UNC system president visits Faculty Senate

Joshua Farmer

President of the University of North Carolina system Thomas Ross attended the latest faculty senate meeting at Appalachian State University on Monday.

President Ross addressed the UNC Strategic Plan and answered faculty questions. Ross has been to several campuses already, and is trying to visit as many as he can.

Ross said the work to come up with a strategic plan started this summer, but still isn’t perfect.
“[It] ended up in a place where we are not a thousand percent happy with everything, but I am confident that the plan is solid and good and that it leads us in the right direction,” he said.

The plan is flexible enough, yet lacks sufficient specificity in some places, which will allow for the flexibility needed for implementation, Ross said.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment test is part of a goal to focus on what students learn individually, and the pilot program, which Appalachian will be participating in, has value as long as it is done thoroughly with incentives for student participation, Ross said.

Ross also addressed concerns about e-learning and distance education.

“There is concern that we are going to teach everything by distance education,” he said. “I think that we are entering a world, like it or not, where technology is going to play a bigger role.”

However, Ross said that he does not think the UNC system will close campuses because of online education.

Women’s studies professor Donna Lillian asked Ross about funding for Appalachian. She said the university is funded at a lower rate per student than other UNC-system schools.

Ross said that the issue is in mind as something that needs to be addressed as best as possible.

“Frankly, Appalachian is better able to manage what you have than some of the other campuses,” he said.

Ross also spoke in support of a liberal education, something professor of theatre and dance Ray Miller was concerned was not reaffirmed in the strategic plan.

“When we train people today, we aren’t training them for their first job, we are really training them for their last job,” Ross said.

These jobs require students to have a set of competencies that are learned with a liberal arts education, he said.

“There has never been a more important time for the university to be together, to work together to figure out how to be partners, no matter the issue, because there are a lot of people outside the system who aren’t as favorable to us as we would like,” Ross said.

Assistant professor of leadership and education studies Chris Osmond said that he was grateful the UNC system president came to talk to the faculty senate.

“He seems like a strong proponent of liberal arts,” Osmond said. “I think he understands what we do at App is important.”

Story: STEPHANIE SANSOUCY, Senior News Reporter