The University Gazette published an article about my candidacy for Faculty Chair, but there wasn't enough space for more detailed answers to their questions. Below are fuller answers. I'd be happy to answer any questions or thoughts by email to email@example.com and I may update this page based on questions I get.
Andrew Perrin is Associate Chair of Sociology and Director of Carolina Seminars. His research and teaching focuses on the sociology of democracy and relationships between culture and health. He is author, co-author, or editor of five books, including his recently-published American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter. He won a Rachel Rosenfeld award for mentoring in 2004 and a Hettleman Award in 2009.
Perrin has served on numerous faculty committees, including the Educational Policy Committee (EPC, which he chaired for two years), Faculty Council, and Agenda Committee. He led the effort to establish Carolina's contextual grade reporting, which was featured in the New York Times. He has been a Faculty Fellow and a Leadership Fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and served on its board. He co-convened an ad hoc Working Group on the Public Flagship University. He serves on the Faculty Athletics Committee (FAC), Committee on Student Conduct (COSC), and Student-Athlete Initiative Task Force.
Perrin received his BA from Swarthmore College and MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He is Chair-Elect of the American Sociological Association's (ASA) Theory Section and has held several other ASA roles. He writes for Scatterplot, a widely-read sociology blog (http://scatter.wordpress.com).
First and foremost, the faculty chair should be an independent voice for the faculty. That means representing the research, educational, service, and work-life balance interests of the faculty to the administration, alongside promoting these missions and principles outside the university to the public. Because the faculty is the heart and soul of the university, the faculty chair has the honorable duty of putting forth a thorough and enthusiastic defense of all the university's academic missions by representing faculty members' specific concerns and needs.
Most importantly, I intend to be an effective advocate for faculty and represent faculty's concerns to the administration and the public. I have considerable experience in University service and know that I would be able to represent faculty's needs vigorously.
Specifically, I would like to concentrate on two sets of priorities as faculty chair.
First, within the university, I plan to lead continuing efforts to improve and safeguard academic quality and standards. These efforts include the new contextual grade reporting system, the major reforms of the honor system, the increased transparency and changes following the athletic scandals, and communicating these successes to the public. I believe strongly that we need to redouble our efforts for racial and gender equity for faculty as well as students and staff. These and other measures emphasize our commitment to carrying out all our academic tasks at the highest level and with honesty and integrity, and demanding similar high standards of our students.
Second, as the public spokesperson for the faculty, I plan to work with other leadership promote the continued importance of the public flagship university. That means entering into conversations with the public, government officials, alumni, donors, and critics of the university to demonstrate the value of all our academic activities. In particular, it's crucial that we emphasize innovation, discovery, and scholarship in the social sciences, arts, humanities, education, government, law, and basic sciences alongside our well-known successes in the health sciences, economic development, undergraduate education, and technical innovation. I believe the public of North Carolina continues to deserve a world-class university, and it is incumbent upon us to explain why.
We face several major challenges. The ongoing budget cuts, exacerbated by an increasingly skeptical state government, make it harder for us to do our jobs. Our extraordinary faculty is a prime target for hiring by other institutions, particularly given the lack of meaningful salary increases for many years and the poor benefits package. We need to increase efforts to reward and retain faculty, particularly before they are tempted by an outside offer.
The ongoing scandals surrounding athletics and the concern showed by elected leaders toward intellectual work have taken a toll on our reputation externally and on faculty enthusiasm and morale internally.
More broadly, we face a political and economic environment that hurts not just UNC, but also the values of intellectual exploration and discovery we represent. I believe it is necessary for us to face that challenge head-on, as the solutions to the other issues will flow from a thorough defense of these ideals.
Absolutely, I have seen a lot of change in my time here. I arrived at Carolina in 2000, amid relative optimism. Faculty hiring was in good shape, the budget seemed comfortable, and the voters had just approved a landmark bond issue that resulted in the construction boom on campus. UNC—both Chapel Hill and the system—enjoyed strong support in the state legislature and the Governor's office.
In the years since, the state budget has been increasingly tight, and the recent changes in state government have eroded that support. Carolina's response has been largely positive, from the Carolina Counts initiative that found ways to use our resources more effectively, to a host of efforts to improve the quality and impact of our academic activities.
Most of my research and teaching focuses on the sociology of democracy: the ways people try to make their voices heard and how people learn to be good citizens. In addition, I have led and been involved with research teams including colleagues from the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Journalism and Mass Communication, and Information and Library Science, along with departments across the College of Arts and Sciences. I am both a Faculty Fellow and an Academic Leadership Fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, where I've learned important skills I will use as faculty chair. It's been absolutely wonderful to work with so many amazing faculty across this incredible University, and these experiences have given me a thirst to meet even more.
Since early on in my time at UNC, I have been actively involved in faculty governance. We are very fortunate to have a robust system of shared governance that offers faculty a voice. In my first year here, I served on a committee as part of the General College Curriculum Review process, and the following year I was elected to Faculty Council and served on the Agenda Committee as well.
I was elected to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) in 2006. During my two terms on EPC (including two years as chair), I focused on improving academic quality in teaching. Along with a great group of colleagues, I led a series of studies and conversations about grading at UNC that led, eventually, to our being a national leader through the contextual grade reporting policy that will be implemented this fall.
While chairing EPC, I led a 2009 faculty survey on experiences with the Honor System. Findings from that survey formed the basis for several years of reform initiatives. These resulted in the landmark changes to the honor system this year, which provide for greater accountability for students and greater faculty input on matters of academic integrity.
Outside UNC, I have held several elected and appointed positions in the American Sociological Association, including my current position as Chair-Elect of ASA's Theory Section. I write frequently for Scatterplot, a widely-read sociology blog (http://scatter.wordpress.com) because I believe strongly in the role of the public intellectual.
All these experiences give me a unique appreciation for the breadth and diversity of academic life and the urgency of public participation. In each of these roles, I have worked to have frank conversations, to listen carefully to the ideas and concerns of everyone involved, and to synthesize these ideas into substantive, meaningful reforms. I plan to lead in a way that recognizes and honors that diversity and the remarkable ways it combines into the whole university.
Through my university service and my interdisciplinary research work, I have a great appreciation for the diversity of academic work on our campus. I also have the unique position of being married to a faculty member in the School of Medicine. Learning the issues she faces has helped me to understand a different side of campus from my own. The needs and concerns of faculty in different fields and different schools are different in many ways, including the valued and incentivized forms of scholarship and teaching, the importance and availability of research funding, and the interactions among faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and more. I think it is this very diversity that makes the university so vibrant, so I hope to honor and promote the highest quality and import within each field, discipline, and school, and find ways to synthesize these across them.
After a very difficult several years, I think the University is headed in the right direction. In the fall of 2011, I was one of several concerned faculty members who gathered to discuss the athletics scandals. I was elected to the Faculty Athletics Committee in 2012, and I am also a member of the Provost's Student-Athlete Initiative Task Force, which is undertaking a comprehensive review of all the processes related to student-athletes at UNC. In all of these fora, I have sought to be an independent voice that looks at the issue from the point of view of a faculty patriot. I have learned through these committees that college athletics is far more complicated than I had imagined, and that there are no simple answers or easy decisions. Because UNC will struggle and hopefully overcome these issues in the coming years, I believe my history and involvement to date will be essential. We are being more systematic and more transparent than ever before. The reforms that have already been put in place, and that will be phasing in, should return Carolina to being a national leader in conducting college athletics appropriately—especially if we can communicate what good work we have done better.
We will have to keep talking about athletics and monitoring our progress, but we also need to recognize that there are over 18,000 non-athlete undergraduate students, not to mention the thousands of graduate and professional students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty who are doing extraordinary research, education, and service. The issues surrounding athletics are interfering with the support these other activities need, and we need to return more of our attention to these core missions of the university.
As I said above, I think these are the key challenges we face as a university. We also have some great resources to address these challenges, including a phenomenal faculty and an enthusiastic, engaged alumni community. We will have to be very active in searching for new sources of funding for all our missions while never abandoning our commitment to being a truly public university.
We will also have to work diligently to bring the university to the public, to demonstrate the value of our world-class, complete university to the public we serve. That means renewing our commitment to the highest quality in all the academic work we do, alongside making the case to the public that that work is important and worth their ongoing support. And it means engaging with our critics to listen to their concerns and to explain and demonstrate the value of the university and the importance of intellectual life.