The UNCG Faculty Senate met on Wednesday, February 1, to participate in an open forum with Chancellor Franklin Gilliam, as well as discuss changes in policy in regard to non-tenured staff.
Senate Chair Anne Wallace opened the meeting with a moment of celebration for the anniversary of the Woolworth sit-ins, which began on February 1, 1960.
She further remarked this was “a meaningful day to remember what it takes to secure our civil liberties, not only in the past but now.”
UNCG Chancellor Franklin Gilliam then took the floor for an open forum.
Gilliam began with a short speech on the recent executive order regarding immigration signed by President Donald Trump. He reiterated his previously-released position that the University will only release information mandated by law.
Gilliam also stated that the President’s demand that schools release information on student immigration status violates the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, thus not obligating the university to release anything.
He continued, “our priority is on the welfare of our students and staff.”
Gilliam declined to further comment on the matter, saying that essential information had already been posted on the school’s site and in official channels, and that if anything new came to light or was decided upon, it would be released as soon as possible.
On the potential for similar matters occurring in the future, given the current administration, he stated, “Sometimes we’re going to have to just stand up and say what we have to say. It’s my view that in the Chancellor’s office we have to use that judiciously. We have a legislature that has a long memory. It is in our best interest as an institute to stay out of the line of fire.”
He then tried to find a polite translation for an old French saying, eventually deciding on “There are some things I will not eat. My point is there is a line. But if we cross is, we will be a target.”
Gilliam did clarify they would try and maintain amiable relationships with the legislature, both state and above.
“Sometimes success is not having things done to you,” Gilliam said. “One of my goals is to see if we can gain protection by having these relationships.”
Gilliam then addressed questions from the faculty, starting with whether the university would be doing to attract more graduate students for department research.
He stated their focus is, and was, on undergraduates by policy, meaning most growth and focus would be on that sector.
However, he proceeded to say of Dr Kelly Burke, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, “I’m optimistic on where Kelly is trying to take graduate education.”
Gilliam also iterated some issues with the graduate program, particularly tuition waivers for those working for the school, which were regulated by the state and not the university, making reform harder to implement.
The progress of implementing the Ombudsmen’s Office, a branch of the university dedicated to internal campus complaints, such as rights violations, disputes, or abuse of power by officials, once more was also posed.
Due to both the high cost of the office – being over $250,000 annually for a single person – and job overlap with UNCG’s HR office, it was stated to remain tabled until specifically needed or made more cost-effective
Other questions focused on the increase in both the admission of students and hiring of non-tenured employees, with both being feared to cause a decrease in quality of the educational standards of the University.
Gilliam reassured the Senate that neither were evidence of such, with the increase of admissions being due to a larger number of qualified applicants, non-tenured employees were hired to help with this new influx, being held to the same standard as other employees, though some kinks in the review process were still being worked out.
He further remarked that they were studying corporate techniques to better improve the university, but students, as ever, are the priority. “We are not making widgets.”
Gilliam concluded by asking the Senate to work on determining what could be done to improve nontenured employee work environment.
Next was the Ad Hoc Committee on NTT Faculty Issues, who had been working on the same issue since their 2015 formation.
After surveying the nontenured faculty, they came to the conclusion that the biggest concerns, edging out all others in the survey by at least thirty percent, were pay disparity and lack of job security.
Their proposed solution to these problems were an increase in contract length and pay for those previously hired by the university, as well as to create an expedited review process for renewals so those whose contracts were up for renewal would be informed of the review board’s decision in a timely manner.
Concerns about previous improper review of contractors were assuaged when they reiterated the review process would be for all contracted employees, and not just for renewal also for overall job eligibility.
A resolution was passed unanimously to express the concern of the faculty about potential violations of SACSCOC, the organization that manages Federal colleges in southern America, with policy going unreported due to a perceived bottleneck in the reporting process.
This bottleneck was thought to be created due to the Board of Trustees for SACSCOC being both capable of violating policy and being the sole reporter of violations, creating an imbalance in the system.
Rebecca Adams, a representative from the Board, clarified for the Senate, after the vote, that anyone could file a report into the system, with the Board merely being the official vehicle for those complaints, and unable to stop or alter them, assuaging concerns.
The final item on the docket was the December 2016 meeting of the Board of Trustees for the university, which had raised concerns over tuition increase, and had addressed them without issue. They had further discussed the history programs started as a result of concerns over the renaming of the Aycock Auditorium, now the UNCG Auditorium, which had been a resounding success.
The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held on March 1 in the Alumni House’s Virginia Dare room, and will be open to the public.