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Anger, irritation abound on UNC Strategic Plan

By Kelly Mayo

January 29, 2013

Photo by Ashley Cole
Students, faculty and staff fill the Annex on Jan. 15 to learn about UNC's Strategic Plan.

More than 100 faculty, staff members and students attended a forum on the UNC Strategic Plan in the UC Annex on Jan. 15.

Many came to voice their opinions on the plan's contents and what they viewed as the too-rapid process of the plan's approval.

Chancellor Kyle R. Carter, Provost Ken Kitts, Dean of Arts and Sciences Mark Canada and Faculty Senate Chair Susan Cannata led the discussion on the contents and approval process for the plan, titled "Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact With North Carolina." The draft of the document was released on Jan. 7.

The plan contains ideas for UNC system growth and adjustment to a more numerous and diverse student population in the years 2013 to 2018.

Content complaints

Some audience members had problems with the contents of the Strategic Plan.

English and Theatre Assistant Professor M.J. Braun said that she did not like the repeated use of the term "efficiency" in the plan.

"Efficiency" is a market term. Students learn at their own pace...through various strategies and methods of teaching, Dr. Braun said.

Department of Biology Chair David Zeigler disliked how the plan limited the number of hours required for degree attainment for the sake of employers who want new workers quickly.

"I am totally offended and totally frightened," Dr. Zeigler said.

Department of Mass Communication Associate Professor Judith Curtis said that some aspects of the plan that will be implemented in the 2013-14 year, such as new advising procedures, will cost money, time and training, and will rush faculty members too much.

Approval process complaints

Chancellor Carter said that a "summary of themes" from the forum will be presented to UNC President Tom Ross on Jan. 18. The UNC Board of Governors will vote on the plan in February, a month after the plan was drafted.

Some guests disliked this process.

Dr. Braun said that the writers of the plan should hold a public forum on the plan before it is voted on.

Technology Support Analyst Wes Frazier said that when something is rushed through approval, "in general, we wonder why there's such a short time."

Dr. Cannata said that faculty concerns raised by faculty representatives from all the campuses include making sure the plan ultimately protects faculty control of curriculum, integrity to individual campus missions, resources for research and support at all 16 campuses and "a realistic assessment to acknowledge diverse campuses."

Liberal arts questions

Several faculty members took exception to what they saw as a snubbing of liberal arts education in the plan.

"There's really no mention of the humanities besides...German language," Dr. Cannata said.

English and Theatre Associate Professor Cynthia Miecznikowski talked about her post-graduate job in an advertising office in New York where she had to write, conduct research and do math.

"The people who wrote the report were probably trained in the liberal arts and sciences," she said.

While the plan does not explicitly mention liberal arts education, it does set a goal for core general education programs, which include "critical thinking and quantitative analysis...communication skills," and "historical and social perspective."

Finding the sugar

Not all of the comments were critical of the plan. Dr. Curtis praised UNCP's strengths, including the Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of American Indian Studies.

"We are positioned well in teacher education. I think we are strong in health care," Dr. Curtis said.

Chancellor Carter and Dr. Kitts tried to calm guests' fears about the Strategic Plan.

"You are probably bewildered, confused or maybe concerned about the process...we share your feelings," Dr. Kitts said.

Dr. Carter said that he will defend faculty tenure, curriculum control and the "one size does not fit all" approach to higher education, but that the University must follow whatever decision the Board of Governors makes.

"I don't have the stand up and refuse to do something," he said.

He also said that he and Dr. Kitts will do everything they can to make the transition as smooth as possible if the Strategic Plan is approved.

"If this plan is approved in February as is, the Provost and I shift immediately into, 'some of this is a lemon.' Where can we find the sugar to make lemonade?" Dr. Carter said.

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