Joint Statement on the Status of the ECU Center for Biodiversity from the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies/Chair of the Centers and Institutes Committee, the Chair of the Department of Biology, the Director of the Center for Biodiversity, and the Director of Outreach for the Center for Biodiversity
In 2014, the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) convened a working group to review centers and institutes operating under 400.5[R] of the UNC Policy Manal. On February 18, 2015, a recommendation was made by the BOG Working Group on Centers and Institutes to discontinue the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina University. The use of the term “discontinue” is unfortunate because it conveys a message that was not intended by the Board of Governors Working Group. In open forum on December 11, 2014, James Holmes as Chair of the Working Group praised the work of the Center and held it up as an excellent example of a center that runs effectively from within a department. The research and outreach missions of the Center are valued at all levels within the institution, funding for the Center’s activities come from the Department of Biology, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, external donors, and extramural grants, and the majority of faculty involved in the Center’s activities are appointed to the Department of Biology. The BOG Working Group is not advocating that the activities of the Center be discontinued. Instead, the question being addressed is whether designation as a UNC Center is necessary to accomplish its mission and is the most efficient mechanism for the activities to be administered. UNC Policy 400.5[R] recognizes and allows for entities other than UNC Centers that coordinate education, research, and service activities; and these entities can be exempt from the regulations of the Policy, and it should be noted that the changes to 400.5[R] will increase the reporting requirements and subsequently the administrative burden placed on UNC Centers. Thus, we interpret the recommendation of the BOG Working Group as acknowledgement that the Center is functioning effectively from within Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Biology and that it should be redefined as an “other coordinating entity” outside of Policy 400.5[R]. Reconfiguration/restructuring will eliminate the need to comply with the reporting requirements within Policy 400.5[R], as well as the need to be assessed separately for SACS accreditation. Thus, we see the recommendation of the BOG Working Group as a potential to decrease administrative burden on the faculty associated with the Center, allowing more resources to be used for direct support of programs. East Carolina University, the Division of Academic Affairs, and the Department of Biology are fully committed to sustaining the important work being performed by the Center for Biodiversity, and we will work in a coordinated fashion to meet the challenges ahead.