Jan 312013


By Katherine Ayers

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Funding for East Carolina and other North Carolina universities could be in for a shake-up if Gov. Pat McCrory gets his way.

In a radio interview with “Morning in America” host Bill Bennett on Tuesday, McCrory said he would rather focus funding on majors that resulted in jobs for graduates than on more traditional liberal arts degrees.

“If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it,” he said, referring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill women’s and gender studies department. “But I don’t want to subsidize that if it’s not going to get someone a job.”

On the program, McCrory said he asked his staff on Monday to draft legislation that would alter the way funds are distributed to colleges and universities. Rather than money being given based on how many students attend — the number of “butts in seats” — it would be based on “how many of those butts can get jobs,” he said.

ECU officials declined to comment about McCrory’s statements Tuesday saying there were no concrete plans on which to base their comments, but by the end of the day UNC system President Tom Ross had weighed in.

“The university’s value to North Carolina should not be measured by jobs filled alone,” he said in a prepared statement. “Our three-part mission of teaching, research and public service requires that we prepare students with talent and abilities to succeed in the workforce because talent will be the key to economic growth.”

Ross said the UNC system understands that “state resources are limited and agree that there must be pathways to jobs in the modern economy,” and the system is working with business leaders from across the state, the president of the state’s community college system and state legislators to set degree goals that are “responsive to the talent needs of the future economy.”

“Higher education plays a key role in ensuring a higher quality of life for all North Carolinians,” he said. “North Carolina’s economy is in transition, and we must position the state to compete nationally and internationally in the years ahead.”

John Collins, an associate professor of philosophy at ECU who signed an online petition denouncing McCrory’s comments, said McCrory’s view of a university education as job training was “short-sighted.”

“People sometimes don’t wind up in the profession they had planned to, and nowadays people often have multiple careers,” he said in an emailed statement. “Another (reason) is that the skills for a job may become obsolete.”

Collins said universities should aim to teach skills that never expire.

“These include skills such as the ability to think critically, argue for a position, comprehend difficult texts and uncover their implications and the ability to articulate nuanced views in speech and writing,” he said. “These are precisely the skills that are emphasized in the humanities.”

The professor also said that by mid-career many people in his field have salaries competitive with those in other majors.

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.

Popular MajorsMost popular ECU undergraduate majors for Fall 2011 based on number of students enrolled:

  • Business Administration – 1,444
  • Elementary Education – 1,172
  • Communication Studies, Broadcast Journalism – 841
  • Marketing – 527
  • Fine Arts – 505
  • Biology – 460
  • Criminal Justice – 454
  • Industrial Technology – 424
  • Psychology – 421
  • Management Accounting – 394

via The Daily Reflector.

Jan 312013


Our View

Does he really want courses to be tested for jobs potential?

Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013

Gov. Pat McCrory, in a national radio interview Tuesday, said he wants to change how higher education is funded in North Carolina. While speaking with conservative talk show host Bill Bennett, McCrory disparaged liberal arts classes and majors, sneered at the “educational elite,” and told Bennett that he’s instructing his staff to draft legislation that would fund colleges “not based upon how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”

We’re confused.

Surely, the governor wasn’t suggesting that a liberal arts degree offers poor preparation for jobs and careers, or that employers haven’t long appreciated the broad insight and communications skills a liberal arts education provides many of their employees. After all, McCrory graduated from Catawba College after majoring in political science and education.

Surely, the governor wasn’t saying that only N.C. students who can afford a private education should have access to the types of courses that build perspective, not just skills.

Surely, he wasn’t proposing that North Carolina try to legislatively measure the immeasurable: which majors and courses prepare students not only for a first job, but a satisfying career.

Surely, what McCrory meant to do was emphasize the importance of collaboration between higher education and business, a point he rightly made often during his campaign. He probably also meant to tell the radio audience that he wants to reward schools and programs that develop creative initiatives, as N.C.’s community colleges already are doing, to fill jobs employers say are vacant.

Surely, the governor was just inartfully getting to the bigger picture, which is that there’s a legitimate need for schools to regularly examine public education’s value and purpose. Universities have been doing that for decades – often when economies are poor and students can’t find jobs – and a UNC panel has been having exactly that conversation in recent months. Done right, it’s not one that threatens liberal arts, but one that can unearth opportunities to integrate the best of business, industry and liberal arts paths.

Surely, the governor isn’t proposing to legislatively commandeer that conversation. He did, after all, run a campaign touting the value of efficient and streamlined government, and it would be neither to strong-arm universities that are best equipped at analyzing all the marketplaces they serve. After more than 200 years, it’s fair to say that the UNC system, revered across the country, has done a pretty good job of it so far.

McCrory knows all this. So maybe his comments Tuesday were merely an acute case of preening. Maybe the governor was justifiably excited about his proposed synergy of business and education, but in a desire to establish his street cred to a conservative audience, he allowed himself to get led off the rails on education.

We hope so. Because otherwise, we heard a governor Tuesday who denigrated one of North Carolina’s biggest assets. We heard what seems to be a proposal for dramatic change to one of America’s best public university systems, one that not only has long equipped state students with an affordable, high-quality education, but with well-rounded learning that contributes to the intellectual and cultural foundation a vibrant state needs.

Surely, that can’t be it. Right, Mr. Governor?

via McCrory’s wrong answer on education | CharlotteObserver.com.

Jan 312013


Modified Thu, Jan 31, 2013 04:04 AM

Let’s hope that Gov. Pat McCrory, now in the throes of his first legislative session as chief executive, just got a little carried away in a radio interview with bombastic Bill Bennett, former education secretary under Ronald Reagan and a media voice from the Republican right wing. Bennett is a hunter; his game of choice is pointy-headed liberals he deems to be in control of American higher education.

Tuesday morning, he lured Gov. McCrory into the duck blind and loaned him a bird gun.

Sounding very much like Bennett himself, McCrory said, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.”

Bennett had made light, or perhaps that’s dark, of gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, a top school offering a broad array of courses in the sciences and also in … careful now … liberal arts. The governor, as The News & Observer’s Under the Dome reported, seemed eager to cast his lot with Burly Bill, saying, “That’s a subsidized course. If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

Whoa. If all courses in higher education, at the public schools anyway, have to pass some sort of quantitative test to justify their existence, curricula may be changing minute to minute. But there’s really no way to do that.

Links to workplace

The governor seems to be saying that all courses should be aimed at the job market. Leaving aside for a minute the impracticality of that idea, consider that English majors go into brokerage houses, and business majors go to the Peace Corps and, these days, many people are working outside their academic specialties. A course of study in college reflects, or should, a well-balanced approach that will give any student a broad-based education with a major of particular interest. But that’s no guarantee that the student will follow that major into the workplace, or should.

The truth is, university graduates ought to be prepared enough to consider more than one option. And the idea of a good education is to teach people to think.

But the governor seemed, on Bennett’s show at least, to believe that higher education funding should be dictated by the expressed needs of the business community. He said, for example, that, “I’m going to adjust my education curriculum to what business and commerce needs to get our kids jobs as opposed to moving back in with their parents after they graduate with debt,” he said.

He even went so far as to say funding for the UNC system and for the state’s highly respected community colleges would be “not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”

That sort of “colorful” comment doesn’t exactly polish North Carolina’s image as a progressive state. And it rests on a fallacy that what’s lacking aren’t jobs, but qualifications. Tell that to the state’s unemployed CPAs, people with MBAs and lawyers. And tell it to the community college graduates who got trained in technical skills and still can’t find work.

Chapel Hill bashing

It’s hard to figure what gallery McCrory is playing to here, but his comments sound like gratuitous criticism of the university system and perhaps that bastion of liberal thought, UNC-Chapel Hill. The university has long been a target of conservatives (Jesse Helms loved to go a few rounds with Chapel Hill on a regular basis). And it’s true as well that on almost every campus, there are courses of questionable merit. But a university education is in part about taking risks here and there.

Trying to link academic funding to the ever-changing – and currently very tight – job market sounds like a formula for trouble. It also sounds like a governor and a General Assembly taking charge of university curricula, which would constitute, liberal or conservative, an infringement on academic freedom.

The governor would be wise to consider that the UNC system has produced a well-educated work force over many generations and represents an investment that delivers big returns to the state in many ways. The system is working. The governor should not succumb to political opportunists who want us to believe it isn’t.

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via McCrory misfires in his comments on UNC – Editorials – NewsObserver.com.

Jan 312013


Modified Wed, Jan 30, 2013 09:56 PM

College not for cog-making

I will graduate from UNC this May, and, contrary to Pat McCrory’s prediction, I won’t be moving back in with my parents but working in Atlanta as a management consultant. Why? Because my liberal arts education taught me to think.

My “Experience and Reality” class didn’t show me how to prepare a business presentation, but it did teach me that perception is relative. To appreciate others’ experiences, I respectfully must analyze their viewpoints.

My “Introduction to Rock Music” class didn’t test me on balancing budgets, but it did illuminate how innovation depends on studying past developments.

My “Transatlantic Topics in Hispanic Literature” class didn’t teach me to manage supply chains, but it did demonstrate how cultures are intertwined in today’s globalized society.

While McCrory might have eschewed his own liberal arts education at Catawba College, I am grateful for my education at UNC. I’m not just another part in the economic machine. I’m a dynamic individual in a changing world.

My liberal arts education didn’t teach me to perform one specific job; it taught me how to think.

As my classmates and I have found, good businesses (and good governments) want people who can and who are willing to think.

Parris Smallwood, Chapel Hill

via Parris Smallwood: Not cogs – Letters – NewsObserver.com.

Jan 312013


Modified Wed, Jan 30, 2013 09:56 PM

An attack on all

In his recent radio interview, Gov. Pat McCrory has shown us he’s ready to join the confederacy of dunces who now govern other Southern states. His remarks on liberal arts studies at UNC further underscore he has shed the moderate skin he wore as mayor of Charlotte. Make no mistake about it. These plans are in part the brainchild of our new shadow governor, Art Pope. Pope has been wildly criticized for his attempts to meddle his way into North Carolina’s universities.

The governor criticizes educational elite who are in charge of UNC’s curriculum. These are exactly who should be in charge. Knowledge should not be ridiculed; it should be celebrated. Like Rick Santorum, he has joined a group of conservatives who fear what becomes of children who receive a university education.

I received a degree in French from UNC-Chapel Hill – a degree at which these gentlemen would likely scoff. However, I am now working in higher education for a university in Paris, and this subsidized degree has served me well.

Funding of the liberal arts and technical schools should not be mutually exclusive, and an attack on one is an attack on the state’s commitment to higher education as a whole.

Kevin Paul, Greensboro

via Kevin Paul: An attack on all – Letters – NewsObserver.com.

Jan 312013



Thursday, January 31, 2013

At its annual planning retreat last weekend, the Greenville City Council expended considerable energy examining ways to make the community more attractive to potential employers. The discussion represented part of a larger economic development initiative whereby the council intends to expand the employer base through targeted marketing, recruitment and other related efforts.

With resources like East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, the medical complex and a diverse, educated workforce, the community is already attractive to potential business. But in some areas — most notably in its instances of crime — Greenville will need to make strides if it hopes to facilitate the type of economic growth that council members and residents alike desire.

The annual planning retreat intends to provide city officials a relaxed and collegial atmosphere in which to take the long view on the many forces and priorities facing the community. This year, members devoted much of the agenda to economic development and the need to make a more concerted effort to reduce unemployment by bringing new business to town.

One potential impediment to recruitment efforts is the city’s crime rate which, while in decline, contributes to low confidence in public safety among residents. Violent crime may be lower than five and 10 years ago, but Greenville continues to fight an unfair reputation for being a dangerous place to live and work. While crime occurs here as in any other metropolitan area, several high profile incidents have served to skew perception.

Two recent incidents serve to illustrate the problem. On Jan. 20, a man leaving a grocery store in the early afternoon was attacked without warning or provocation by a man with a sharp object who then fled the area. And last weekend, an altercation in front of a nightclub in the early morning hours escalated into gunshots while Greenville police were already on the scene.

In both cases, the suspects were arrested. And neither should act as an indictment of the police department’s tremendous efforts to combat crime. But it does show that these terrible acts are not confined to the early morning hours or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Nor does the presence of uniformed officers deter those bent on creating mayhem.

They do show that continued vigilance by all those at City Hall, at the police department and throughout the judicial system is needed to make strides on public safety. And it underscores that, absent success in that area, the city may find its economic development overtures falling on deaf ears.

via The Daily Reflector.

Jan 312013


By Wesley Brown

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The multi-million-dollar 10th Street Connector is nearing full development, but questions raised by property owners who will be displaced by the critical highway link between East Carolina University and Vidant Medical Center are far from answered.

Answers to key questions are promised tonight at 7 during a free informational session being held by the N.C. Eminent Domain Law Firm at the Hilton Greenville.

A division of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, the N.C. Eminent Domain Law Firm represents property owners throughout North Carolina who may be affected by state right-of-way acquisitions.

“Regardless of the size and scope of the project, the state has an obligation to pay homeowners the fair value for their homes, businesses and land but, unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen,” said attorney Stan Abrams, head of the N.C. Eminent Domain Law Firm. “There are a lot of things homeowners just don’t know when it comes to such important negotiations.”

Abrams’ experience in litigating condemnation cases spans five years as an assistant attorney general for the N.C. Department of Justice, where he worked numerous transportation projects involving millions of dollars of buyouts.

Owners along the proposed 1.4-mile stretch have voiced concerns about being fully compensated for their land, homes and businesses. But despite the attention, as the N.C. Department of Transportation begins negotiations for land, questions remain, Abrams said.

Among the issues to be addressed tonight include:

How will the value of property be calculated?

Does an owner have a say in how much the property is worth?

Does the owner have to accept the NCDOT’s offer on property?

Does the owner have a say on how much of the property will be taken?

Should an owner get an appraisal?

The first batch of fair-market appraisals in the $27 million worth of property acquisition for the project came in September. Construction, estimated to cost $19.6 million, is expected to begin in October.

Beginning at Memorial Drive, with improvements ending at 10th and Evans streets, the proposed four-lane connector will widen symmetrically down Farmville Boulevard before crossing through a neighborhood and rising into a bridge over the railroad tracks at Dickinson Avenue.

The 10th Street Connector is expected to displace about 30 residences, 24 businesses, seven institutions and potentially affect dozens of other property owners.

For more information about the meeting, call the N.C. Eminent Domain Law Firm at 1-877-393-4990.

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.

Jan 312013


Modified Wed, Jan 30, 2013 07:24 PM

By Jane Stancill – jstancill@newsobserver.com

CHAPEL HILL — UNC-Chapel Hill students spoke out Wednesday to demand that campus administrators do more to support survivors of sexual assault.

At a rally in front of the main administrative building, students said the university’s procedures for dealing with sexual offenses are inadequate and foster a climate of fear on campus. The event was held by a group called the SAFER Carolina Campaign; SAFER stands for Survivors and Allies for Empowerment and Reform.

The group is pushing for change following a federal complaint by several students, a former student and a former administrator, who have asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate UNC-CH’s handling of sexual assaults.

“It’s time for this university to listen to women, to trust us and to believe us,” said Landen Gambill, a sophomore from Mooresville and one of the students who filed the complaint. “We will not be silenced.”

Gambill described how her abuser, an ex-boyfriend and fellow student, had been found innocent last year by an honor court that she said seemed to blame her for what had happened. She said the student withdrew from the university and then was allowed to move into a dorm across the street from her.

“There are rapists on this campus, and the university knows it,” Gambill said. “They’ve been through the university processes. The university knows who and what they are, but they’re still here as a direct result of specific administrators protecting them. It’s an outrage. This is an outrage because it puts students in direct danger. It’s an outrage because I and other survivors should not have to walk around our campus each day with the fear of seeing the men that raped us.”

Behind her stood about two dozen students, some holding signs. One poster said, “It happens here.” Another said “We’re not numbers.”

The students called for action on a number of fronts:

• a new sexual assault policy to be crafted by specially trained faculty and students;

• better training for administrators;

• more accessible and centralized resources for victims;

• the creation of a new department to handle gender-based violence response and prevention;

• and the review of four administrators who have been involved in the handling of sexual assault.

The students sent their list of demands to Chancellor Holden Thorp.

A university spokeswoman said officials had no comment following Wednesday’s rally.

University leaders have said they take the issue seriously. But they dispute an allegation that the campus underreported sexual offenses in 2010. Last week, Thorp announced that the university was planning to bring in Gina Smith, an outside expert on campus sexual assault policies who helped Amherst College review procedures after widespread negative attention about problems there.

Tim Longest, a senior from Greenville, criticized UNC-CH’s sexual assault policy, which was revamped in the past year by administrators. He said it was written without public input or public scrutiny.

“We must do what we can to prevent the injustices of sexism at this university,” Longest said. “We must take sides. Choosing neutrality means siding with the oppressors at this once-great institution.”

Andrea Pino, a junior from Miami who joined the federal complaint, said a consultant won’t be able to solve UNC-CH’s problems. What changed the culture at Amherst, she said, was the fact that students came forward and were listened to by the administration.

Pino said UNC-CH is focused on compliance with federal crime reporting laws instead of supporting students.

“This is not a story about numbers,” she said. “This story is about survivors who are being silenced. I am one of them, and there are many of us.”

Pino said she was sexually assaulted in March of last year by an unknown attacker. She suffered a concussion and still has daily headaches, she said. Because she could not remember the details of the assault, she did not report it to police and only put forth an anonymous complaint to the university. When she struggled in class, she said, an academic adviser suggested she couldn’t make it at the university.

Since speaking out, she said, she has heard from dozens of current and former students with their own sexual assault stories.

In a process that could take weeks, federal officials are reviewing the complaint to determine whether to investigate. Campus officials have not commented fully because they have not seen the complaint, which has only been detailed by the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper, which obtained a copy.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

via UNC-Chapel Hill students want action on sexual assault policies – Crime/Safety – NewsObserver.com.