Everts’ outreach to faculty makes ASU stronger


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

With all the systemic problems facing the UNC system and higher education in general, it is hard to see how one person can make much of a difference.

Yet, as Faculty Senate President Andy Koch said at Chancellor Sheri N. Everts’ installation last Friday, she has made a difference.

While I have not met the chancellor, I have spoken with several faculty members, both in depth and in passing, about the new chancellor. They all speak highly of her.

Michael Behrent, Appalachian State University’s American Association of University Professors chapter president, believes Everts has changed the tone on campus, particularly with regards to the relationship between faculty and administration.

“Despite all the commitments she has, you feel listened to,” Behrent said. Behrent cited several other changes Everts has implemented, including an informal faculty club that allows faculty members to come together and have discussions. He said Everts herself often attends these gatherings.

Most important for the university, however, is the manner in which she conducted the recent provost search. While the search for the provost did involve an outside search company, Behrent said, the process was much more open. This time, the search included open forums and public presentations.

This positive change could not have come at a better time for the university. The relationship between faculty and administration had been strained by a number of notable events on campus.

A March 2013 faculty morale survey found that 45 percent of faculty surveyed gave negative morale assessments and concerns about administration were cited as a primary cause.

Many of these administrative problems have become well-known over the past few years, with Jammie Price and program prioritization being two of the big standouts.

While these issues may seem somewhat detached from the lives of students, they have a great impact on both students as well as the entire university. Having adequate protections for academic freedom and a faculty that feels empowered has a direct affect on our education.

To highlight another disturbing finding of the 2013 morale report, 30 percent of tenure-track professors were looking elsewhere for employment. Faculty members who feel pushed aside will only take it for so long.

This is why Everts’ work in improving these relations has been so important. It makes the university function better.

Of course, there are limits to what an individual can do. The problem of decreasing funding and philosophical opposition to public higher education that has taken hold in the state will require the work of more than one person.

Still, it is worthwhile to note the important difference Chancellor Everts has already made.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

Column: Kevin Griffin, Opinion Writer