responded to Policy Watch’s questions about whether Moore is seeking the chancellorship.

“Speaker Moore is seeking re-election to the state House in 2020, plans to run for another term as Speaker if elected, and is focused on serving higher education students and campuses through his position in the General Assembly,” Kyzer said Wednesday.

Kyzer did not respond to a follow-up question asking whether Moore’s run for re-election would preclude him from also seeking the chancellorship at ECU.

Moore’s office has not responded to subsequent questions about his interest in the position, including inquiries made after and about Hans’s proposed changes.

Questions and interview requests to Hans have gone unanswered. The phone number listed for him on the UNC System website connects to a number that does not have an active voice mail box.

Several members of the UNC Board of Governors and members of various boards of trustees have expressed concerns about what the changes could mean for the process.

One of the state’s leading higher education groups, Higher Ed Works, has also editorialized against the proposed changes.

Below, read the ECU chapter of the AAUP’s statement in full.

COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News

UNC System employee lawsuit over COVID-19 working conditions moves to mediation, may be settled out of court

The lawsuit filed earlier this month by UNC System employees alleging unsafe working conditions in the COVID-19 pandemic may be settled out of court, according to the judge assigned to the case.

“I was informed earlier this evening by attorneys in this case that all parties seek a continuance of tomorrow morning’s scheduled hearing on a temporary restraining order,” Superior Court Judge W. David Lee wrote in a statement late Thursday. “The basis for their request is that, with the Court’s permission, they have agreed upon a mediated settlement conference which can be scheduled for next week.  Their hope is to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of all issues at this conference.  I have granted their request. Recognizing that this is a high profile case I deem it appropriate to issue this statement for the benefit of the general public and the media.”

Since the suit was filed earlier this month many of the UNC system’s largest schools — including N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University — have moved all undergraduate instruction online. UNC-Charlotte announced it would begin the Fall semester online next month but would not hold in-person classes until Oct.1. A number of the plaintiffs in the suit are instructors at UNC system schools, including those who have moved most instruction online. At UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and N.C. State dormitories have been reserved for those with hardships or a need to live on campus.

COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News

N.C. State reverses course, will move students out of dorms as COVID-19 infections rise

Last week, when N.C. State announced it would move all undergraduate courses online in the face of infection clusters on campus, school leaders said they planned to keep residence halls open and allow students to stay on campus.

But with a positive test rate of more than 34%, the school announced Wednesday that it is reversing that decision.

“Over the past few days, our campus community has experienced a quickly rising number of positive cases of COVID-19 in both on- and off-campus housing,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a message to the community Wednesday. “We hoped and strived to keep residence halls open and safe to best serve our students. However, the rapid spread and increasing rate of positive cases have made our current situation untenable.”

“NC State students who occupy university housing are instructed to schedule a time to move out of on-campus residences, beginning tomorrow, unless an exception is granted,” Woodson said in the message. “To help ensure physical distancing, move-out will occur over an 11-day period, by appointment, beginning Thursday, Aug. 27, and ending Sunday, Sept. 6.”

Woodson also addressed refunds for housing and a new date for students to withdraw from classes.

From the message:

We’re committed to working with all of our on-campus residents closely in the days ahead to ensure a safe move-out process. University Housing will send more specific information to all on-campus residents this afternoon. Residents of Greek Village will be provided separate information from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

I tremendously appreciate our many staff and faculty who worked so hard to try to make the on-campus experience a possibility for our students. I am also sincerely thankful to the vast majority of our students who joined in and did their part to protect the Pack. Despite these many efforts, the virus continues to swiftly spread across campus. We made today’s decision with the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff as our top priority.

We also want to give students and their families time to make important decisions around continuing the semester before the new fall census date, which is this Friday, Aug. 28.

Students will receive prorated refunds for unused portions of housing and dining for the fall semester. Students currently in on-campus quarantine or isolation must be cleared by Student Health Services before moving out.

Current residents can apply for waivers to remain in on-campus housing for a number of reasons, but our goal is to reduce the on-campus population significantly. Additional information about the special circumstances housing waiver request process is forthcoming from University Housing.

Last week N.C. State reported 46% of all the students tested on campus through student health services from from Aug. 19 -23 were positive for COVID-19.  Those numbers include testing through student health services, self-reports, local health authorities, and other information sources, according to the school.

This week the school reported a 34.02% positive rate — a total of 116 students testing positive through student health services and 161 through surveillance and other testing. The school reported that 46 students tested positive on Tuesday, August 25 alone.