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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Campus leaders determined to help restore public trust

Chair of the Faculty Bruce Cairns and Employee Forum Chair Charles Streeter discuss the upcoming academic year.

Chair of the Faculty Bruce Cairns, left,  and Employee Forum Chair Charles Streeter discuss the upcoming academic year.

Bruce Cairns, who is entering his second year as chair of the Faculty Council, and Charles Streeter, who is starting his third year as chair of the Employee Forum, represent different constituents, but they serve the same University. They are also bound by a shared goal for the new academic year: restoring public trust in the institution.

Cairns and Streeter said the completion of the Wainstein Report, a sweeping, eight-month outside investigation, proved that University leaders were determined to get to the bottom of academic fraud and to institute reforms to ensure it wasn’t repeated.

Building on a foundation

“What has happened over the past year laid the foundation that will allow us to address what are critical issues for the University,” said Cairns, a successful surgeon and director of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

“Now is the time for us to make sure we do what we said we would do. It has to be who we are.”

That review process has begun as part of the reforms that Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced last fall, including the creation of two working groups – one focused on policies and procedures, the other on ethics and integrity, Cairns said.

Streeter said the forum has exercised restraint as events unfolded over the past year to avoid making matters worse.

“If we add our voice to the discussion, we want to do it in such a way that we are not just adding to the noise,” said Streeter, a 1992 Carolina alumnus who has worked as an IT specialist in Student Affairs since 1995.

“We want to make sure that any suggestions we offer are very well thought out and adding to the conversation in a constructive manner.”

The Wainstein report also prompted further reviews by the NCAA and the regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

In May, the University received a notice of allegations from the NCAA as the next phase in its investigation of academic irregularities and possible bylaw infractions. In June, the SACSCOC placed Carolina on probation for one year because of past academic irregularities.

As important as those reviews are, Cairns and Streeter said, it is also important to restore confidence in Carolina among all of its many stakeholders, from state taxpayers who pay the bills to parents who trust the University to educate their children.

Difficult conversations

Both Streeter and Cairns also emphasized the importance of continuing the conversation about the University’s full history.

The Board of Trustees’ decision to remove the name of William L. Saunders, a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, from a University building did not end that discussion, Streeter said. It started it.

But Streeter said he was against the idea of removing statues such as Silent Sam, a monument erected in 1913 to honor University alumni who fought for the Confederacy and died in the Civil War.

It is not because he likes what it represents that he wants it to stay, he said.

“I am not in favor of a monument being removed because we don’t like it or because it makes us feel uncomfortable,” Streeter said, emphasizing he was expressing his personal views and not that of the forum.

“We need to feel uncomfortable.  Silent Sam needs to stay there
so that every time you walk by, you are reminded of the lineage of this institution. We need to be reminded so that we cannot allow ourselves to forget.”

Cairns agreed.

“A great public university is the place these kind of dialogues are supposed to happen,” Cairns said. “If you can’t have them here, where are you going to have them?”

Finally, both leaders said faculty and staff need to work together on a range of issues that affect faculty and staff, from parking to campus safety.

Streeter said another issue that is important to him is raising awareness about the role staff members have with students.

“One of the things that everyone is looking at is promoting student success. We need to do more to encourage staff members to recognize the vital link between the teaching faculty members do inside the class and the array of services that staff members provide outside of it to ensure students are getting what they need while they are here and are ready for the real world when they leave.”

Cairns credited Folt and her administrative team for creating an atmosphere that invites faculty, staff and students to raise tough questions and look for answers together rather than separately.

“I think what is really remarkable is that, even through these difficult times, we get along quite well,” Cairns said. “That is not a given everywhere. We are very fortunate here that we have wonderful leaders who are willing to listen to us.”