Oct 302014


By Jane Dail

The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

While the board of trustees approved a budget for the 2014-15 school year, Pitt Community College officials are planning for budget cuts in the near future.

PCC President Dennis Massey said the college already plans to talk to the legislature about the two-year budget, which would start in July.

“We are already developing our agenda for the long session, which begins in January,” he said.

Massey said the college already has been asked by the N.C. Community College System to set aside a 2 percent reversion, about $895,000, for this fiscal year in case there are revenue problems at the state level. He said Gov. Pat McCrory also has asked for another 2 percent cut next year.

“We would prefer not to put that completely on the students in terms of tuition increase,” he said. “We’ve made it a blend, a proposal if taken. It’s a blend of tuition increases and cuts to programs. The reality is that across the state there is an effort to slim down, and we’re doing everything we can to minimize the cuts here.”

Massey said he believes PCC is in a better position than many other community colleges because of enrollment but also because of the faculty and staff.

“They’ve really gone the extra mile, and I think we are doing a good job in serving the area and following through with the (strategic goals) of the college,” he said.

The board also accepted a budget for this fiscal year of $120,085,754, which is $1.5 million higher than previous year. Board member Tyree Walker said one of the main reasons for the increase was due to a $1,000 salary increase and additional funding from McCrory’s Closing the Skills Gap initiative.

The board of trustees also discussed an audit conducted for the 2012-13 year, which had two findings related to continuing education.

One finding was that the college was granting inappropriate fee waivers to members of the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps. Military personnel are not listed in the state general statutes as able to have fees and tuition waived in community colleges.

The other finding was that in the spring of 2012, hours were miscalculated and over-reported for the budget for full-time students for non-regularly scheduled classes.

Walker said those items have since been corrected.

Rick Owens, vice president of administrative services, also reported that PCC started its process of reviewing criminal background checks for all employees last year and will continue to do it this year.

He said since the checks started, PCC officials have found eight “adverse actions,” where people were not hired due to past convictions.

Meeting documents stated potential employees and federal work-study students were not hired for reasons including number of convictions, nature of convictions relative to position, time elapsed since conviction, evidence of successful employment in a similar position since conviction and whether the applicant would pose an unreasonable risk.

Owens said the personnel committee has been discussing ways to ensure consistency.

“(We need to ensure) if we have two individuals with the same backgrounds are treated the exact same,” he said.

Other items discussed at the meeting include:

  • PCC is still in talks to purchase a Bank of America building in Farmville for a possible location there, although board Chairman Charles Long said this has not been finalized yet.

PCC officials discussed participating in a regional Workforce Summit on Oct. 2, which helped businesses and industries communicate with community colleges.

  • The college hired an assistant vice president of information technology, the last senior management position that was empty.

Contact Jane Dail at jdail@reflector or 252-329-9585.

Oct 302014


By Abbie Bennett

The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nearly 200 people gathered in downtown Greenville to celebrate the growth and progress of the city’s central district during the State of the District annual meeting.

A detailed presentation was given at the event Tuesday by Uptown Greenville Director Bianca Shoneman to bring attendees — including government officials, business owners and others — up to date on the progress in the city’s downtown area. Ron Mitchelson, interim provost at East Carolina University, also gave a presentation on the urban geography of the area.

The presentation focused on the landscape of Greenville, particularly the property tax base. About one third of the property in Greenville is not taxable, largely due to government-owned properties, Vidant Health’s properties and East Carolina University, Mitchelson said.

There are about 138,391 taxable acres in Pitt County, he said. The total taxable value is about $9.9 billion. About $5.1 billion of that amount is in Greenville. Greenville has about 9 percent of the county’s land, but about 51 percent of its taxable value, Mitchelson said.

In a breakdown of taxable value per acre by district in the city, Uptown Greenville found that the downtown district is valued at about $1 million per acre, the East 10th Street area is about $485,000, the medical district is about $282,000, west Greenville is about $208,000, Dickinson is about $170,000 and the airport is about $109,000 per acre.

Taxable value per acre by land use showed the most valuable was in the shopping category, at about $567,000 per acre, followed by office uses at about half that value, service, warehouse, residential and other.

Since 2013, Uptown Greenville reported more than $50 million in private investment downtown, including 162 new full or part-time jobs created, 20 new businesses and 14 building improvements.

Residential units downtown include about 524 available beds with an additional 545 in development for a total 1,069 expected in 2015.

Mitchelson called the downtown area the heart of the city, and said a healthy, vibrant downtown was key for the city and ECU in attracting new businesses, residents and students.

The downtown area attracts about 78,000 people, equivalent to about 87 percent of the municipal population to the district with more than 50 events annually, a 14 percent increase from 2013. Uptown Greenville had about 700 volunteers in the last year, Shoneman said.

More than 20 restaurants call downtown Greenville home, with more on the way. More than 50 retail establishments also are located downtown, with five opening in 2014.

Uptown Greenville officials advised that in order to continue residential momentum, the downtown area needs additional housing designed to attract the millennial and baby boomer populations. Preferences include smaller units with attractive pricing and access to diverse transportation options.

Future goals for the district beyond residential growth include a performing arts center, hotel recruitment and restoration of the downtown theater.


Contact Abbie Bennett at abennett@reflector.com or 252-329-9579. Follow her on Twitter @AbbieRBennett.

Oct 302014


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The academic scandal involving student athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill should be inspiring a wave of recognition among other universities that the economic culture within college athletics must change. For anything positive to come from this unfolding disaster for modern academia, there must be a mutual reckoning among all who have looked the other way — to any degree — rather than upset the golden goose of big-money college sports.

Investigator Kenneth L. Wainstein’s report on the scandal, released earlier this month, details how “paper classes” in UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies were used for nearly two decades to boost grades for student athletes in danger of losing their team eligibility. A former U.S. Justice Department official, Wainstein estimated that 3,100 students — about half of them athletes — took the classes, which included practically no instruction and required little work.

This story reflects directly and terribly on UNC, which maintains an otherwise proud tradition of academic excellence as one of the nation’s oldest and most respected public universities. Plenty of other schools have weathered scandals involving inappropriate grades given to star athletes. But in terms of measuring official misconduct in providing academic success where none was earned, it appears that UNC has achieved the highest score.

Coincidentally, the UNC scandal broke during the same year — 2011 — as one at Penn State. While the two are not comparable in terms of abhorrent criminal behavior, the root cause for the escalation of each scandal is the same: money.

Universities large and small cannot afford to further ignore the economic realities and social responsibilities attached to the millions of dollars flowing into their budgets from the cable television phenomenon that college sports has become. East Carolina, with its successful football season, is reaping those rewards now. Amid the excitement of watching the Pirates on a national stage, ECU and its fans should view the troubling revelations at UNC as a sobering reminder to play by the rules.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, who took the flagship wheel in July 2013, told The Washington Post last week that gaps in oversight led to the paper classes being allowed to continue for 18 years without high-level administrators knowing. It is unlikely that such a culture of low scrutiny regarding academic eligibility requirements for athletes is confined to UNC.

The legacy of UNC is forever tarnished by this scandal. The legacy of the scandal should be that it forever changed the way all universities accommodate, promote and benefit from college athletes and athletics.

Oct 302014


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I would like to thank Ken Wainstein and his 131-page report for confirming what many have known for years: The “Carolina Way” is the greatest joke ever told. It will be interesting to see what the UNC Board of Governors will do in light of the report. For some reason or another, I haven’t read much (if anything) from the Board of Governors regarding the improprieties and attempts to obfuscate knowledge thereof by “the flagship.”

I wonder if anyone will question ACC commissioner John Swofford. If my math is correct, the former UNC football player was UNC’s athletic director at the time the fraudulent classes began. Maybe he didn’t see it as a problem considering Dean Smith, the author of the “Carolina Way,” was head basketball coach at the time. Who knows what his reasoning was, but it would be interesting to hear what he has to say.

I wonder if The Daily Reflector will interview Pitt County’s own UNC BOG member and former UNC announcer Henry Hinton regarding this issue. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say because of his ties to UNC. I have a feeling that all the other UNC system schools will not go unscathed in the BOG’s attempt to protect “the flagship.” Methinks some banners need to come down from the Smith Center rafters.



Oct 302014


Published: Oct. 30, 2014

Ebola prompts new UNC, NCSU travel rules

By Jay Price

RALEIGH — UNC-Chapel Hill tightened rules Wednesday for official travel to the three West African nations that have been hit by the Ebola epidemic – banning such travel outright for students and requiring more layers of approval for faculty and staff.

N.C. State University plans to issue similar restrictions Thursday.

Officials at both schools said such travel was unusual but that it made sense to have policies in place that follow the evolving federal guidelines on dealing with Ebola risk.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that all education-related travel to the three countries be postponed until further notice.

Faculty and staff can get waivers from UNC but will need advance approval from their school and also from a new review panel. Employees of the health care system must get advance approval there.

A key goal is to make sure that those traveling to help with the crisis – as some faculty already have – are aware of the full range of risks, including the potential that on their return they could face new local, state or federal quarantine rules, said Katie Bowler Young, director of Global Relations for UNC Global, the office that oversees UNC-CH’s international programs.

The university already required faculty, staff and students planning international travel to register their plans. A check of the registry Wednesday, Young said, revealed no travel or planned travel to the three affected countries from August to February.

Travel to and from that area on official business was already being carefully monitored, and faculty and staff had to have their plans reviewed by the provost’s office, she said.

The policy also says students or university employees who are thinking about travel to the affected countries for personal reasons are “strongly discouraged” from doing so until the epidemic ends.

At NCSU, the new restrictions also will probably have minimal effect, since the university has no study abroad programs in the affected areas, said spokesman Mick Kulikowski. NCSU officials aren’t aware of any students doing independent study or graduate research in the affected areas.

The UNC travel ban came on the same day as the weekly update by state health officials on preparations across the state in case the deadly virus makes an appearance here.

There still are no known or suspected cases of Ebola here, but issues surrounding the handful of cases that have appeared elsewhere in the country mean it’s important to “overcommunicate” information about the disease to the public and health care workers, said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos.

A new DHHS website, www.ncdhhs.gov/ebola, provides regularly updated information on the disease and has already logged more than 18,000 visits.

Price: 919-829-4526

Oct 302014


Updated: Wed 10:14 PM, Oct 29, 2014
 Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are banning students from traveling to three countries because of concerns about Ebola.

A message distributed campus-wide Wednesday says students cannot travel to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The message says faculty and staff must get permission from their deans and the provost before traveling to those countries.

WITN asked East Carolina University if they have similar plans. A university statement says, “With the shared goal of protecting the ECU campus and community, the University is following the CDC’s recommendations by prohibiting university sponsored travel to the countries under the CDC Travel Warning, unless the travel is reviewed and determined to be essential. Typical academic and research activities would be considered nonessential, while humanitarian efforts may be considered essential.:

The statement in its entirety is listed below:

East Carolina University is closely monitoring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Currently, the CDC and other health experts state that this outbreak does not pose a significant threat in the United States. The ECU Communicable Disease Outbreak Planning Committee has been meeting since early August and has been preparing for any impact to our campus and community.

The CDC issued warnings to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With the shared goal of protecting the ECU campus and community, the University is following the CDC’s recommendations by prohibiting university sponsored travel to the countries under the CDC Travel Warning, unless the travel is reviewed and determined to be essential. Typical academic and research activities would be considered nonessential, while humanitarian efforts may be considered essential.

The University will not support any university sponsored travel to or through these three countries, regardless of funding source, unless reviewed and approved by our infectious disease experts in consultation with the Provost and the appropriate vice chancellor. We encourage you to continue your scholarly work and service in West Africa through electronic means such as video conferencing or by delaying travel to these countries until the CDC travel warnings and institutional travel restrictions are lifted. If you feel your travel is essential and involves extraordinary circumstances, you can contact Dr. Paul Barry, Director of Prospective Health. Dr. Barry and our infectious disease experts will review your proposal and make a recommendation to the Provost and the appropriate vice chancellor. You will need to provide your travel itinerary and emergency contacts, a brief overview of the project, sponsoring agency with contact information, as well as an infection control and contingency plan to insure your safety and the safety of our community upon your return. Travel to these countries must involve contingency plans in case the traveler is quarantined, becomes ill or is restricted from leaving the country.

It is important that the University maintains contact with all ECU students, faculty, and staff who may have traveled or plan to travel to West Africa for work, research, or leisure. We are encouraging those individuals to self-identify and contact the personnel below so we can help you develop a plan to keep yourself, your family and our community safe.

Oct 302014


Published: Oct. 30, 2014

Autopsy on AppState student Anna Smith shows no trace of drugs

Preliminary autopsy results released Wednesday showed no trace of drugs in the body of Anna Smith, an Appalachian State University freshman found dead in the woods near campus last month.

A toxicology report released by the office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh showed the 18-year-old from High Point apparently had ingested nothing out of the ordinary when she disappeared the night of Sept. 2. Her body was found Sept. 13 in the woods just outside campus near Mountaineer Hall, the last place she was seen.

Her disappearance touched off a massive search in the college town of Boone and surrounding mountains. Police said there was evidence Smith, who had been in personal crisis in the first weeks of the semester, had left a note behind and asphyxiated herself.

Dr. Patrick Lantz, the medical examiner who did the autopsy, an expert in both forensic and pediatric pathology, determined that Smith had no injuries on her head, neck, chest or pelvic region.

A final autopsy report is expected in coming weeks.

Oct 302014


Published: Oct. 30, 2014

Opinion: Editorial

UNC-Chapel Hill AD softpedals scandal

Perhaps, from a person who’d rather talk about a lacrosse stadium and luxury boxes for the Smith Center basketball facility, this was to be expected. But it’s frustrating nonetheless that in a radio interview Bubba Cunningham, UNC-Chapel Hill’s athletics director, seemed to be trying to soften the crushing and embarrassing blow of a report on a long-running athletics/academics scandal.

Washington attorney Kenneth Wainstein recently issued his exhaustive report on the scandal, reported over the last three years by The News & Observer, showing thousands of enrollments in bogus classes through the African studies program that seemed to benefit a disproportionate number of athletes.

This was a monumental scandal, one it turns out the university tried to “manage” by spending nearly $800,000 with a public relations firm. In the end, with the Wainstein report, that didn’t do much good because this was never a public relations problem at all. It was an ethics problem, a credibility problem, an honesty problem.

Following the report, NCAA head Mark Emmert is saying he views the UNC-CH scandal as a serious one, and he’s going to feel some heat from other schools that have been penalized in the past to bring the hammer down in Chapel Hill.

But curiously, at the very time Emmert is taking the UNC scandal ever more seriously, UNC-CH’s Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham is trying to soft-pedal the Wainstein report fallout.

In a radio interview shortly after the ink dried on the report, Cunningham appeared to be downplaying the report itself and the possibility that the university might be sanctioned for what the report said about an 18-year period when athletes (and, yes, non-athletes) used bogus courses to increase their grade point averages.

“So as bad as it was,” Cunningham said, “as long as it was, it’s really starting to sink in that there was maybe one, two, three classes for somebody, so that might be six or nine hours out of 120 that it takes to graduate. So it’s shocking, but as you have a little more time to look at it, it’s not quite as bad as I was thinking it was 48 hours ago.”

Chancellor Carol Folt needs to rein in Cunningham and any other officials who might be tempted even to appear to be trying to rationalize the monumental embarrassment of the Wainstein report. She has expressedalarm about it, and she should not tolerate any comment from university officials that could be interpreted as not taking Wainstein’s findings entirely seriously.

The way to overcome what has been a humiliating episode is to face it and fix it. Trying to “spin” it in any way will just make things worse, and that’s the last thing the university needs.