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Faculty meeting prompted by Pope proposal cancelled

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Faculty meeting prompted by Pope proposal cancelled

Monday, May 8, 2006

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A special May 10 meeting of the general faculty was cancelled following modification to a funding proposal pending with the John W. Pope Foundation of Raleigh and the withdrawal of two proposed resolutions scheduled for discussion.

At issue is concern by some faculty about a $5 million, six-year College of Arts and Sciences proposal for studies in Western cultures to the Pope foundation.

The proposal includes additional first-year seminars, undergraduate research and study abroad fellowships, faculty fellowships and visiting faculty and speakers. Another portion of the proposal involves an Honors Foundation program.

Last week, Dean Bernadette Gray-Little wrote outgoing Faculty Chair Judith Wegner saying that the college had asked the Pope Foundation to delay consideration of the Honors Foundation component of the overall proposal until the Honors Advisory Board and the college’s Administrative Board could fully review and approve the curriculum.

The other proposal components, which have been reviewed by the Faculty Council, continue to be considered by the Pope Foundation, she said. A final decision by the foundation about those proposals could come later this month.

Andrew Perrin, assistant professor in sociology, withdrew the resolution he introduced at the April 21 Faculty Council meeting that called upon the University to remove its proposal from consideration by the Pope foundation, which funds a higher education center that has been critical of some faculty and the University in the past.

In a letter to Faculty Secretary Joseph Ferrell, Perrin said the withdrawal was prompted by the administration agreeing to most of the requests outlined in the resolution.

The special meeting was required under Faculty Council rules because Perrin did not provide proper advance notice when he tried to introduce it in April.

Wegner also withdrew an alternate resolution scheduled for discussion at the special meeting that dealt with issues including intellectual inquiry, the role of faculty, departments, schools and advisory bodies, external support and the pending Pope proposal.

Gray-Little, who will replace Robert Shelton as executive vice chancellor and provost in July, wrote that she understood the concerns of some faculty members.

“Apart from the specifics of the program contained in our proposal to the Pope Foundation, I understand there is an important issue at stake concerning academic freedom, which is intended to protect the rights of all faculty to freely engage in their academic research and teaching,” Gray-Little wrote.

“Neither the political views of our donors nor those of University colleagues should be used to obstruct the academic freedom of any faculty member. Please be assured that I remain fully committed to academic freedom for all members of our faculty.”

Wegner, in an e-mail to faculty, said Gray-Little provided information detailing the history of funding deliberations for Western cultures initiatives. That information has been added to the faculty governance web site, www.unc.edu/faculty/faccoun. The site includes the Pope proposal, drafts of which previously were shared widely.

In e-mail to faculty, Chancellor James Moeser said Provost Robert Shelton had charged Steve Allred to work with the development office, deans and other senior leaders to implement the recommendations of an April report outlining guidelines on donations and curriculum development. Those guidelines stress the need to involve faculty early in the process when potential donations affect the curriculum. That work is expected to be completed this fall.

“I believe we are all committed to the principles of productive discourse,” Moeser wrote. “We pride ourselves on a collegial environment. I believe this is a moment to reaffirm our commitment to that culture.”


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