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January 17, 2014

Meeting of the Faculty Council and General Faculty

Friday, January 17, 2014
3:00 p.m.
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Wilson Library

Chancellor Carol Folt and Secretary of the Faculty Joseph Ferrell, presiding

Agenda

3:00  Chancellor’s Remarks and Question Period

3:20  Provost’s Remarks and Question Period

3:30  Annual Reports of Standing Committees

4:00  Educational Policy Committee Update and Resolutions

4:30  Faculty Athletics Committee Update

  • Prof. Joy Renner, Chair

4:40  Open Discussion

4:55  VOTE:  2014 Nominee, Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award (Closed session)

5:00  Adjourn

Storify of Live-Tweets from January 17 Faculty Council

For a quick view into today’s meeting, check out the “Storify” we’ve created archiving live tweets under the hashtag #FacCouncil for today’s meeting.  You can find that here.

Meeting Minutes

Journal of Proceedings of the Faculty Council

The Faculty Council of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill convened Friday, January 17, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room at the Wilson Library.

The following 76 members attended: Able, Adams, Aikat, Anthony, Bachenheimer, Baumgartner, Beck, Beltran Lopez, Boettiger, Brown, Bulik, Bunch, Caren, Champagne, Chenault, Cook, Copenhaver, Cox, Cuddeback, Day, Dean, Divaris, Dolan, Edwards, Ferrell, Fisher, Folt, Fry, Furry, Gilligan, Giovanello, Grabowski, Gulledge, Guskiewicz, Guthmiller, Heitsch, Hirsch, Hobbs, Hodges, Howes, Hsu, Irons, Ives, Joyner, Kang, Koomen, Kramer, Larson, Lee, Liu, Lu, McMillan, Melehy, T. Miller, V. Miller, Mitran, Mohanty, Moon, Moreton, Palmer, Parker, Paul, Persky, Pertsova, Pryal, Reiter, Rial, Rodgers, Stavas, Stenberg, Steponaitis, Swogger, Thompson, H. Watson, R. Watson, and Yaqub.

Members absent with excuse: Boulton, Boxill, Cavin, Chambers, Chapman, Chavis, Chera, Gerhardt, Gucsacas-Calikoglu, Hackman, Hill, Houck, Kurtz-Costes, Leonard, Mayer-Davis, Parise, Shackelford, Spagnoli, Swift-Scanlan, Tepper, Viera, Wang, and You.

Call to order

Secretary of the Faculty Joseph Ferrell called the meeting to order at 3 p.m. He explained that Chair of the Faculty Jan Boxill is out of town to attend a funeral honoring the life of civil rights activist Franklin McCain. The chancellor requested that the secretary of the faculty preside over the meeting. Prof. Ferrell read a statement on behalf of Prof. Boxill. (See Appendix A.)

Chancellor’s and provost’s presentation

Chancellor Carol Folt welcomed the faculty back for the spring semester. She pointed out that she was wearing a special blue pin with a light bulb to signify what attracted her to UNC Chapel Hill. She said that the pin symbolizes innovation and the efforts that are being made to make the university better all the time.

The chancellor said that she is aware that faculty have questions about the academic performance of student-athletes based on recent stories in the news media. The reports allege that some students who are admitted to the university are unable to read at a college level. She said the accusations are part of a larger national dialog about the relationship between academics and athletics at top-tier universities. She said at Carolina, where there have been improprieties in the past, there are ongoing efforts to improve. The Faculty Athletics Committee and the provost’s Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group have been examining policies that affect the student-athlete experience.

Chancellor Folt said that she wanted to talk about the ways that UNC Chapel Hill works to promote student-athletes’ success. She explained that last week CNN reported assertions by Ms. Mary Willingham, a learning specialist in the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling, that the reading levels of some football and basketball players were not at college level. She said that Ms. Willingham’s data has never been previously reviewed by the administration and does not align with the university’s official data. She invited Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer to give an overview of the process for special talent admissions.

Mr. Farmer presented data from the CNN news story alongside admissions data for UNC Chapel Hill student-athletes. He said that CNN experts established a threshold for college literacy based on minimum SAT critical reading or SAT writing scores of 400, or ACT scores of 16. CNN reported that out of 183 student-athletes in revenue sports admitted to UNC between 2004-2012 8 to 10 percent read below a third grade level. They also reported that 60 percent read at fourth to eighth grade levels and that 125-128 students read at the eighth grade level or lower.

Mr. Farmer said that CNN did not request ACT or SAT data from the university. He said that his office is in the process of preparing a more detailed report on athletics admissions for 2013 that should be ready next month. Mr. Farmer presented data showing that in 2013, all 154 enrolling student-athletes met CNN’s definition of college-level literacy. In 2012, 165 of 167 enrolling student-athletes met CNN’s definition of college-level literacy. The application materials of the two students who did not meet that threshold were comprehensively evaluated and both of those students are currently enrolled and in good academic standing.

Mr. Farmer said that when using CNN’s threshold for 1,377 first year student-athletes admitted between 2004 and 2012, 97 percent or 1,338 met the threshold. Of 39 students who did not meet the threshold: 23 graduated or remain enrolled in good standing, 11 left academically ineligible to return, and 34 graduated, remain enrolled, or left eligible to return. When limiting the data for student-athletes to football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, 90 percent of 341 first-year student-athletes met CNN’s threshold. Of the 34 students who did not, 20 have graduated or remain enrolled in good standing, 10 left academically ineligible to return, and 30 graduated, remain enrolled, or left eligible to return.

Mr. Farmer said in summary that 39 students did not meet CNN’s threshold for college-level literacy. He said that all 39 students were evaluated comprehensively and individually using both quantitative and qualitative information other than test scores. He added that using test scores alone is not an accurate measure of student success.

Chancellor Folt thanked Mr. Farmer for presenting the data. She said that the provost has looked at Ms. Willingham’s data in more detail. They found an Institutional Review Board (IRB) request submitted by Ms. Willingham that proposed to analyze data about student learning disabilities in a subset of students to determine appropriate strategies for advising. Chancellor Folt explained that  research  conducted on or involving  human subjects  is held to a high level of scrutiny that requires the researcher to protect the privacy of the individuals involved in the study. Because Ms. Willingham appeared to be using data that would not be linked to identifiable persons, she was allowed to bypass a full IRB review.

Provost Dean said he and Chancellor Folt are concerned about the allegations that have been made as to the reading skills of student athletes at Carolina. Ms. Willingham responded to their request for the data and the provost asked four scholars familiar with this type of research to review it for accuracy. He estimated that over 200 hours of work has gone into data analysis. He reiterated that the administration did not have the dataset prior to the last week and said that this is the first time his office received the data.

The provost explained that the test that was administered to the student-athletes was a reading vocabulary subtest of the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA), not to be confused with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The subtest is meant to be administered with other reading tests. It is designed to measure reading vocabulary, not reading comprehension.  He said that the test is one page in length with 25 questions and takes about 10 minutes to administer. The provost contacted the company that designs the test to ask if the subtest results, standing alone, could be used to determine grade equivalence for reading comprehension. The answer was no. He said that based on advice from reading experts he has consulted the subtest does not provide a comprehensive measure of reading and that reading has at least seven dimensions. The reading vocabulary test only evaluates one of those dimensions.

Provost Dean explained further that SATA can be expressed as standard scores, percentiles, and grade equivalents. He said that the data he received had only standard scores, which the media have reported  as grade equivalents. Chancellor Folt added that the standard scores are always lower than the grade equivalent. Provost Dean explained that the claims about reading levels were based on confusion between the standard score and grade equivalent.

The provost said that CNN’s claim that 60 percent of 183 student-athletes in revenue sports read between a fourth and eighth grade level was not substantiated by the dataset. He said that any claim made based on the data set is erroneous and unfair.

Chancellor’s and provost’s question period

Chancellor Folt said she and Provost Dean are still planning to have independent experts examine the data. She opened the floor for questions.

Prof. Harry Watson (History) asked if they examined the data to determine what the correct grade equivalents were.

Chancellor Folt replied that 60 percent were reading at higher than a twelfth grade level.

Provost Dean added that he is unsure whether to look at the grade level equivalents because the subtest is not an accurate measure of reading comprehension on its own.

Chancellor Folt said that the scores have to be contextualized with other subtest scores to be meaningful.

Prof. Richard Weinberg (Cell Biology and Physiology) said that the decision to revoke IRB approval for Mary Willingham’s research might reflect badly on the university. He said that he hopes there was no external pressure put on the IRB.

Dr. Barbara Entwistle, vice chancellor for research, responded that there was no outside pressure put on the IRB office. She said the office became concerned about claims that were being made in the media when it appeared that there were names associated with the data. The IRB decided that the determination for non-human subjects research approval did not hold and that Ms. Willingham would have to reapply for IRB approval because there are names associated with her data.

Chancellor Folt added that any data that includes students’ names must be highly protected.

Provost Dean said that allegations have been made against him in the media that are not true. He denied that he forced Ms. Willingham to provide the data with names so he could shut down her research.

Prof. Mia Kang (Medicine) asked whether the subtest was routinely administered to student-athletes or as a part of independently conducted research.

Provost Dean said that subtest was administered to student-athletes in revenue sports with the purpose of identifying  learning disabilities. Ms. Willingham became interested and partnered with Dr. Lynn Johnson. Her supervisors gave permission for the research, provided she obtained IRB approval. Since then there have been five IRB requests submitted.

Chancellor Folt said that the IRB applications claimed that students with learning disabilities were performing at the same level as other students after treatment.

Prof. Lloyd Kramer (History) thanked the chancellor and provost for sharing their data. He asked if it was true that student-athletes were steered into no-show classes in order to remain eligible to play in their sport and if there was any evidence to contradict this accusation.

Chancellor Folt said that there have been recurring questions over the past couple of years about past advising practices and that her approach has been to look at the university’s advising procedures now and how they facilitate student success. She said the provost’s working group is currently studying advising procedures for student-athletes.

Prof. Shielda Rodgers (Nursing) observed that some of the media articles discussed SAT scores, but the SAT is not a valid or good predictor of success, especially for ethnic minorities. She said that learning disabilities do not correlate with intellect and that we need to consider how these reports in the media affect our athletes. She said student-athletes should not be victimized and should be supported like any other student at the university.

Provost Dean said that the majority of the students assessed were African American. He said that when he researched the SATA subtest, the normative group used to develop the test was over 80 percent white.

Prof. Jay Smith (History) said that he doesn’t believe Mary Willingham’s intent is to victimize student-athletes. He pointed out that she has spent many years working with student-athletes to help them succeed academically.

Prof. Vin Steponaitis (Anthropology and Archaeology) said that he read one article published in the media that reported that Ms. Willingham’s data came from tests that were administered to athletes who were most at risk academically. He said that when the story was reprinted and broadcast on television, the message was distorted and the results of this test were generalized to all student-athletes in revenue sports. He said that there was no discussion of whether the sample was representative of all student-athletes.

Prof. Rodgers added that her comments were not critical of Ms. Willingham, but were directed at the media and the university community. She gave the example of people using the term “jock” to describe student-athletes. She said that student-athletes deserve respect from faculty, students, and administrators. She pointed out that the discussion around academic performance will have an impact on how student-athletes are perceived by their peers.

Prof. Frank Baumgartner (Political Science) said that he felt there have been efforts to stonewall. He said that what is happening at UNC is part of a larger national debate that includes issues like athletic reform and safety for women on campus. He said he has observed a strategy of denial and resentment when allegations are brought up. He pointed out that this could be an opportunity for the university to be a leader in reform.

Chancellor Folt responded that within the first three weeks of Provost Dean taking office, he announced the creation of the Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group to study the student-athlete experience. When the Rawlings report came out, UNC had already implemented many of its recommendations. The chancellor said that the university cannot allow false information about student-athletes to be spread without challenge, and that also entails confronting uncomfortable facts in an honest way.

Prof. Hassan Melehy (Romance Languages) thanked the chancellor and provost for addressing many of his questions with their presentation. He pointed out that there are still problems with the athletics program and that past claims that the issue was an academic issue and not an athletics issue could be viewed as a pattern of denial.

Provost Dean thanked Prof. Melehy for his comments and said that he will correct the record when comments like that are printed. He said that he was misquoted by the media as saying that the scandal was an academic one and not an athletic one. He denied making that claim and said that there are opportunities for improvement in athletics.

Prof. Greg Copenhaver (Biology) thanked the chancellor and provost for presenting the data with factual evidence.

Chancellor’s remarks

Chancellor Folt reported that yesterday she attended a meeting at the White House on college accessibility for low-income students. One of first lady Michelle Obama’s priorities is to increase access to college education. She said that more than 100 university presidents and chancellors attended, representing different types of educational institutions. She said all of the attendees made a commitment to accessibility. Carolina was recognized at several of the meetings for the Carolina Covenant and the work of the Carolina Advising Corps. The Carolina Corps is now being expanded with a $4 million donation from the Belk Foundation to double the size of the chancellor’s science program.

The chancellor reported that Carolina joined other universities that are speaking out against the American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott Israeli universities. She said it is important to reaffirm and preserve freedom of thought and expression.

The chancellor announced that former trustee Felicia Washington will begin as the new vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement in February.

Resolution 2014-1.  On Amending the Faculty Code of University Government to Enlarge the Faculty Hearings Committee and to Clarify the Duties of Its Chair

Prof. Vin Steponaitis, chair of the Committee on University Government, presented Resolution 2014-1.  He explained that the resolution was drafted because the Faculty Hearings Committee has had difficulty convening a panel of five members to hear a case involving discharge, demotion, or suspension. The tenure regulations require a panel of at least five in such cases, but the committee has only six members. The resolution would amend the Faculty Code of University Government to expand the membership of the committee from six to nine members. The resolution would also clarify the role of the chair in assigning faculty to panels.

Prof. Ferrell reminded the Council members that anyone member of the Voting Faculty is eligible to vote on the resolution.

Prof. Eric Hodges (Nursing) asked whether increasing the size of the committee could enable the chair to exclude certain faculty from serving hearings panels.

Prof. Steponaitis replied that the challenge the committee faces is handling multiple hearings simultaneously.  

Prof. Ferrell added that the committee members choose the chair.

The resolution passed without dissent.

Educational Policy Committee update and resolutions

Prof. Theresa Raphael-Grimm (Nursing), chair of the Educational Policy Committee, presented Resolution 2014-2 On Complying with the Directive of the Office of General Administration of The University of North Carolina Concerning the Deadline for Dropping Courses.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm explained that the first two resolutions would allow the university to comply with General Administration’s policies on the drop/add period. The Educational Policy Committee was not in favor of changing the drop/add policy, but the university is required to comply. She said that the current eight-week add/drop policy was designed to allow students to take more challenging classes without have a grade of W recorded on their transcript. General Administration mandated that the add/drop period without recordation of a W grade be two weeks for all campuses. The resolution conforms our drop/add regulations to General Administration’s requirements but also calls for a new grade of “WC” to be put in place for courses dropped between the second and eighth weeks of the semester. The purposes of this new grade is to facilitate enforcement of a new requirement that students may accumulate no more than 16 credit hours of courses dropped without penalty during their academic careers. The new regulation makes no changes in existing policies governing withdrawal for extenuating circumstances.

Prof. Charlotte Boettiger (Psychology) asked when the deadline would be for changing the letter grade to pass/fail.

Prof. Erika Lindemann (English and Comparative Literature) responded that the pass/fail policy is a different policy. The resolution on the floor would establish a policy to cover instances when the student is withdrawing from a course by choice.

Prof. Ferrell directed Prof. Boettiger to The Undergraduate Bulletin for the pass/fail policy and deadlines.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm explained that the goal of the resolution is to comply with General Administration’s mandate while allowing students to take challenging classes.

Mr. Wilson Parker (Undergraduate Observer) asked if the policy would be grandfathered in to include the class of 2018.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said that he is correct.

The resolution was adopted without dissent.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm presented Resolution 2014-3 On Increasing the Number of Credit Hours That Can Be Declared Pass/Fail.

Prof. Ferrell explained that the resolution would change the number of pass/fail credit hours that students can take from 11 to 16.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm explained that the resolution is an attempt to mitigate the effects of the new add/drop policy.

The resolution was adopted without dissent.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm presented Resolution 2014-4 On Raising the Minimum GPA Required for Undertaking an Undergraduate Senior Honors Thesis Project. She explained that the minimum cumulative GPA eligibility standard would change from a 3.2 to a 3.3. The resolution was recommended by Prof. Jim Leloudis, director of Honors Carolina, and would take effect in the fall of 2014.

Prof. Ferrell noted the effective date should be included in the wording of the resolution.

Prof. Lindemann noted that if the resolution is approved, the policy will be updated in The Undergraduate Bulletin in fall of 2014.

Prof. Beth Grabowski (Art) said that students in the art department apply for their fall 2014 Honors Thesis in the spring. She asked if they will need a 3.3 minimum GPA.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said they would be required to have a 3.3 minimum GPA.

Prof. Lindemann noted that some departments have a departmental GPA, but this policy would only apply to a student’s cumulative GPA.

Prof. Ferrell added that each department can create their own policy regarding senior honors thesis guidelines. The College of Arts and Sciences Administrative Board has adopted their own policy and other units may use their policy as a model but are not bound to follow it.

Prof. Harry Watson (History) asked why the resolution proposes to only raise the threshold by .1 point.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said that the committee considered data on grade inflation and found that the number of students who are eligible for senior honors thesis had risen dramatically. She said that raising the threshold by only 0.1 point does in fact significantly reduce the number of students eligible for the Honors Program.

The resolution was adopted without dissent.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm presented Resolution 2014-5 On Establishing Undergraduate Student Success Standards. She explained that the resolution intends to clarify eligibility standards as students progress through their program. The resolution would amend the current section of The Undergraduate Bulletin to include a table reflecting the Federal Student Financial Aid guidelines.

There was no discussion or debate. The resolution was adopted without dissent.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm presented Resolution 2014-6 On Guidelines for Classroom Use of Social Media. She explained that the Educational Policy Committee has worked on creating a social media use policy for over a year. The proposed resolution would allow students to participate in assignments using social media with a pseudonym or opt out of using social media with an alternative assignment.

Dr. Libby Chenault (University Libraries) read a statement from Prof. Anne Klinefelter (Law). (See Appendix B for full statement.) Prof. Klinefelter wrote that the current resolution may not go far enough to protect student data. She said that social media companies are storing vast amounts of personal data and some students do not want to participate. Prof. Klinefelter said that the faculty should allow or encourage students to choose privacy. Ms. Gilliland said the proposed social media policy might not be legally sound because it could potentially violate FERPA.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said that she was aware of the Ms. Gilliland’s and Prof. Klinefelter’s concerns so the Educational Policy Committee revised the policy to include options to protect student privacy.

Dr. Chenault moved to delay the resolution until the next meeting to give the Council members time to consider larger privacy issues.

Prof. Steponaitis (Archaeology and Anthropology) pointed out that we currently do not have a policy in place to protect student privacy and suggested that the Council pass the resolution and let the policy evolve with the changing social media landscape.

Prof. Ferrell said that there are two motions on the floor: a motion to adopt the resolution as it is currently written and a procedural motion to delay consideration of the resolution until the next meeting.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said that social media use in some classes is for the purpose of professional development.

Prof. Rodgers (Nursing) said that there are a number of courses that require students to do online assessments that require giving personal information to a company in exchange for access to the assessment. For example, in one of her leadership courses, students have to complete a leadership analysis online and give their personal information to establish an account. Some students are required to blog for their classes as well.

Prof. Eric Muller (Law) added that some faculty use Google docs for editing. That requires students to set up an account and then Google captures their information.  He said he likes having a policy in place to give students options. He said that the policy might discourage faculty from requiring students to use social media.

Prof. Raphael-Grimm said that the policy is designed to allow the student to opt out.

Prof. Grabowski said that art students often have online conversations and discussions about work on commercial blog sites.

Prof. Jennifer Larson (English and Comparative Literature) said that she teaches a collaborative writing course. She suggested that the faculty investigate tools within the university that comply with FERPA, but still allow students to collaborate and interact electronically. She emphasized the need for a FERPA compliant option for students who feel their privacy has been violated.

Dr. Chenault asked if the Council votes to amend the resolution if they could request that the committee investigate alternative technologies.  

Prof. Copenhaver moved the previous question. The motion was adopted.

Debate having concluded,  the resolution was adopted.

Annual Report on the Scholarships, Awards and Student Aid

Prof. Donald Hornstein (Law) explained that the role of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is to remove financial barriers for students and recognize academic talent to further the university’s goals of attaining equity and excellence. He said that there are over 25,000 students at UNC-Chapel Hill and two-thirds of them receive financial aid awards. Over $400 million in student aid is disbursed each year from federal, state, institutional and private sources. Over the past four years, the percentage of undergraduate students receiving need-based aid has risen from 37 percent in 2009-10 to 43 percent in 2012-13. Prof. Hornstein said that the increase is partly the result of the economic recession and the partly due to increasing tuition and fees. Seventy-four percent of need-based aid disbursed to students is through grants and scholarships, while 24 percent is distributed through loans and 2 percent through work-study programs. As need-based aid has increased, the university has responded by increasing the percentage of aid disbursed through grants and scholarships from 70 percent in 2009-10 to 74 percent in 2012-13. The cumulative student loan debt upon graduation has increased from $14,235 in 2009-10 to $16,150 in 2012-13. However, Prof. Hornstein pointed out that in 2002-03, students borrowed $16,835 when adjusted for inflation. He said that over 10 years, students have borrowed close to the same amount each year in real dollars.

Prof. Hornstein concluded his presentation with a some statistics showing what would happen if the 2013-14 first-year cohort did not have access to financial aid. Without aid, the percentages of students in the top 10 percent of their class would fall from 77 percent to 62 percent and the average SAT score would decrease from 1308 to 1278. The number of first generation college students would fall from 19 percent to 9 percent and the percentage of underrepresented minorities would decrease from 18 percent to 9 percent.

Adjournment

Having completed its business, the Faculty Council adjourned at 5:02 p.m.

Respectfully submitted

Kathryn M. Turner
Executive Assistant

Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty

 Appendix A: Statement from Chair of the Faculty Jan Boxill on the life of Franklin McCain

I apologize for not being present at today’s Faculty Council meeting, as I am attending the funeral of a dear friend who has had an impact on many of our lives, Franklin McCain.

 On Feb. 1, 1960, McCain and three North Carolina A&T freshmen, the Greensboro Four, helped orchestrate and lead the sit-in movement that began at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. Among his many contributions, McCain later served as a member of The North Carolina University system’s Board of Governors and held several leadership positions, including chairman of A&T’s Board of Trustees. 

Echoing Tom Ross:  Franklin was an inspirational role model.  What I think people should remember most about Franklin is that his courage and commitment to doing what was right didn’t end at Woolworth. That commitment continued throughout his life, and he channeled it in ways that really mattered, particularly in his service and devotion to our University and to higher education.  North Carolina has lost a true giant. 

If you are ever UNC’s School of Government, take a walk down the hallway and view the mural of African Americans who have made a significant impact on this state. Franklin McCain is featured prominently.

His son Wendell, a successful businessman, graduated with Honors here at Carolina in Economics and is is a longtime donor to this university.

 Appendix B: Statement from Prof. Anne Klinefelter (Law) on the proposal social media use policy

Thanks for being the University Libraries’ faculty council representatives.  Anne Klinefelter here from the law library alerting you to a resolution that will be before the council this Friday on the topic of assigning students to use social media.  I wanted to share with you some insights I have gathered from teaching privacy law and thinking a good bit about librarians’ commitment to reader privacy.  Overall, I think this resolution is positive, but as written, it may not go far enough to protect students from having to reveal personal information, perhaps even coursework, with a social media company.  Increasingly, social media companies are mining individual’s data in ways that people are starting to realize are not acceptable.

Here is the draft of the resolution:

Resolution 2014-6. On Guidelines for Classroom Use of Social Media

The Faculty Council resolves:

1. Instructors always discuss on the first day of class and make clear in their syllabi the nature of any assignments requiring students to establish a public online presence through such means as blogs, web pages, Twitter accounts, and the like. Instructors make themselves available for private discussion with any student concerned about the nature of such an assignment.

2. When assignments are designed for a public site that requires or allows the posting of real names, students are given the option to use a pseudonym.

3. A student who has a privacy concern approaches the instructor with that concern within the first two weeks of class. The student and the instructor then find a mutually agreeable alternative for fulfilling the class requirement.

4. Instructors do not make public their assessment of any student’s performance.

http://faccoun.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Res2014-6SocialMediaPolicy_Draft.pdf

You’ll see that posting of a pseudonym is offered as a solution for students concerned about a requirement that they create a public presence online.  That’s a good thing.  But it does not cover all the privacy concerns.

An additional privacy concern is only addressed if provision 3 in the resolution is read to provide an opt-out for the student.  This separate privacy concern is that under some social media policies, i.e. Facebook, every user is required to sign up with their real name, not a pseudonym, and even if their public-facing identity is a pseudonym.  Facebook, for example, requires personal information including date of birth and real name and home location in order to establish an account.  Students using these services would be not only bound by terms of use but perhaps also honor-bound to provide accurate personal information to the assigned social media company.  These companies operate on a business model of mining personal information in steadily expanding ways, sharing with advertisers and applications developers, sometimes aggregating personal information from all of a given companies’ platforms, and perhaps selling it to third parties or blending it with other public data such as mortgages, etc.  Given the relationship of privacy to academic freedom and the benefits of student privacy protected by FERPA, it seems problematic to require students to use social media for the classroom unless they can truly be anonymous/pseudonymous online.  I am a bit worried that provision 3 in the resolution would allow a faculty member who does not come to a mutual appreciation for this privacy concern to deny a student the ability to opt-out of establishing a social media account that requires one’s real name and date of birth.  Most people are not aware of the fast-changing privacy policies of social media and the industry’s facility for sorting and storing vast amounts of granular data about individuals.  We generally assume that students are thrilled to be on social media, but some are reading the terms and policies, and they don’t want to participate.  The law is quite weak in these evolving areas, so we hear a lot about how consumers have to “choose privacy” or make a choice after being given notice about the terms of use.  We should allow students, I would even say encourage students, to choose privacy.

I realize that some courses and even some majors (Journalism) might indeed require students to commit to social media immersion, so the language of provision 3 may be the appropriate balance.  So, I would simply advocate that the provision not be further weakened.

Librarians have often been the voice for privacy when others are distracted by competing interests.  I do vote in the University Libraries category when it comes to Faculty Council, so I wanted to be sure to share my concerns with my council members.

Thanks much!

Anne Klinefelter
Director of the Law Library
Associate Professor of Law