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A new faculty chair today at UNC

The next chair of the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill will be unveiled today.

Two longtime faculty members are in the running, and electronic voting was held April 13 to 20. The results will be made public today at a Faculty Council meeting that starts at 3 p.m. at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

The candidates are Arne Kalleberg, from sociology, and McKay Coble, chair of the department of dramatic art.

Here's some background on each.

The winner will succeed Joe Templeton, a chemist whose three-year appointment soon comes to an end.

UNC's Bowles: Grade inflation worthy of review

A recent report detailing grade inflation at UNC Chapel Hill has caught the eye of UNC system President Erskine Bowles, who said Friday he plans to soon review the issue.

The report, written by an economics professor for UNC-CH’s Faculty Council, was a snapshot of the fall 2007, when 82 percent of all grades given to undergraduate students were As and Bs.

More A grades were given that semester than any other grade, prompting many faculty to say that grading has gotten out of hand.

The problem, many say, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for top students to distinguish themselves because so many get high grades.

Bowles said he heard from at least several members of the UNC system’s governing board after a story about the issue ran in the News & Observer.

“I’ve had some discussions with [UNC Chancellor Holden] Thorp,” Bowles said Friday. “It’s something we will review in the coming months.”

While many faculty say the growing number of high grades on the UNC-CH campus is a problem, others, as well as some students and parents, say high grades are simply the result of hard work. Bowles said Friday that while the issue concerns him, he has not yet looked into the matter enough to declare whether grade inflation is a problem in need of a solution.

But he said a review is worthwhile.

“We have to protect the brand,” he said. “I want to make sure that when someone graduates from the University of North Carolina, employees know...they are hiring someone with a degree of real value.”
The UNC-CH report was the result of some lengthy number-crunching by economics professor Donna Gilleskie, who spent weeks analyzing more than one million grades dating back to 2000. A similar report in 2000 found that 77 percent of grades given then were As and Bs.

Among Gilleskie’s recent findings: the average undergraduate grade-point average has increased steadily, from 2.976 in 1995 to 3.2 in 2007.

Bowles said he cannot say whether grades are rising across the state university system because he doesn’t have campus-by-campus data.

Note: You can read the grade inflation report by clicking on the attachment below.

Should athletics help fund academics?

Last week I recounted a conversation among members of UNC Chapel Hill's faculty council where, during a brainstorming session on ways to cut budgets in these harsh economic times, someone suggested that academics be underwritten by the athletic department.

Hearty laughter ensued.

But then I find this story out of Knoxville where the University of Tennessee is actually pondering whether revenue from athletics could help that institution make up for a 13 percent drop in state money.


At UNC: Brainstorming budget cuts

Interesting discussion today at UNC Chapel Hill's Faculty Council meeting. Basically, a brainstorming session on how best a university should approach cutting budgets.

(As you may have read, the state's in a bit of a budget bind these days, and public universities have been asked to project budget cuts for the current year of up to 7 percent.)

So faculty members spent some time today tossing around ideas for how to deal with these cuts. They range from ideas that are either already in place or likely to be used, like freezing vacant positions, cutting programs, delaying capital projects and suspending faculty searches, to somewhat more radical ideas, like reducing enrollment, merging departments or, the one suggestion that drew hearty laughter, using money drawn from the athletics department for academic uses.

A summary of the ideas batted around the room Friday:

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