Address to general faculty 2004-2005
Professor Mary Adams, senior Faculty Assembly Delegate
August 18, 2005
Assembly Report for the Fall 2005 General Faculty Meeting:
I’m Mary Adams, outgoing Vice Chair of the UNC Faculty
Assembly. Because this year’s delegation is brand new,
I’m here as the retiring delegate to tell you what Faculty
Assembly is. I brought some visual aids you can take with
you—kind of like the student welcome packets, only without
The Faculty Assembly is the elected body of representatives
of the faculty of the sixteen campuses of the University of
North Carolina. Its objectives are (1) to gather and exchange
information and (2) to advise the powers that be (President,
Board of Governors, interested legislators, campuses, and
others) about faculty concerns.
Based on its size, Western sends three delegates to Faculty
Assembly. As Mary Ann Nixon and I retire, this year’s
delegates will be Newton Smith, Gary Jones, and Sharon Jacques.
Delegates meet four times a year. Each belongs to a subcommittee
that deals with Academic Freedom and Tenure, Faculty Welfare,
Development, Planning, Governance, Budget, or Technology.
Our senior delegate reports to the senate after each Assembly
meeting, but this is your only chance to hear from us directly.
The Assembly’s first objective, the gathering and exchanging
of information, is its crucial task. Last year we brought
your concerns about self-governance, salary, benefits, and
academic freedom to a forum that included the Office of the
President and the Board of Governors. We learned a lot, too.
This year we learned faculty are actually overpaid. For example,
a faculty member at UNC Asheville makes $172,000 to “prepare
to teach.” (Turns out, he’s a former chancellor).
I’ve learned how others perceive us. For example, one
delegate from Charlotte took part in a videoconference with
Western. He saw so many administrators and so few teachers,
he wondered if we were “phasing out” instruction.
And sometimes we learn how others have tackled the problems
we face. For example, UNC Greensboro authored a Teaching and
Technology policy that guarantees its faculty ownership of
online curriculum. Why does Western need such a policy? Take
a look at the underlined portions of our University
Policy #84 on Copyright, on the back of your handout.
Its current language allows Western to use your electronic
course materials for any “educational” purpose.
Your syllabi and notes could be made into web modules for
use by proctors or graduate assistants, who will work for
even less than you.
What’s more, if the university finds you developed
your course materials with “exceptional use” of
their resources, they could claim your materials for themselves
and regulate even your access to them. That’s why a
former head of the Assembly’s Technology Committee loads
only handwritten notes, scanned into Adobe Acrobat, on his
web site. For those of you using WebCT, think long and hard
about what materials you load onto university-owned servers.
No one suspects our University officials of framing these
policies to make faculty obsolete. But where there is leeway
for abuse, each one of us must be wary, especially in a world
changing so fast that none of us can imagine the nature of
academic life in 20 or 30 years.
The Assembly meets its second objective--advice to governmental
agencies, to the president, or to the campuses—through
its official actions or resolutions. Many are symbolic, but
some can have lasting consequences. One
important resolution—on the first three pages of your
handout—took over a year to research, write, and
ratify. It sets minimum standards of shared governance that
all campuses should meet. By looking at other campuses, we
learned that Western’s governance is exemplary in many
ways. But let me point out a few places where we still fall
- Under Faculty Governance Responsibilities, item number
2. Note that in all cases of creation, change, or elimination
of departments, colleges, majors, and programs, these actions
should be initiated and approved by faculty representatives
who are elected by faculty, not appointed by administration.
- Under the same heading, items 5 and 7. Note that all university
policies affecting faculty, and all honorary degrees we
confer, must be approved by elected faculty representatives.
- Under Administration-Faculty Collegiality, item number
3. Note that faculty should be given meaningful input into
such matters as the budget, campus master plan, and building
construction. You can tell who had a say in our master plan.
They still have parking.
- Under the same heading, numbers 8, 9, and 10. Read carefully
what the Assembly advises about the appointment and term
limits of deans and department heads. Note also that faculty
should regularly evaluate the performance of senior administrators.
In the past, we have not always attended perfectly to Assembly
recommendations. For example, three years ago, the Assembly
endorsed a report on the welfare of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty.
It recommended such faculty be included in decision-making
processes at the department, college, and university level,
particularly those affecting their own responsibilities and
employment conditions. We still have a long way to go to make
However, our Faculty Chair will now be one of our delegates.
Under Newt’s direction, the Academic Freedom and Tenure
committee will grapple with a growing trend: pressures from
religious and other interest groups to legislate our curriculum.
In several states, proponents of the so-called Academic Bill
of Rights have attacked what they perceive as a liberal bias
in subjects ranging from Biology to Freshman Comp. While the
Office of the President works to head off such attacks, they
warn us to expect more of them.
Academic people are notoriously private. We work alone, guarding
the halcyon inner life that makes us curious and wise. But
before we can park, we must learn where they have moved our
parking space. Consider that a metaphor for vigilance.
It has been my privilege to represent Western at the UNC
Faculty Assembly. I know our new delegates, Gary and Sharon,
will be a credit to that body. I look forward to learning
from them. Thank you.