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Tough Talk at Faculty Senate

Faculty chair David Zonderman is making good on his pledge to bring big topics to the Faculty Senate this year. At the group’s second meeting of the semester on Tuesday, senators touched on a range of meaty subjects, including a new law that allows handguns on campus in certain circumstances, a 5-percent drop in state appropriations that requires another round of belt tightening, and the failure of some departments to hit their graduate enrollment targets.

It wasn’t all bad news. Senators heard some encouraging words about student retention and graduation rates and an upbeat presentation on the QEP – the Quality Enhancement Plan.

Guns in Cars

Capt. Ian Kendrick with the university police told senators that effective Oct. 1 people with concealed carry permits will be allowed to bring handguns onto campus, as long as they keep the weapons locked in their vehicles. Guns must be stored out of sight in a vehicle’s trunk, glove compartment or some other closed container.

The law was enacted over the objections of police chiefs and chancellors from across the UNC system.

“We tried to make the legislature aware of our concerns,” Kendrick said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to go.”

Legal challenges to the law are expected, the captain added.

Budget Woes

Provost Warwick Arden said deans and division chiefs are working to reduce expenditures by $21 million to account for a drop in state appropriations in the 2013-15 budget. Nonacademic units will cut about $2 million more than academic units, he said, to help mitigate the impact on students. The specifics won’t be known until early October, when NC State presents its modified budget to the UNC General Administration.

“This is tough,” Arden told senators. “But this is a discussion we all have to have. How will we meet our strategic goals if we have more cuts in the future?”

The provost also noted that the university risks losing faculty members unless it can find some funds – “a bucket of money,” in his words – to counter offers from other institutions.

“Some of our best faculty are going to get picked off,” he warned.

Enrollment Targets

The provost said a reduction in money available for graduate student support is already hurting the university. Some departments are undershooting their graduate enrollment targets, particularly for doctoral students, he said.

On top of the drop in state appropriations, the university has also experienced a drop in federal research dollars due to automatic spending cuts mandated by the federal budget sequester. Many graduate students rely on research stipends to pay tuition and other bills.

“Graduate enrollment is the tough side,” Arden said. “Missing those targets can really hurt us financially.”

Other News

Arden told senators the university will soon announce big gains in student retention and graduation rates, key measures of student success. The six-year graduation rate may jump three or four percentage points, he said, putting NC State on target to achieve an ambitious goal of 80 percent by 2020. The rate has been largely flat for the past few years at around 71 percent.

Zonderman announced the results of a recent faculty survey that found faculty members concerned about a range of issues, including budget cuts, the strategic plan, distance education and e-learning, enrollment management, and student academic success.

The senate also debated whether to videotape its meetings, either for live or delayed streaming over the Web. Most senators spoke in favor of the idea, if it could be done at little or no cost.

Senators unanimously endorsed the QEP, a plan mandated as part of the university’s reaccreditation process.

Next Meeting

At its Sept. 24 meeting, the senate will hear a report on enrollment planning from Senior Vice Provost Duane Larick, and a presentation on the Supreme Court’s Fisher decision by General Counsel Eileen Goldgeier. Faculty Senate meetings are held every other Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the group’s chambers in the D.H. Hill Library.