What’s Up with The Faculty?

Today the American Association of University Professors came out with their annual report on faculty salaries showing that wages for professors increased 2% “consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000’s.” Despite the first raise in several years occurring this year in the UNC system, salaries at UNC Chapel Hill remain behind our peers particularly for women and people of color. Combined with so much scandal and unrest, our faculty is highly vulnerable to poaching from better funded universities – often private, but not exclusively so – that can pay them better and perhaps provide a less politicized working environment.

Last week, someone asked a faculty member what they were doing this summer, “since you’re not teaching.” Faculty are asked versions of this question all the time, whether it’s summer or not. The implication is that if they’re not in the classroom, they’re gardening, playing golf, or on a multi-month vacation.  But a faculty member’s job both at research and teaching-focused institutions extends far beyond the classroom and is a year-round endeavor.  

Faculty come to an institution like UNC Chapel Hill because it is a research institution, a place that will support scholarship and allow them to contribute to solving current problems and to understanding both the past and the present. The faculty’s research mission is two-fold. First, to create knowledge through data collection, archival research, field studies, the use of artificial intelligence; work that happens at the bench and at the bedside, in the library and in the community. And next to disseminate the resulting knowledge through every imaginable channel – white papers on a website, peer-reviewed journal articles, interviews, and conferences, lay publications and twitter threads.  That dissemination is critical, because that is how the knowledge created here gets put to use by the larger society.  Much of that concentrated research work and dissemination happens after the typical 8 to 6 day and over “holidays” when the demands of the classroom are not as pressing. 

In addition to the classroom teaching most associated with faculty life, faculty members also spend copious hours with graduate students as they are becoming researchers in their own right. Chairing, editing, or otherwise overseeing their thesis or dissertation committees, writing letters of recommendation, helping graduate students prepare for presentations and job talks, supervising them in the classroom or in professional internships among other mentoring responsibilities also accounts for large chunks of faculty time. 

Faculty are regularly engaged in running the institution through hiring and awards committees, through curriculum revisions and updates, promotion, and tenure committees, just to name a few. For their disciplines and professions, they are editing journals, reviewing papers and grants for foundations and federal agencies. The number of hats most academics wear is astounding, and there is so much we’ve left out. No doubt being a faculty member is a privilege, just as being a CEO, a small business owner, or a partner in a law firm is a privileged position. But that does not make those roles easy or cushy as some may believe. Here at the Coalition for Carolina we want the public to have a better understanding of academic life to fully appreciate what UNC Chapel Hill does for our state. Understanding faculty life is one part of that. Send your questions and comments and we’ll attempt to address them.  

Submitted by:  Dr. Mimi Chapman – Chair, UNC Chapel Hill Faculty

Click the link below to access the full AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2021-22

AAUP Annual Report 2021-22

A Step-by-Step Political Power Grab

The News and Observer reports: The North Carolina House passed a bill last week, “just hours after it became public, that would take some power from the governor and give it to the legislature. It is the latest move by the Republican-majority General Assembly to take power from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. The bill would take control from the governor — and give it to the House and Senate’s top elected officials — to appoint seats on a local community college board, a move that has been done before. It is a local bill, meaning it cannot be vetoed by the governor.”

Last week we shared concerns from current and former Board of Governors members about a planned $115 million expenditure to relocate the UNC System office. The news about community college governance changes demonstrates that legislators are determined to find a way around the Governor’s veto power to work their will when it comes North Carolina’s public education systems and we have to ask; to what end? 

A look back at several public education governance actions paints an alarming and dangerous picture; especially when you consider Senator Berger’s expressed desire to create “synergies between the UNC System, the North Carolina Community College System, the state Department of Public Instruction and the state Department of Commerce”. He goes on to say that he’d like to see them all in one building – or at least one campus. “Maybe just one building, it may be a couple of buildings,” he said. “But I think they need to be in close proximity.”  Since the NC Community College office is right next to the legislature, “close proximity” could mean easy access for legislators. 

Recent actions, combined with those listed below, lead to this question; are these efforts part of a plan to completely transform public education in North Carolina?

  • An increased number of political allies running for local school boards–even in progressive areas like Durham and Chapel Hill–to exert more influence over K-12.

It’s Time for Action

If you are concerned about this, we urge you to make your concerns known.  You can do this by writing opinion pieces, contacting legislators, contacting members of the governing bodies, sharing content on social media platforms, and/or sharing your written comments with the Coalition so that we can republish them. You can find more contact information on our website

The time to act is now.  If you have something to say, The Coalition for Carolina will do what we can to amplify your message, but it will take more than just one voice to have an impact.  We urge you to speak up.

Two Concerning Issues for the BOG and BOT to Address

Below are two concerning governance issues that The Coalition for Carolina would like the Board of Governors and UNC Chapel Hill Trustees to address:

  1. Moving the UNC System offices to Raleigh and the possible consolidation of NC public education governance.

GOP Legislators passed a law to move the UNC System office with an eye towards achieving the consolidation that Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger refers to as; “synergies between the UNC System, the North Carolina Community College System, the state Department of Public Instruction and the state Department of Commerce…..[He’d] like to see them all in one building – or at least one campus….Maybe just one building, it may be a couple of buildings, …But I think they need to be in close proximity.”

With the new location being Raleigh, and the Community College System office being right next to the General Assembly, “close proximity” could mean close to the politicians, but this move does not have 100% buy-in. The move is so expensive and controversial that three current and one former Board of Governors members publicly expressed their concerns:

  • Art Pope:
    • “When law is made behind closed doors…, oftentimes it’s not the best legislation.” The transaction “lacks accountability and transparency,” 
    • “We have space here. It’s not costing us $15 million to maintain space here,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to hear about a tuition increase when we’re spending $15 million unnecessarily.”
    • Leo Daughtry:
      • IT SEEMS TO ME that politics has seeped under our buffer”. He added that the UNC System keeps a “political operative” on a retainer. 
      • “It is my opinion that the move from here to Raleigh was done purely on the basis of politics,” 
    • John Fraley: “The reasons to do this seem to be lacking,…This move is going to cost us a lot of money that we do not have to spend – and could cost us $100 million, ultimately.”
    • Lou Bissette: “Members of this board owe their fiduciary duty to the UNC System, and not to the body that appoints them,” 

We would like the Board of Governors to reconsider this move for the reasons stated above.

We’ve learned that this policy change has created huge challenges on campus and request that the UNC Chapel Hill trustees reverse it to fix the issues the new policy has created.

Could This Happen in North Carolina?

The Coalition was founded last summer to support and defend the University and its independence from partisan interference. We rededicated ourselves to the University’s promise of Lux Libertas—light and liberty—and the principles of open inquiry, free speech, academic freedom, equity and inclusion because we saw these principles at risk.

Over the past months we’ve stayed on mission and pointed out specific examples of how our concerns were playing out in hopes of slowing or stopping the damage.   We’re making an impact and recently, thankfully, things seem to have quieted down. 

While “quiet” is good, it may mean “not making headlines.”  Whatever is happening,  we are hopeful and will remain vigilant–not just to what’s happening in NC, but also to what’s going on in other states. To that end, a news report’s description of Governor Ron DeSantis’ Planned Sweeping Assault on Autonomy of Public Colleges in Florida caught our attentionas it paints an alarming picture:

A sweeping action to consolidate and centralize governance.

“Records obtained through a series of public-records requests show that DeSantis’ office recently developed a sweeping plan to overhaul higher-education oversight in Florida. The governor’s proposal would have centralized more power in boards run by the governor’s political appointees, made colleges and universities more dependent on money controlled by politicians in Tallahassee, and imposed more restrictions on what schools can teach….”The DeSantis plan would have even stripped university presidents of the ability to hire professors.”

Attacks on tenure, free speech, accreditation, the curriculum.

“They have passed laws ordering community colleges and state universities to dig up details about the personal political beliefs of their employees, making it harder for professors to maintain tenure, interfering with university accreditation, and threatening funding for schools that don’t fall in line with the governor’s efforts to control the teaching of slavery, segregation and institutional racism…”

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An expressed belief by leaders that the Florida public universities are too liberal.

“Over the past year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature have been on a crusade against public universities, tarring them as “intellectually repressive” and “socialism factories.”

As we consider what’s going on in Florida as well as other states such as South Dakota, the Coalition’s mission to preserve and protect UNC Chapel Hill from political interference becomes more vital than ever.    

Dr. Lloyd S. Kramer: Historical examples of why tenure became so important to academics

There was a famous case in 1900 at Stanford where a sociologist named Edward Ross was fired at the request of the main trustee Jane Stanford, the wife of the founder of the university, after Ross made public comments opposing Chinese immigration and favoring public ownership of utilities.  Both of these ideas were deemed to be socialists at the time because they were positions by held by labor unions.  The president of the university fired Ross. He lost his job.

The second famous case James Cattell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana were both fired at Columbia University

in 1917 for writing and speaking against US involvement and policies in World War I.

These are examples that aroused enormous outcry among faculty because people were speaking in the public square and they were losing their job within the university.

I want to give one other example and it has to do with UNC Chapel Hill and it’s especially relevant,  I think, because we know the history of our own university. This is an account of what happened in 1856 during the lead-up to the US presidential election.

An attack was made in the local press on an unidentified professor whose name was Benjamin Hedrick. He allegedly supported the anti-slavery candidate John C. Fremont, the Republican,  and the Raleigh Standard, the newspaper, said this would lead to a disaster, a separation of the states, and this was the quote;

 “Let our schools and seminaries of learning be scrutinized and if black Republicans [i.e., Fremont supporters] are found in them, let them be driven out.  That man is neither a fit nor a safe instructor of our young men who even inclines to Fremont and black Republicanism.” In this same newspaper shortly afterwards a letter to the editor appeared from someone calling himself an alumnus of UNC who said;  “Can the trustees of our own state university invite pupils to this institution under their charge with the assurance that this mainstream of education contains no deadly poison at its fountain head? We have been reliably informed that a professor at our state university [this man Hedrick] is an open and a valid supporter of Fremont and declares his willingness–nay his desire–to support the black Republican ticket. … Is he a fit or safe instructor for our young men?  …[O]ught he not be “required to leave,” at least be dismissed, from a situation where his poisonous influence is so powerful, and his teachings so antagonist to the “honor and safety” of the University in this State? …We must have certain security,… that at State Universities we will have no canker-worm preying at the very vitals of Southern institutions.

And what happened? The newspaper immediately said this (It’s like Fox News in 1856.):

 “We take it for granted that Professor Hedrick will be promptly removed.

And the next week the faculty disowned him; the parents threatened to withdraw their sons; and alumni joined the public in calling for his dismissal. He refused to resign and… he was terminated within a week, though his salary was paid to the end of the term.  The only faculty member to defend him was a French instructor named Henri Herrisse who was also terminated immediately at the same time. Hounded by a mob, Hedrick left his native state.

So, I have shared these historical examples because I want to suggest that tenure came about for two important reasons:

  • Number one, to protect the security and freedom of people to present whatever they believe to be the truth based on careful evidence in their classrooms and in their research
  • And secondly, to prevent trustees from arbitrarily firing any member of the faculty who exercises free speech rights outside the university.