With battles looming over a controversial new school, Beth Moracco ’92 (MPH, ’99 PhD) was elected this week as chair of the faculty.
Moracco, an associate professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s department of health behavior, will succeed Mimi Chapman ’97 (PhD), the Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor for human service policy information and an associate dean for doctoral education.
Moracco, who joined the faculty in 2008 and is also associate director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, beat Thomas Kelley, the James Dickson Phillips Jr. Distinguished Professor of law for the chair position. Kelley directs UNC’s School of Law Institute for Innovation, and the Community Development Law Clinic. Moracco will assume the chair July 1 and her term will last three years.
During candidate remarks to the faculty council in March, Moracco cited her extensive knowledge in how academic programs are developed, approved and institutionalized.
“I chose to come here because Carolina’s the people’s university,” said Moracco, whose research focuses on the primary and secondary prevention of gender-based violence in the U.S. and global settings using qualitative and quantitative methods. “I chose to stay here as a faculty member because of the vast opportunities to be engaged in scholarship. I also believe in faculty governance.”
The faculty council meets monthly during the academic year to discuss and debate campus and UNC System issues, sometimes passing nonbinding resolutions to the University, the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors.
After being introduced as chair-elect at the April 21 faculty council meeting, Moracco cited curriculum, accreditation, promotion, inclusivity and free speech as issues facing UNC faculty, adding this is a critical time for higher education nationwide.
She said her priorities will be protecting, continuing and enhancing efforts to build an inclusive and equitable environment for Carolina’s faculty, students and staff; safeguarding the integrity of the role of faculty in decision making; and advocating for full, timely and transparent information sharing for all matters concerning the faculty.
Some faculty members have been at odds with the University’s Board of Trustees since January, when the board approved directing UNC administration to establish the School of Civic Life and Leadership, which proponents say would increase students’ capacities for debate and deliberation. Some faculty said they were blindsided by the proposal and that the school is unnecessary. Trustees who support the school said it will balance out what they view as a liberal slant at UNC.
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz congratulated Moracco and said he looks forward to working with her. They will meet this week. He also praised and thanked Chapman for her service. “For the past three years, I feel like I’ve had a trusted partner in moving the University forward,” Guskiewicz said.
Provost Chris Clemens said he’s excited to work with Moracco, adding she takes the helm at a time when they can work together to make an audacious case for the University. “We need leadership that is judicious and savvy about the political context and how we engage with our stakeholders,” he said.
Clemens also thanked Chapman for her leadership. “Mimi has been, and I imagine will continue to be, a powerful voice for our faculty,” he said. “While we didn’t always take the same approach to promoting the University and its faculty, I know that we share the same core commitments to this University, to one another and to our students and our state. Mimi has been an advocate for this body and for our community and represented the faculty with courage and grace.”
In a statement in the April Faculty Council newsletter, Chapman said the University had two thoughtful and brilliant choices for chair in Moracco and Kelley.
“I have no doubt that this faculty will be in good hands,” Chapman said. “These three years have been both tumultuous and inspiring. Representing the faculty has been my great honor, and I thank you for your confidence and support as we have weathered the pandemic and other threats to the well-being of our campus. Our difficulties are not resolved, and I hope you will extend Beth the support and grace you have given to me.”
This article was updated on May 2 to remove a reference to North Carolina House Bill 715, which would have removed faculty tenure throughout the UNC System. The bill has been tabled.
— Laurie D. Willis ’86