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Faculty question expansion

With the release of a statement last week by the Executive Committee of Academic Council questioning the substance and process of the proposed expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the faculty is staking its claim as a key player in the ongoing debate about Duke's athletic future.

The ECAC statement, released June 10, expressed particular concern about the lack of input the faculty has had in expansion talks.

According to the statement and Academic Council Chair Dr. Nancy Allen, the faculty has been denied access to much of the data pertaining to expansion and has not had sufficient time to study the issue. Although various reports have suggested that a vote from ACC presidents on expansion is imminent, ECAC suggested a six- to 12-month waiting period so that the proposal could be properly reviewed by the faculty of all schools in the conference.

"The entire process wasn't done with proper faculty consultation," Allen said. "I have some hope that we can slow this down to allow faculty to have a voice in the matter, but even if we don't, we want to ensure that a process is put in place so that the next time these kinds of matters arise, faculty get to be heard early on in the discussions."

Not all members of the faculty agree with ECAC's call for a greater role in the decision making process. While acknowledging that the faculty has been left out of the loop, some professors questioned the exigency of faculty input.

"I think the process objection is overblown. If the faculty had been consulted, they would have spent quite a bit of time saying sports will be more important than they are already," said Michael Munger, professor and chair of the political science department. "I guess we think we should be consulted about everything."

Others said they and their colleagues were ill-prepared to contribute to the debate at this time.

"People may have knee-jerk reactions to this [proposed ACC expansion], but I don't know of anyone who's really given it serious thought," said Philip Morgan, professor and chair of the sociology department.

The faculty's concerns about expansion extend beyond whether or not they were consulted. A number of professors said they worried about the travel implications for student-athletes, as schools at the far reaches of the East Coast - from Miami University to Boston College and Syracuse University - could be added. Also at issue are the balance of athletics-versus-academics at the University and the future of intercollegiate athletics more generally.

"From the broader standpoint of collegiate athletics, if the ACC goes forward with this particular sort of opportunistic raiding then all the other conferences may have to follow suit," said Laurie Shannon, associate professor of English. "I also wonder who can best referee a conflict of this sort. The market? The courts? The NCAA? Or the universities and colleges themselves, whose names, specific histories, students, supporters and alumni are the assets being exchanged?"

Other ACC faculty governing bodies have expressed varying amounts of distress on the issue.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the faculty senate opposed expansion largely because it was not consulted, leading to a meeting last week among UNC Chancellor James Moeser, Athletic Director Dick Baddour and the faculty to discuss the expansion plan in detail.

Faculty governing bodies at the University of Virginia and North Carolina State University were comparatively unconcerned with expansion.

The fate of expansion is currently in flux, as Moeser, Duke President Nan Keohane and Virginia President John Casteen have expressed concerns. Seven of the nine ACC presidents must vote in favor of expansion in order for it to proceed.

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