It may be just a coincidence, but Kerry Haynie says he believes the fact that for the first time in memory the Academic Council has been led by Tar Heel natives in consecutive terms is both indicative and timely for the university.
While Duke has made a jump from a strong regional college to an internationally known university, it has always remained connected to its home state and to the wider South. But Haynie, a political science professor who took over for Don Taylor as council chair on July 1, says that connection has not always been well communicated to the people of the state and region.
“I believe it goes beyond just symbolism to have Don and me as campus leaders representing a North Carolina connection that is part of Duke’s lifeblood,” said Haynie, a native of Kannapolis.
The connection is timely as President Vincent Price has made a priority of using Duke’s educational and research resources to build stronger partnerships in the state and throughout the Southeast. But Haynie said it also reflects the type of strengths faculty can bring to university governance. Taylor, the preceding chair, is a native of eastern North Carolina, and is now director of Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. One step he has taken as director is to make the study of the South one of the institute’s strategic priorities.
“There’s no separating Duke from Durham, North Carolina and the South,” Haynie said. "This is who we are. And we should embrace that.
“University initiatives like these work best when they come out of faculty interests and strengths. It’s one thing to have a vision of Duke’s connecting with Durham and North Carolina, but we want that shaped by faculty expertise. We have a lot of faculty projects going on right now in Durham and in the region, and we will take advantage of that strength.”
Speaking in the Academic Council’s offices on the second floor of the Flowers Building, Haynie said he expects the current council to continue the discussion on culture and values that Taylor made a central part of many council meetings last year.
Haynie added that faculty work on campus culture goes back well before last year’s discussions, citing a 2015 initiative on faculty diversity.
“ECAC [the council’s executive committee] and Don’s leadership moved the needle quite a bit on campus culture last year, and we made quite a bit of progress,” Haynie said, pointing to the council approval last year of new rules to govern faculty-student relationships. “The faculty want to take ownership of these issues. It’s my intention that we continue to focus on that. And the president is also going to focus on that.”
The council’s year started last month with a discussion on campus values and culture, centered around a statement of five values crafted by representatives of Duke’s faculty, student body and staff.
Haynie said the best role for faculty on values issues is to “set an example and lead.”
“I think we’ve done that. In recent years, the initiatives on student relations and even the faculty diversity initiative, which is an important campus culture issue, came from the faculty. It wasn’t imposed from above. And that can be unusual in higher education.”
Going forward this semester, Haynie said another focus will be the academic and financial challenges before the university in a time of constrained resources.
“The last 10 to 12 years, Duke has dealt with a lot of needs. We’ve done a lot of brick and mortar projects, we’ve focused on important student life issues, including financial aid for both undergraduates and graduates. We’ve needed to do all of that.
“Now, it’s important to make sure faculty concerns aren’t getting repeatedly lowered on the priority list. This includes compensation, but it’s more than that, it’s about the many financial pressures on the university, particularly if the economy goes into a downturn or recession. We want to make sure the faculty remain the centerpiece of the university. It can’t be said enough: Students are attracted by the best faculty, and research dollars flow to the best faculty, so it’s important to keep the focus on the faculty and ensure the faculty ranks are as strong as they possibly can be.”
A related theme for the year will be continuing to strengthen the faculty’s governance relationship with the administration and trustees, a relationship Haynie said Duke faculty can be proud of. This past spring, Trustee Chair Jack Bovender told Haynie how trustee peers at other universities are surprised at the role faculty play at Duke.
That relationship will always require work to maintain, Haynie said, and this term he wants to take a look at Academic Council internal processes. Much of the faculty governance comes through the complex network of faculty committees that review all initiatives before they come to the council. That process ensures faculty voices are heard at an early stage in the development of a project, but Haynie noted that it can also be challenging for council members.
“What’s tricky is an issue has gone through several faculty committees, but we have to get the information that comes from that process to the council members in a useful way. We don’t need them to rehash questions that the committees already discussed, but we also want the council members to have the information that they need to make an informed vote.”
The bottom line, he said, is our faculty governance structure “works well for Duke. It is a vigorous, healthy relationship.”
The next Academic Council meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in 0012 Westbrook Building in the Divinity School.