October 30, 2012 Executive Committee minutes
Members Attending (those who signed in): Dan Barmmer, David Fraley, James Holman, Christina Lebonville, Arlene Medder, Jackie Overton, Charles Streeter
Chair Jackie Overton called the meeting to order at 11:30 a.m. She noted that she would need to miss some time at work due to upcoming surgery. She felt blessed to make the best of a bad situation and said that her condition would not require chemotherapy or radiation treatment. It was noted that there was not a quorum present for the day’s meeting. The Chair asked Matt Banks to prepare a proposal on removing the Forum copier and replacing it with existing computer equipment. The Chair noted improvements to her position that she hoped would be implemented once she leaves office.
Charles Streeter spoke on the new Forum website. The Chair hoped that the website would be launched in December. There was a question as to whether the Forum wants to eliminate identifying information about delegates on the website. The Chair noted that some staff do not have access to the campus directory which would replace this information on the website. The committee agreed to keep the identifying information on the website. Streeter raised another question as to whether the Forum wanted to have discussion boards on its new site. Streeter proposed that such discussion boards be anonymous but moderated and require a UNC onyen to insure affiliation with the University. The Chair liked this idea. She asked that Streeter and Banks work on rules for posting on the discussion boards to avoid profanity and other problems. The Chair noted that anonymous complaints do not find favor in Public Safety.
Concerning the survey for the new Chancellor, the Chair said that some of the students’ questions were not staff oriented. The Chair noted that the Chancellor’s search committee decided to offer a general survey for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the general community. The committee will hold forums the next week, with the staff forum to take place Wednesday, November 7 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. The Chair directed that this information be transmitted via the Forum listserv. The Chair confirmed that the Forum would not need to create its own survey given the search committee’s work in this area.
Christina Lebonville read resolution 12-03, concerning the 2013-18 strategic plan for UNC. The committee agreed that it would be a good idea to consider suspending the rules and passing the resolution on first reading in November. The Chair asked that Banks send out the resolution to the Forum current listserv notifying delegates about this possibility. Christina Lebonville agreed to become the new Division 8 representative to the Executive Committee, replacing Alpa Vaghani who had to resign from this position.
The Chair asked for topics for the Vice Chancellor/Provost meeting on November 8. James Holman noted concerns that managers are opening some staff employees’ mail. Dan Barmmer wanted to hear an update on archiving personnel files and other documents. Lebonville asked for a topic on the use of the tuition waiver for staff. The Chair asked that Banks produce a list of topics from the previous month by Thursday.
Arlene Medder reported that the Carolina Campus Community Garden had discussed expanding the footprint of the garden. The committee was studying installation of a greenhouse on the property. Holman noted that a benefit is scheduled for November 13. Charles Streeter reported that the Education and Career Development committee is working on proposals for professional development grants, among other items. James Holman said that the Personnel Issues committee is working on parking issues related to the Cardinal and Dogwood decks. David Fraley reported he had missed the three previous Housekeeping Advisory committee meetings. He said his building had been short of workers for a long period. The Chair directed that the status of the Advisory Committee be one of the items for the Vice Chancellor/Provost meeting. Fraley worried that the minute taking process for this committee was one-sided. The Chair felt certain that the Chancellor wanted to finish his work in this area properly.
The Chair reported that Maryland football tickets are available in her office. Christina Lebonville said that a forum on transplanting traditions will take place November 11 at 4 p.m. James Holman asked how the new State health provider reported on in the current Daily Tar Heel would affect staff. The Chair confirmed that this new provider would be only for students’ health plan coverage.
The Chair introduced NC Policy Watch director Chris Fitzsimon to hold a conversation on his article, “The Real Threat to UNC.” She recalled that David Brannigan had raised the issue of the Pope Foundation at the rally for Chancellor Thorp the previous month. Brannigan asked delegates to refer to this article. The Chair invited attendees to have a conversation around this article. Fitzsimon thought that the future of UNC was in debate with the new strategic plan. The new strategic planning committee will feature the UNC System President and Chair of the Board of Governors, as well as four people who are large donors to the GOP, as well as one representative of faculty, students, and staff each. Fitzsimon thought that the planning committee would put the mission of the University System up for grabs. He believed that President Ross and the chancellors of the University System have their heart in the right place regarding planning for the University’s future. He recalled the work of UNC Tomorrow, an imperfect but better process for planning. The new planning committee will feature Art Pope and Fred Eshelman, two principle funders of rightchange.com, an organization that worked to elect a GOP majority that cut $682 million from the University System this past year. These cuts resulted in an 8.8% raise in tuition, on average, and a 22% cut in need-based scholarships. Fitzsimon said that President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis will also serve on the planning committee after having led the way for these cuts. Fitzsimon questioned how much independence the committee will hold given Berger’s and Tillis’ position on the committee. Fitzsimon thought that the intellectual freedom and integrity of the University workforce were at stake. He said that the Pope Center for Higher Education had advocated letting kids out of high school at age 14 and advocating cuts in the UNC Cancer Center and other branches of government. The Center advocated a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” that would replace personal and income taxes with a consumption tax.
Fitzsimon noted a recent interview with President Bill Friday in which he said he hoped that business leaders would put aside their differences and work for the good of the University. Fitzsimon thought that this committee, based on its policy statements, wanted to create virtual charter schools for profit and to remove the safety net for those most in jeopardy. Fitzsimon did not think that North Carolina’s progressive spirit would tolerate these changes. He thought that academic freedom was under attack. Debby Stroman asked how much of this change resulted from racial motivations versus socioeconomic factors. Fitzsimon thought that both factors play a part. He recalled the difficulty in getting historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) funded enough to ensure the dorms were safe to inhabit. Anne Whisnant noted a great amount of concern among some faculty about these issues whereas other faculty members are not overly upset. These latter faculty members think that President Ross had worked to bring in these decision-makers to educate them on strategic planning issues facing the University. Fitzsimon noted that budget projections presented to the strategic planning committee failed to note the elimination of certain taxes that would decimate the University. No one on the committee asked Tillis or Berger what assurances that they would give about the University’s future budget. Fitzsimon noted that the legislature will elect the next 16 representatives to the Board of Governors. Bill Race asked how important that the impact of these changes be reported. Fitzsimon said that of the probable new GOP governor and heads of the General Assembly, none had attended public universities. He thought that the State was faced with a political courage crisis, not a budget crisis. He thought that the Legislature should fund and provide oversight of the University System, not to set detailed priorities for the University’s function.
Fitzsimon noted that people in System institutions across the State are worried about these impending changes, but most other North Carolina citizens are not. He said that the Pope Center is working every day to dismantle the University System. He said that no progressive group is working to promote the University System in response. Dan Barmmer asked if any members of the strategic planning committee mirror Fitzsimon’s views. Fitzsimon said that Senator Floyd McKissick and State Treasurer Janet Cowell present possibilities, and the chancellors will raise issues when they can. However, these members are not in charge. He said that if the committee is determined not to have more faculty, staff, and students on the committee, it should at least commit to more public meetings. Debby Stroman found it difficult to be optimistic given the difficulties Fitzsimon conveyed. Fitzsimon said that these changes will not happen if North Carolinians will not let them happen. Anne Whisnant asked what citizens could do to counteract this movement. Fitzsimon said that progressives do not inform themselves about State policies unless they are directed affected. He noted that UNC Public TV and other media do not do a good enough job explaining NC State government issues. He said that even the Raleigh News & Observer is not covering the planning committee enough in comparison to ten years ago. James Holman asked about the impulse to privatize the prison system and the possible effect on the University. Fitzsimon noted the flirtation with private prisons that make real money for corporations. He said that privatizing the prisons is a big goal among some who wish to shrink the government. David Brannigan thought that staff were becoming an afterthought in these discussions. Fitzsimon said that the goal is for everyone to be involved. He noted the interesting dynamics of SEANC’s endorsements in light of the GOP’s platform to reduce State employees and benefits. He hoped that faculty would stand with employees to fight. He said that State workers were in for a rough couple of years.
Fitzsimon did not buy the argument that there are too many kids in college. He disagreed with the premise that the only purpose of higher education is to provide students a job. James Holman noted the State brings too many workers from overseas to do jobs that North Carolinians are not trained to do. A representative of the Pope Center asked what jobs need filling. He said that college graduates carry $26,000 of student debt and some of these graduates do not need a four-year degree. Fitzsimon noted that the Pope Foundation had advocated raising tuition and increasing scholarships for private institutions, money that could be used to keep tuition low. Stroman asked about the difference between the parties. Fitzsimon said that he has problems with both political parties. He noted that Jim Rogers of Duke Power had given a great deal of money to both President Obama’s campaign and Speaker Tillis’ campaign. He said that there is one party in power, and most people are not invited.
David Brannigan was staggered to hear the representative from the Pope Center advocate reduced access to public education. He noted that overseers historically did not want their charges to read except to do their jobs in the fields and mills. He thought this attitude philistine beyond comprehension. He also lamented the false populism of the GOP and the Tea Party which appeals to people’s fears. He said that the left had lost this ability to speak with straight populist talk. He praised GOP Governor Chris Christie as one who speaks with populism. Ann Whisnant urged attendees to educate themselves about citizenship and critical thinking. Debby Stroman noted that a group working on strategic planning committee issues will meet Monday at the Campus Y.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary