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Address to general faculty 2004-2005

Professor Mary Adams, senior Faculty Assembly Delegate
August 19, 2004 <

Download & listen to this speech (MP3)

This year, as Vice Chair of the University of North Carolina Faculty Assembly, I got to address the Board of Governors and recipients of their Teaching Award. The subject was good teaching. I said I hoped Board members had outstanding teachers, since they exert enormous control over the 16 universities to adopt, “ policies and regulations as they may deem wise." Though a student sits on the Board of Governors, no current faculty member may.

The speech did not go well.

But I use this story to illustrate why we need the Faculty Assembly. The Code, which is the UNC “bible,” says that although a chancellor should provide faculty “the means to give advice,” he or she has virtually unfettered power over each institution. The Code gives the Board of Governors power over almost everything else-- including, of course, the ability to revise the Code. The Board's decisions depend, in turn, upon the whims of legislators. When it's whispered from the bottom of this pyramid, then, faculty “advice” can easily be drowned out.

Enter the Faculty Assembly. As a body elected from each of the 16 campuses, our charge is to

•  gather and exchange information on behalf of the faculties of each institution

•  advise the UNC President, the Board of Governors, the General Assembly, and other governmental agencies on matters of faculty concern and university-wide importance.

In other words, even though this part of the program never gets printed in the Reporter , I thought you needed to hear it. Because the Faculty Assembly is the only means you have to express your concerns higher up the food chain, without going through an administrator.

I do not mean to criticize any particular administrator. But some, to paraphrase Orwell, are less equal than others, and in lesser hands so much power can have chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas. Just read the Chronicle . Across academe, administrative expenditures have risen while the ratio of tenure-track to non-tenure-track faculty has fallen. We struggle for resources even as we lose the vital power to dissent. So faculty, who are closest to both scholarship and students, must find ways to be heard. And we must stay informed.

To be heard, the Faculty Assembly talks to President Broad and her staff. Occasionally, we talk to Board members or legislators. And we make resolutions.

Resolutions don't always get immediate results. For example, the Assembly has asked for representation on the Board of Governors. We asked the State to fix our benefits package. We requested a more transparent, faculty-driven process for evaluating administrators. And we asked the UNC system to study and plan for “smarter” administrative growth.

Though some resolutions are symbolic, they show we're watching. For example, in 2002 and 2003 we asked for responsible funding of faculty and staff salaries and raises. We condemned the state's practice of withholding matching funds from our Retirement system. We supported Chapel Hill 's prerogative to teach the Koran to freshman.

And sometimes we get real results. For example, the Assembly had a major role in the recent shortening of the academic calendar and in the creation of the Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Report, which has helped to improve benefits and salary for many faculty. And though the governor's 2004 move to raise all our staff above the poverty level wasn't much, it was a start, and our resolutions were a part of that beginning.

But I believe the Assembly's best role is keeping you informed. Here are some of the things we learned and reported last year:

•  We learned how each campus allocated tuition increases to determine raises, and who received these raises. We also learned how big each chancellor's raise was.

•  We learned that UNC women are far more likely than men to be dissatisfied with their salaries.

•  We surveyed the 16 campuses about faculty governance and learned of glaring differences between institutions.

•  We learned the results of a TIAA-CREF study, in which our own faculty participated, of faculty approaching retirement age. Since an estimated 50% of UNC faculty now fall into this category, I'd like to share some key findings:

•  The mean income of all UNC participants in the study was $98,688. Sorry, Arts and Sciences.

•  M ost participants cited inadequate health care benefits and a devalued retirement package as reasons to delay their retirement.

•  M ost spent more time in teaching and service than researchers expected. M ost were active scholars.

•  The mean time participants spent at the same institution was 19 years.

•  Though 85% believed our institutions inadequately acknowledge and reward service, 92% said they would still choose an academic career if they had it to do over again.

•  Participants gained most career satisfaction from intellectual stimulation (98%) and the sense that their contributions had a positive impact on their institutions (95%).

•  The UNC summary of this report concluded: we have “a large pool of seasoned [senior and retiring] faculty eager to contribute, if institutions can find ways to support and harness their efforts.”

I'll conclude with one important issue coming before assembly this year: a resolution by the Athletics Task Force, whose goal was to help reform intercollegiate athletics and integrate them into the Academic mission of universities. This task force included WCU Faculty. It recommends that each campus form a Campus Athletics Board, the majority of whose members are faculty, selected through normal faculty governance processes. This Board should include a tenured, elected faculty representative who reports annually to the faculty senate.

You can get to our web site by clicking on “faculty & staff” at the top of WCU's home page. This year, your assembly representatives are Newton Smith, Mary Ann Nixon, and me. So if you have concerns you'd like us to raise, speak to us. Thank you.

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