Montgomery makes a good early impression at ECU | The News & Observer

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Apr 292016
 

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By Joe Giglio
April 28, 2016

RALEIGH

New East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery was in his element on Thursday night.

Joined by more than 200 ECU fans in City Market in downtown Raleigh at the Pirate Club Armada, Montgomery pressed the flesh and roused the rabble.

There’s little else to do in college football’s version of campaign season, the months between the end of spring practice and start of the actual season.

Montgomery, a former NFL receiver and Duke assistant, wore a dark suit and bright smile on Thursday. His first game as a head coach is still 18 weeks away but he was hitting the right notes.

“This is the premier football culture in the state and I’m so happy to be here,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery was asked the difference between ECU fans, where football is a priority, and the following for Duke football, where he played before working as an assistant for seven years.

Montgomery, who’ll turn 38 next month, quickly pivoted around the potential landmine.

“I’m not answering trap questions,” he joked. “It’s a different type of passion.”

And it’s different challenge for Montgomery, who was Duke’s offensive coordinator the past two years and had previously worked as a position coach in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He has already handled the first challenge, soothing over any lingering angst over the ouster of former heach coach Ruffin McNeill. McNeill, former ECU player, is a respected coach nationally among his peers and shortly after his dismissal in December landed an assistant job at Virginia.

ECU athletic director Jeff Compher understands there was an element of surprise, even a shock as Compher put it, to the coaching change after McNeill went 42-34 in six seasons but 5-7 in 2015. But those feelings have dissipated once the fans have met Montgomery.

“I think they’ve seen the future for our program is very bright under his leadership,” Compher said.

Compher said the staff Montgomery hired and his first recruiting class were good first steps for a first-time coach. Compher’s also thinks the $55 million project to upgrade of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be an integral tool in the program’s progress.

“I was very confident he would be the right hire and he’s exceeded all of my expectations thus far,” Compher said.

Everything since he was hired on Dec. 14 has been “a first” for Montgomery. The first recruiting class, the first spring practice, the first spring game and now the first summer.

Montgomery said he loves this part of the job, interacting with fans and building support for the program.

“We have so much energy right now, so much excitement,” he said.

Even the decision this weeky by quarterback Kurt Benkert to graduate and transfer didn’t really seem to phase Montgomery. Benkert was penciled in to be the starter last year before a knee injury cost him the entire season. He had been competing with Minnesota transfer Philip Nelson for the starting job in spring practice before his decision to play his final season of college football elsewhere.

“It was suprising but we’re going to spend most of our time concentrating on Pirates who want to be in Greenville,” Montgomery said.

There were plenty of Pirates in Raleigh on Thursday stoked for the future and what Montgomery can do with the proud program.

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Former Georgia Legislator Named New Chancellor at ECU | Diverse Issues in Higher Education

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Apr 292016
 

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April 27, 2016
by Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ― The UNC Board of Governors has chosen a former Georgia legislator as the new chancellor at East Carolina University.

Cecil Staton, currently the interim president of Valdosta State University, was unanimously elected during the board’s specially called meeting in Chapel Hill on Wednesday. His salary will be $450,000, and he assumes his new role on July 1.

Staton, 58, replaces Steve Ballard, who has announced his retirement after leading the Greenville school since 2004.

Since 2014, Staton has served as vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia, which is comprised of 29 public colleges and universities that enroll more than 318,000 students.

From 2005 to 2014, Staton represented Georgia’s 18th Senate district. He was vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus and also was a member of seven committees, including the higher education committee.

Staton, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, had previously spent 12 years as a professor and administrator at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He began his academic career as a religion professor at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia.

Staton also founded and ran several broadcasting and publishing companies. Among the companies is Georgia Eagle Media, Inc., a holding company for broadcasting, newspaper and media properties. He also led Stroud and Hall Publishers, Inc., a publisher of books on politics and current events.

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Coming attractions: Eastern North Carolina Film Festival brings independent titles to town | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 292016
 

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Kim Grizzard
April 29, 2016

For about the cost of a matinee ticket at a local theater, movie lovers can choose from among more than 75 titles at Saturday’s Eastern North Carolina Film Festival.

The third annual event, to be held at Pitt Community College, will feature 82 offerings, ranging from shorts to full-length features.

“In the past three years, we’ve had 1,001 films submitted to us,” festival director Ron Cooper said. “I’m blown away by it every single year.

“There will be comedies, there will be dramas, there will be horror, there will be suspense,” he said. “It’s pretty much every genre that you could almost imagine.”

Some 360 films were submitted for this year’s festival, some from as far away as Israel, Ukraine and Australia.

“I’ve recently gotten a film from Russia,” said Michael Stephenson, coordinator for PCC’s music and drama associate in fine arts program. “It’s very far reaching.

“I think it’s a unique event for the community,” he said. “I can’t think of anything else in the Greenville community where you can go and experience as many different kinds of cultures within one location.”

While about one-fourth of the films are international submissions — most with English subtitles — many of the featured titles are from filmmakers much closer to home.

East Carolina University graduate Evan Kidd, whose documentary on homelessness, “Displacement Welcomed,” was shown at last year’s festival, returns with “Son of Clowns.” The 95-minute film, shot in Greenville and in the Triangle, follows the story of a fictional, out-of-luck actor forced to move back home with his parents, who are clowns operating a backyard circus. Several of Kidd’s fellow ECU alumni are members of the film’s cast and crew.

ECU graduate Jonathan Rorech will also screen a short film, “The Door,” at this year’s festival. Shot in Greenville, the film runs eight minutes.

“Where We’re Meant To Be,” by North Carolina Director Michael Howard, will be shown Saturday morning. The feature-length film is a collection of eight interwoven stories about people experiencing pivotal moments in their lives.

Among other films with North Carolina ties are “The Hollerin’ Contest at Spivey’s Corner” by Brian Gersten and “Unverified: The Untold Story Behind the UNC Scandal” by Bradley Bethel.

Raleigh filmmaker Rob Underhill will screen two films at the festival, the short “This Was My Son,” in which Mamie Till tells the world what a culture of racial hatred had done to her only son, Emmett Till, and “No Child,” a story about the power relationships have to change people. The 43-minute film stars Timmy Richardson of NBC’s “Little Big Shots.”

The actor, who had a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s “If Loving You Is Wrong,” will be among participants in a morning panel discussion on acting.

“In my opinion, some of the acting that you will see in some of these films could easily compete with any Oscar-winning actor you’ve ever seen,” Cooper said.

The festival, held in partnership with Eno River Media Productions, will present awards for best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress as well as a judge’s choice award. Saturday’s audience will have a chance to help select the viewer’s choice award, and online voting (at encff.com through midnight tonight) will determine the winner of the distance award, given to the filmmaker who has built an online presence and audience for his work. The Roselyn Armstrong Behind the Scenes Award, named for the late wife of Lee Armstrong, a PCC theater instructor, will be presented to a person who works in the background to promote the film industry in North Carolina.

A fundraiser for PCC’s Drama Club, the festival is also designed to benefit the local arts community.

“The reason that we started it here was that, in other parts of the state, there are thriving arts communities and film communities,” Cooper, an actor, said. “I’ve always seen that there’s a challenge of that in eastern North Carolina. We’re trying to do what we can to bring more of a film community here.”

The festival is free to PCC students, faculty and staff. General admission is $8 in advance and $10 at the door to attend a morning film block from 9-11:30 a.m. or an afternoon session from 1:30-4 p.m. A panel discussion featuring actors will be held from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and a panel discussion featuring filmmakers will be held from 4:15-5 p.m. A VIP ticket is $28 and includes all-day movies, a red carpet event at 7 p.m., an awards show at 8 p.m. and an after-party from 9-11 p.m. Visit encff.com or contact Michael Stephenson at rstephenson@email.pittcc.edu or 493-7493.

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AHA presents Down East Heart Ball April 30th | WITN

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Apr 292016
 

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April 28, 2016

The American Heart Association’s Down East Heart Ball raises funds to support cardiovascular disease research and awareness.

This black tie gala will be held on Saturday, April 30th at the Greenville Hilton.

The Down East Heart Ball promises to be an evening of gourmet food, incredible auction items, and grand entertainment all for a good cause – to raise money to combat the nation’s number one and number five killers, heart disease and stroke.

Beginning at 6:30pm, guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, have the opportunity to take part in a silent auction, and enjoy the music of Carrol Dashiell. Guests will then move in the main ball room where dinner will be served, followed by a live auction.

This year’s event will be emceed by WITN’s own anchor, Dave Jordan. Dr. Virginia Hardy of East Carolina University is the chair of the annual event.

The Down East Heart Ball seeks to raise $50,000 for heart disease and stroke research and education.

More than 2,200 Americans die from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases each day – one person every 39 seconds. The American Heart Association currently funds just over $9.1 million dollars in research in North Carolina alone.

For more information about the Down East Heart Ball, or to purchase tickets, visit downeastncheartball.heart.org or call (252) 531-6360.

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Duke president will step down next year | The News & Observer

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Apr 292016
 

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Jane Stancill
April 28, 2016

DURHAM

Duke University President Richard Brodhead will step down in June of next year, having ushered in an era of fundraising and expansion after the reputation-battering lacrosse saga a decade ago.

Brodhead, 69, has led the university for 12 years. He will leave the presidency when his current term ends as a $3.25 billion campaign winds down. Already, Duke has brought in $3.1 billion toward the goal.

“Now it’s a good time for the university to get somebody new and start the next chapter,” he said Thursday.

In an interview after the announcement, he called Duke “the great up-and-coming university in America.”

“No university has come further faster,” he said. “When I came I thought, ‘How are we ever going to continue that?’ But this place is full of imaginative, energetic, collegial people. And when you put it all together, we really have done a lot.”

He has overseen a building boom, with more than $1 billion in construction, including the renovation of Duke Chapel, which will reopen next month. Duke also doubled its undergraduate applications during the period, becoming ever more selective and admitting only 8.7 percent of applicants this year. Two professors won Nobel Prizes during the period.

In recent years, Brodhead has expanded Duke’s global footprint, first with a new medical school in Singapore. Then, he led the creation of a new campus in China called Duke Kunshan University, a joint venture with Wuhan University in China and the city of Kunshan. It opened two years ago and has students in business, global health, medical physics, and soon, environmental policy.

The move did not come without resistance from some faculty who were concerned about academic freedom in China and the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars away from the Durham campus.

Brodhead came to Duke in 2004 after decades at Yale University, where he had been a beloved professor and dean. But he encountered a challenge his first day in Durham – the possible departure of superstar basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who flirted with the Los Angeles Lakers coaching job. In a very public way, Brodhead found himself pleading for Coach K to stay – not a way any university president wants to start.

Two years later, he would encounter an even more devastating event around sports – the 2006 Duke lacrosse scandal, in which three players were falsely accused of raping a woman hired to strip at an off-campus party. The university was criticized for its handling of the situation, including forcing out the lacrosse coach and canceling the season. The three accused students were exonerated and sued the university, settling for an undisclosed amount of money.

“For the whole community it was awful,” he said. “It activated everyone’s passions. It just was inflammatory in the highest degree because it was based on a falsehood that was then compounded by a falsehood from a source no one ever suspected – namely the district attorney [Mike Nifong] himself. I think we all regret it and I think if it were to happen again, there’s things one would do differently.”

K.C. Johnson, a critic who blogged about the saga and then wrote a book about it, sees the Brodhead presidency in harsher terms. “The two adjectives that immediately come to mind are ‘failed’ and ‘weak,’ ” Johnson said. “The lacrosse case was certainly a difficult case but it was a test of leadership and he failed. He was unable to stand up for the rights of his students, he was unable to stand up to the mobbish atmosphere among the faculty … I think it tarnished his entire time.”

Others say Brodhead managed to rise above the lacrosse mess. Bill Funk, a Texas-based consultant who recruits university presidents, pointed out that Brodhead outlasted the average tenure of private university presidents, who typically serve 7-9 years.

“To come through that and still make the progress that he did, I think, is a real credit to him and to the board who supported him throughout,” he said.

On the other hand, if Brodhead hadn’t had to cope with the lacrosse situation, Funk said, he might have accomplished more. “It was such a distraction,” he said, “you just wonder what opportunities were lost.”

David Rubenstein, chairman of Duke’s trustee board, called Brodhead “a transformative president.”

“The entire Duke community is therefore very much in his debt for the leadership he has provided over the past 12 years — and no doubt will continue to provide,” he said in a news release. “That Duke will have another year of Dick’s commitment, vision and energy is our good fortune.”

One of the lasting Brodhead accomplishments may be Duke’s part in revitalizing downtown Durham. Duke played a key role in the American Tobacco complex and the development of DPAC, the Durham Performing Arts Center, said Durham Mayor Bill Bell. More than 2,500 Duke employees work in leased space downtown, and Duke has fostered neighborhood renewal, school programs and health clinics as part of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood partnerships.

The relationship between town and gown has recovered after the lacrosse tension, Bell said. “In terms of the revitalization of downtown, it probably could not have occurred had Duke not stepped up the plate,” Bell said.

During the Brodhead years, Duke launched a large initiative called DukeEngage, a fully funded summer program that has given 3,600 Duke undergraduates the opportunity to do service in the U.S. and in 79 countries. And his first fundraising campaign, early in his tenure, was entirely focused on financial aid for students.

A few years ago, Brodhead was co-chair of a national group created by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to champion the humanities and social sciences in an era where technology seems to get all of the attention. The panel’s 2013 report was downloaded more than another other report from the academy, Brodhead said.

Brodhead, who has an appointment as an English professor, will take a year’s sabbatical before returning to teaching and writing. But he said he’s not sure exactly what’s ahead.

“I’m going to take a little free time and think about what I’d like to do,” he said. “My life has been extraordinarily interesting, but not a lot of freedom attached to it.”

It’s safe to say that his next office won’t be occupied by protesters as his presidential suite was earlier this month, when nine students camped out to protest the university’s treatment of parking employees. It was a tense standoff that shut down the building, but earlier this week, the demonstrators took down their tents. When Brodhead made his announcement Thursday, after the last day of class celebration, the campus was quiet.

Next month, Rubenstein said, Duke will begin a search for its 10th president. “But we will do so fully recognizing that Dick’s vision, work ethic, intellect, and eloquence will be extraordinarily difficult to match,” he said.

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New ECU chancellor elected | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 282016
 

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Holly West
April 27, 2016

East Carolina University’s next chancellor will be Cecil Staton, an academic, religion scholar, politician and entrepreneur who currently serves as the interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors unanimously elected Staton today during a special-called meeting at the Spangler Center in Chapel Hill. His salary will be $450,000.

Staton has been with Valdosta State University since July. He previously served as vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia.

From 2005 to 2014, he represented Georgia’s 18th district in the state senate. He served as vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus and as majority whip and also was a member of seven committees, including the higher education committee. He was the chair of the appropriations subcommittee on higher education for two terms.

During his time as a legislator, Staton was recognized for his work on trauma and other health care-related issues, winning Rural Healthcare Legislator of the Year in 2008, Georgia Hospital Association Legislator of the Year in 2010 and Legislator of the Year in 2012 by Georgia Bio, a nonprofit that advances the life sciences industry.

He also was responsible for many of Georgia’s most recent elections laws, including the photo ID requirement passed in 2005 and a 2009 bill that requires people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Staton holds multiple academic degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in religion from Furman University in Greenville, S.C.; two master’s degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford in England.

For more than two decades, he worked in the private sector, founding two publishing companies and running a media corporation. According to his LinkedIn page, Staton was the founding president and CEO of Smyth & Helwys Publishing Inc., which publishes Christian books and curricula, from 1990 to 2013. He also founded Stroud & Hall Publishers Inc., which according to his page he ran from 2003 to 2014. Stroud & Hall publishes books in the fields of politics and current events, including works from two former Republican presidential hopefuls, Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

He served as the president and CEO of Georgia Eagle Media Inc., a holding company for several Georgia media properties, including 15 radio stations and one television station, from 2003 to 2013, according to the page.

Before his publishing and media career, Staton served as an associate professor and associate provost at Mercer University, the oldest private university in Georgia, and as an assistant professor at Brewton-Parker College, a private, Christian institution, in Mount Vernon, Georgia.

He is a native of Greenville, S.C. Staton and his wife, Catherine, have two sons, Trey and William.

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New East Carolina University chancellor has varied background | The News & Observer

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Apr 282016
 

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By Jane Stancill
April 27, 2016

Cecil Staton has a career about as varied as any university leader – a religion scholar, faculty member, administrator, entrepreneur and state senator in Georgia.

On Wednesday, he was elected as East Carolina University’s next chancellor by the UNC Board of Governors in a unanimous vote. A campus search committee had identified several finalists, and UNC President Margaret Spellings nominated Staton to the board.

Staton, 58, is now interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia and vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia. He starts the ECU job July 1, at an annual salary of $450,000, succeeding Steve Ballard, who has led the Greenville campus for 12 years.

Spellings said Staton brings “a rare blend of leadership experience in higher education, the private sector and elected public office, as well as a practical understanding of how to bring diverse communities and constituencies and organizations together to get things done.”

In the past year at the 11,300-student Valdosta State, Staton turned around enrollment declines, pumped up fundraising and expanded online and competency-based education programs, Spellings said. The year before that, he took on the role as a vice chancellor for the Georgia public higher education system, which has 29 campuses and 318,000 students.

He served five terms in the Georgia state Senate, from 2004 to 2014, where he was vice chairman of the Senate Republican caucus and majority whip. He led appropriations subcommittees on community health and higher education. He said Wednesday he played the role of “the chief cheerleader for higher education” in the legislature.

Born and raised in Greenville, S.C., Staton was a first-generation college student. His father, who fixed shoes for a living, never finished high school. His mother, who helped start a business, never went to college.

But Staton went from Furman University, where he got an undergraduate degree, to the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned two master’s degrees, and finally to Oxford University in England, where he received a doctorate. At Oxford, he focused on the Old Testament, Hebrew and ancient Near Eastern studies.

“That was quite an unexpected journey for a kid who grew up with a textile mill just across the road,” he said.

He called public higher education the “grandest of enterprises,” and said when he and his wife visited Greenville, it felt like home.

But all public higher education faces challenges, he said, including strained state budgets, competition and the digital revolution.

“I am convinced that East Carolina University is in a unique position, not only to persevere in the face of change, but to thrive in this climate of change,” Staton said Wednesday, shortly after he was announced. “I became convinced through this process that ECU understands the necessity to be an innovative institution that always, always puts students first.”

He talked about research and innovation, regional economic vitality, teacher preparation, health care and other priorities, including embracing student athletes. He ended his remarks Wednesday with “Go Pirates.”

Staton began his academic career at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., where he was an assistant professor of religion from 1989 to 1991. He then spent the next 12 years at Mercer University in Macon, a multi-campus institution with professional programs in medicine, law, business, education, pharmacy, engineering and nursing.

At Mercer, he moved up the ranks to be associate provost and publisher of the university press, where he helped build a $4.5 million endowment to support academic publishing.

Along the way, Staton turned to the private sector, where he founded two publishing companies in the 1990s and 2000s and Georgia Eagle Media, a holding company for radio, TV and newspaper properties.

He currently serves on the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the board of visitors of the University of Georgia. Staton and his wife, Catherine, have two sons.

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New chancellor: Student-first ECU will thrive | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 282016
 

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Holly West
April 27, 2016

The new chancellor of East Carolina University said Wednesday that he is committed to upholding and advancing ECU’s mission of student success, public service and regional transformation.

Cecil P. Staton, 58, was elected by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors at a special-called meeting in Chapel Hill on Wednesday afternoon. He will become the university’s 11th chancellor on July 1, filling the role that has been occupied by Steve Ballard since 2004.

Staton currently is the interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia and has a long career in business, academia and as a state legislator in Georgia.

During his acceptance speech in Chapel Hill and a news conference on ECU’s campus later in the evening, Staton said there are a multitude of challenges facing institutions of higher education, including decreased funding, the effects of advancing technology, changing demographics and increased competition for students, but he believes ECU has the potential to overcome them and continue to grow.

“I am convinced that East Carolina University is in a unique position not only to persevere in the face of change but to thrive in this climate of change,” he said. “I became convinced through this process that ECU understands the necessity to be an innovative institution that always, always puts students first.”

To overcome at least one of those challenges, Staton said he will be starting a “significant capital campaign” shortly after taking office to give the university a solid financial foundation.

Another priority will be expanding research opportunities.

“We want to see ECU becoming more significant in its research opportunities and the research resources involved in this university, and I think all that ties in nicely to the commitment of this university to regional transformation,” he said at the news conference. “We have the assets, we have a big responsibility here, we’ve got to stay focused on that.”

He said he plans to help increase the stature of ECU’s academic programs and raise the profile of the university on the national level while staying true to its commitment to serving the families of North Carolina, particularly those in the east.

“A lot of universities today, they really find their prestige in how many students they exclude, how many they reject,” he said. “I hope ECU is going to continue to be an institution that finds its success in not how many people we exclude, but how many people we include and how well they succeed.”

Staton’s salary will be $450,000. Ballard’s salary is $385,000. It was just increased from $322,000 in November by a vote of the Board of Governors.

At the time, the board cited a salary study conducted by Buck Consultants that found that the salaries of most senior leaders in the UNC system are below market rates, making it hard to recruit and retain top talent.

In response to the finding, the board adopted updated market ranges for chancellor salaries systemwide and set the minimum salary for the ECU position at $431,000.

Searching for a leader

Staton was chosen through a months-long search process conducted by the Chancellor Search Committee, a 15-person group composed of trustees, faculty members and other ECU leaders, as well as alumni and Vidant Health representatives.

A second body, the Leadership Working Group, was composed of representatives from ECU, its community partners and the student body. It set up public forums and helped the committee form a leadership statement, the document that was used to recruit candidates.

Search firm Witt/Kieffer, based in Illinois, was hired to facilitate the process.

After holding several public meetings and forums to discuss the criteria for the candidates, the committee met in closed session twice to review applicants.

Board of Trustees Chair Steve Jones, who also chaired the Chancellor Search Committee, said 70 people applied for the position, 11 were chosen for face-to-face interviews and five were brought to visit ECU’s campus.

After the interviews, the committee recommended finalists to the Board of Trustees, which voted to submit three names to UNC System President Margaret Spellings for consideration. The vote presumably occurred during a special-called meeting on March 28.

Spellings chose Staton to nominate to the Board of Governors. She said during her nomination speech that his diverse background will serve the university well.

“Dr. Staton brings to the role of chancellor a rare blend of leadership experience in higher education, the private sector and elected public office, as well as a practical understanding of how to bring diverse communities and constituencies and organizations together to get things done,” she said. “During a varied 30-year career, he has proven himself to be an energetic and effective leader who encourages strategic thinking, promotes collaboration and inclusiveness and understands the power of education to change lives, families and communities.”

Jones said at the BOG meeting that he was impressed with the pool of candidates the university had to choose from.

“North Carolina should be proud, eastern North Carolina should be proud of the quality of candidates we brought to campus and ultimately to President Spellings,” he said.

The road ahead

Faculty Chair John Stiller, who was a member of the search committee, said he looks forward to getting Staton acquainted with instructors.

“We have a really strong leadership team here at ECU and a tremendous tradition of shared governance,” he said. “As chair of the faculty, I’m enthusiastic about helping the new chancellor come in and become part of that team and learn all about the intricacies and nuances of ECU and help further build that community.”

He said the faculty will need to collaborate with Staton to find solutions to the issues facing the university, including stagnant staff and faculty salaries, which make it difficult to recruit and retain top employees, and the North Carolina Guaranteed Admission Program, known as NCGAP.

NCGAP was created by the General Assembly to divert UNC system-bound students to community colleges for their first two years. It aims to reduce costs for the system and families, but universities, including ECU, have expressed concerns that it would slow students down and negatively impact minority, low-income and first generation college students.

Because of a confidentiality agreement signed by all the members of the search committee, Stiller said he was unable to say why Staton was the best candidate for the job.

Student Body President Ryan Beeson, a first-year graduate student, said he had the opportunity to meet Staton as part of the interview process and was impressed. Beeson said he hopes to work with Staton on issues that affect students, including how to keep students in eastern North Carolina after they graduate.

“I really do believe we found the right leader,” he said. “My hope is that all the students and everyone in Pirate Nation will welcome him with open arms.”

Staton said the university’s assets put it in a position to meet those challenges head-on.

“I am here today because I believe East Carolina University can and will provide leadership while responding to the challenges facing public higher education,” he said. “While the waters of change may be shifting beneath our feet, at East Carolina University, we will remain committed to finding the next generation of solutions.”

At the Wednesday evening press conference, Staton was asked about two timely issues — a March 17 assault that ended on ECU’s campus and a controversial law passed by the General Assembly known as House Bill 2.

Campus police are complying with a request by Pitt County’s district attorney to withhold video of the assault, which resulted in several arrests and the dismissal of an ECU police officer. Staton said both transparency and cooperating with police investigations are important.

“We’re going to make sure our students do have an environment where they feel safe,” he said. “If we have some issues regarding policies and procedures, that’s something we can certainly work on to make sure we’re in better shape going forward.”

In regard to House Bill 2, which requires people to use public bathrooms based on biological gender rather than gender identity and prevents local governments from passing protections for LGBTQ people, Staton said he is committed to making ECU a place where all students are treated with respect, but did not give an opinion about the legislation itself.

“Let me be clear: Today I was elected chancellor-elect of East Carolina University. I was not elected to the North Carolina General Assembly,” he said.

Just last month, Staton wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal urging him to veto state legislation that would permit concealed weapons on public college campuses. Staton said that was an instance in which the governor specifically sought feedback from university leaders, and it was an issue that Staton was involved in during his time in the state senate.

He said the chancellor’s role in the political process should be as an advocate for the university and the UNC system.

“I think we will always speak on what we believe is in the best interest of our faculty and our staff and more importantly our students, and that’s something I pledge to do,” he said.

Staton said standing up for what’s right for the university and the region is a focus shared by all the ECU leaders he met during the interview process, and it was that passion that drew him to the university.

“The love for ECU that I heard in their voices and saw in their eyes and in the expressions upon their faces frankly was contagious and it certainly contributed to our willingness to consider this journey and to accept the invitation to unite with you in the noble cause of advancing the heritage of excellence that is reflected in every facet of East Carolina University.”

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Humble roots, diverse career | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 282016
 

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The Daily Reflector
April 27, 2016

East Carolina University chancellor-elect Cecil Staton, 58, has a multifaceted background, having been an academic, religion scholar, politician and entrepreneur. Here are some highlights:

• Currently interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia and vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia.

• From 2005 to 2014, he represented Georgia’s 18th district in the state senate. He served as vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus and as majority whip and also was a member of seven committees, including the higher education committee. He was the chair of the appropriations subcommittee on higher education for two terms. During his time as a legislator, Staton was recognized for his work on trauma and other health care-related issues, winning Rural Healthcare Legislator of the Year in 2008, Georgia Hospital Association Legislator of the Year in 2010 and Legislator of the Year in 2012 by Georgia Bio, a nonprofit that advances the life sciences industry. He is responsible for recent elections laws, including a photo ID requirement passed in 2005 and a 2009 bill that requires people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

• Bachelor’s degree in religion from Furman University in Greenville, S.C.; two master’s degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; and a doctor of philosophy from the University of Oxford in England. Author of several books, mostly on religion.

• Founding president and CEO of Smyth & Helwys Publishing Inc., which publishes Christian books and curricula, from 1990 to 2013. He also founded Stroud & Hall Publishers Inc. and ran it from 2003 to 2014. Stroud & Hall publishes books in the fields of politics and current events, including works from two former Republican presidential hopefuls, Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

• Served as the president and CEO of Georgia Eagle Media Inc., a holding company for several Georgia media properties, including 15 radio stations and one television station, from 2003 to 2013.

• Before his publishing and media career, he served as an associate professor and associate provost at Mercer University, the oldest private university in Georgia, and as an assistant professor at Brewton-Parker College, a private, Christian institution, in Mount Vernon, Ga.

• Native of Greenville, S.C. He and his wife, Catherine, have two sons, Cecil P. Staton III, a financial planner in Atlanta, and William Davidson Staton, a student at DePaul University in Chicago.

• First-generation college student. His father was a shoe repairman and his mother runs her own business. He said they sacrificed so he could get an education and have opportunities neither of them was afforded. “My journey included many wonderful professors who were mentors,” he said. “It led me from Furman to two masters degrees and the opportunity to do my doctoral work in the lofty academic environment of the University of Oxford. That was quite an unexpected journey for a kid who grew up with a textile mill across the road. My life is a testament to the promise of America and the power of higher education to change lives, families, communities and even the world.”

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Former senator, Valdosta president Cecil Staton to lead East Carolina | The Atlanta Journal – Constitution

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Apr 282016
 

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Janel Davis
April 27, 2016

Cecil Staton, interim president at Valdosta State University, has been selected as the next chancellor of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

He will continue to serve in his role at Valdosta State until June 30, said a statement from the University System of Georgia on Wednesday.

“Cecil’s contributions to Valdosta State and the University System of Georgia will benefit our students for years to come,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby said in the statement. “Cecil stepped in at a critical time and has led an important role for us. I thank Cecil for his service to our university system and wish him and his family all the best.”
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Cecil Staton, the interim president at Valdosta State University, has been named chancellor of East Carolina University. He begins the new position in Greenville, NC on July 1. (Photo from University System of Georgia)

The UNC Board of Governors announced Staton as the new leader of the school Wednesday, according to local media reports. Staton, a Greenville native, was selected from a group of 11 candidates. He is expected to begin at ECU on July 1. His salary will be $450,000. Staton will replace outgoing chancellor Steve Ballard, who is stepping down after 12 years at ECU, reported WITN News in Greenville.

Staton joined the University System in 2014 as vice chancellor for extended education. He was appointed to the Valdosta position July 1, 2015, taking over for former president William McKinney, who resigned following internal issues and complaints about his leadership by faculty at the university. Before coming to the University System, Staton served 10 years as a state senator in the Georgia legislature.

Huckaby will name a new interim president of Valdosta State and a presidential search committee soon.

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VSU’s Staton chosen chancellor of East Carolina University | The Valdosta Daily Times

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Apr 282016
 

The Valdosta Daily Times

April 28, 2016

Valdosta State University’s Interim President Cecil P. Staton was chosen to become chancellor of East Carolina University Wednesday.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors chose Staton from among three finalists on a voice vote at a special meeting in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“Dr. Staton brings to the role of chancellor a rare blend of leadership experience in public education, the private sector and elected public office,” said UNC President Margaret Spellings.

Staton, who was present for the vote, said he and his wife, Catherine, “are truly humbled by the trust you have placed in us.”

“We have a new favorite color,” he said, referring to ECU’s school colors of purple and gold.

Staton will take the chancellor position July 1, which marks a year anniversary since he accepted the interim presidency at VSU.

“This announcement is bittersweet for many reasons,” Staton said in a statement released Wednesday to VSU faculty and students. “While I am grateful for the opportunity I will have to lead East Carolina, I am sad that I will be leaving Valdosta State at the end of June. Catherine and I have enjoyed spending this interim year with you. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish because of the wonderful people at VSU. Although we have had to make often difficult decisions, I am hopeful that what we have done will provide a strong foundation for VSU to build upon in future years.”

There was no word Wednesday on the progress of the search for a new VSU president.

On July 1, 2015, Staton became interim president of Valdosta State University.

Shortly after his arrival, Staton appointed several people to high-ranking positions within the university. He cut 33 faculty positions to go into effect at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. He advocated for more community involvement with the university and worked to retain student enrollments.

Appointed by Chancellor Hank M. Huckaby, Staton came to VSU having served as vice-chancellor for extended education with the University System of Georgia. In that role, Staton served as the chief international officer for the system and was responsible for the system-wide priorities of international education, continuing and professional education, entrepreneurial education, and military affairs.

He also worked with Georgia’s economic development initiatives in order to match the resources of Georgia’s public institutions with Georgia’s evolving workforce needs. Staton led system efforts to create the Georgia Film Academy, supporting the state’s burgeoning film industry.

Prior to this, Staton served as a Georgia state senator for 10 years, including two terms as majority whip. During his tenure, he served on most major committees including assignments, rules, appropriations, and finance. From 2006-2010, he served as chairman of the Senate Science and Technology Committee.

He also chaired for two terms the sub-committee of the Senate Appropriations Committee responsible for Georgia’s two billion dollar annual investment in higher education. He also served as vice chair of the Senate appropriations sub-committee on community health, leading efforts to increase the health-care workforce of Georgia.

Staton sponsored legislation creating the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission and championed more than 100 million in investment in the state’s trauma-care system.

He was the founding CEO and president of several media companies, including Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., founded in 1990, Stroud & Hall Publishers, Inc. (2003), and Georgia Eagle Media, Inc., founded as Staton Broadcasting, Inc., in 2003, a media holding company with interests in television, radio, newspaper and digital media.

Staton holds the doctor of philosophy degree (1988) from the University of Oxford in England, the Th.M. (1985) and M.Div. with languages (1982) degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the B.A. (1980) from Furman University. He was awarded the honorary doctor of humanities degree by Mercer University in 2014 for his service to higher education and medical education.

He served as a college and university faculty member and administrator for 15 years before his business and political career. He was associate professor and associate provost at Mercer University (1991-2003). He served as a presidential fellow in 2002, traveling to and conducting research at 15 small comprehensive universities around the country leading to the publication of “A Sturdy American Hybrid” (Mercer University Press, 2003).

Staton’s awards include the inaugural Richard Furman Award from Furman University in 2000, and most recently the 2014 Miller-Deal Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Georgia Independent College Association.

Other recognitions include the Star of Life Legislative Award, Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Service, 2007; Mercer University School of Medicine commencement speaker, 2008; Technology Association of Georgia, Legislator of the Year, 2010; Georgia Hospital Association, Legislator of the Year, 2010; Georgia Rural Healthcare Association, Legislator of the Year, 2010; Georgia Bio, The Life Sciences Partnership, Legislator of the Year, 2012; The 1849 Friend of Medicine Award, Georgia Medical Association, 2013; Emory University Center for Injury Control, Award for Outstanding Service, 2013.

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UNC Board of Governors names Dr. Cecil Staton as ECU chancellor | WITN

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Apr 282016
 

witn

April 27, 2016

To view news video on WITN, click here.

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) – The UNC Board of Governors has announced the new chancellor for East Carolina University.

Dr. Cecil Staton will become the next leader of the Pirate campus in Greenville. He is expected to begin July 1, 2016. His salary will be $450,000.

Staton is currently interim president at Valdosta State University, appointed to that post last summer. He was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina.

Staton is also the vice-chancellor for extended education as part of the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, impacting more than 300,000 students.

Dr. Staton spoke at the meeting. He said he was “truly humbled by the trust that you have placed in us.”

He said he and his wife “have a new favorite color,” of course referring to the purple of the Pirate Nation.

“I will be standing upon the tall shoulders of those who have gone before,” Staton said. He mentioned Leo Jenkins and Steve Ballard. He thanked Ballard for his tenure and impact on ECU.

“I am convinced that East Carolina University is in a unique position to thrive” in a climate of change, Staton said.

Staton talked about his upbringing. He said his father never graduated high school. His mother, who is turning 80, still gets up and goes to work every day at a business she helped found. He spoke fondly of them and how he went on to get multiple degrees.

He spoke of the power of higher education to change lives, families, the community and even the world. Staton said he believes that East Carolina University can and will provide leadership.

“We will measure our success not as others do,” Staton said, “rather we will measure our success by the students we include and embrace and how well they succeed.”

Staton said “our potential for good is unlimited.” He ended his remarks with “Go Pirates!”

ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Jones also talked at today’s meeting, about the search for the new chancellor by a team which involved staff and students. From a host of candidates, 11 in-person interviews were conducted.

Steve Ballard is stepping down as chancellor. He was recognized for his work at ECU in his 12 years there, as well as his legacy.

Also at today’s meeting, the Board of Governors announced the new director and general manager of UNC-TV. Brian Sickora was named the new leader. Tom Howe retired as general manager after two decades.

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UNC Board of Governors selects Dr. Cecil Staton as new ECU chancellor | WCTI

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Apr 282016
 

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By Jason O. Boyd
April, 27 2016

To view news video on WCTI, click here.

The UNC Board of Governors has elected the current interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia as the next chancellor at East Carolina University.

NewsChannel 12’s Nicole Ford is in Chapel Hill and reports Dr. Cecil Staton was selected by the board during a special-called meeting Wednesday in Chapel Hill. The UNC Board of Governors, including UNC System President Margaret Spellings, met to discuss Staton.

Spellings recommended Staton to the board. After the discussion, they went into closed session and voted Staton as the next chancellor. The announcement was made in open session of the board just after 2 p.m.

He will start July 1 and will earn $450,000.

Staton replaces Steve Ballard, who announced last year he planned to retire on July 1 after 12 years at the school.

A search committee met and visited several places across the state to discuss the chancellor search. A total of 70 candidates were considered for the job. The list was cut to five and then to three before Staton, a Georgia educator and former state lawmaker for 10 years, apparently emerged as the leading candidate.

Staton has served as the interim president at Valdosta State University since last summer. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford.

We’ll have more from Ford, including a live report on Staton’s election, in our Wednesday evening newscasts.

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UNC Board of Governors elect Cecil Staton as ECU’s new chancellor | WNCT

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Apr 282016
 

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By Alena Oakes, Jon Fisher and Jessica Jewell
April 27, 2016

To view news video on WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The UNC Board of Governors have elected Cecil Staton as ECU’s new chancellor at a special session Wednesday.

Dr. Staton will start on July 1, and will make $450,000 a year.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings recommended Staton at Wednesday’s session. He previously spent 10 years as a Georgia state senator and serving as the interim president at Valdosta State University.

Staton was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. During his acceptance speech, Staton talked about how his parents gave up a lot, so he could pursue higher education.

“It led me from Furman to two masters degrees, and an opportunity to do my doctoral work in the lofty academic environment at the University of Oxford. That was quite an unexpected journey for a kid who grew up with a textile mill just across the road,” said Dr. Staton.

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New ECU chancellor gets salary at $450,000 | WNCN

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Apr 282016
 

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Lauren Haviland
April 27, 2016

To view news story on WNCN, click here.

The University of North Carolina system Board of Governors unanimously elected Cecil Staton to be East Carolina University’s next chancellor.

Staton will start July 1 with an annual salary of $450,000. He succeeds retiring Chancellor Steve Ballard.

The UNC system recently raised the salaries of 12 of the system’s 17 chancellors. N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson had his salary upped to $590,000 and UNC chancellor Carol Folt had hers hiked to $570,000.

The search process involved as many as 70 applicants.

“Relatively soon I hope we will be engaged in a major capital campaign for the University. I think it’s time, given where the university is, to think about that very seriously. I certainly think we want to expand our research footprint, given again the tremendous resources we have across the university,” Staton said.

Staton is the current interim president of Valdosta State University.

He has also served as a Georgia senator for 10 years. Staton is a Republican.

Staton said when he was a senator, he focused on higher education. He called himself the “chief cheerleader.”

He earned a master of divinity as well as master of theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest

He previously had worked at Mercer University as a professor and associate provost. After that, he founded and led broadcasting and publishing companies.

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Group demands D.A. release video of assault | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 282016
 

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Beth Velliquette
April 28, 2016

A group of about 30 people gathered outside of Carver Library on Wednesday night to demand that the videos taken the night a group of people allegedly beat up a man on the ECU campus be released to the public.

By releasing the video, the community can put to rest rumors, gossip and speculation about what really happened that night, members of the group said.

The incident occurred during the early-morning hours of March 17 and began in downtown Greenville after 26-year-old Patrick Myrick allegedly hit 23-year-old Amber Best. Best’s friends then allegedly chased Myrick onto the ECU campus, where they allegedly assaulted him after he fell to the ground. Other people nearby reportedly joined in the assault.

The incident was caught on ECU’s security cameras.

Myrick has been charged with assault for allegedly hitting Best. Theresa Marie Lee and three men — Chase Montayne, who is the son of a Greenville police officer, Mark Privette and Jesse Clay Wilbourn — have been charged with assault inflicting serious injury for allegedly assaulting Myrick. Warrants are out for another man, who is reportedly hospitalized in Virginia.

Originally, former ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said he would release the video of the assault, which he said astounded him because it was such a brutal attack, after ECU’s investigation was completed, but District Attorney Kimberly Robb subpoenaed the videos. She said she will not release them to the public until after the cases have been disposed of.

Sharon Evans, of the group CSI, whose letters have no meaning, said keeping the videos a secret is hurting the community.

“The videos keep the community divided,” she said. “We’re divided by race. We’re divided by allegations. We’re divided by gossip. We don’t need that division in the community. We want the videos to be released so that the truth can come out about what actually happened.”

Evans added there was a question about whether Myrick hit Best.

“One thing that you need to understand is that Amber Best, the person he allegedly slapped,” she said emphasizing the word allegedly, “did not press charges until one week later after the other people were charged with the brutal attack on Patrick Myrick.”

Don Cavellini, co-chairman of the Coalition Against Racism, said releasing the videos would be in the best interest of the city, and waiting until after all the cases have been disposed of is a transgression against the community.

He also said he did not trust Robb to do the right thing.

Willie Roberts, a member of CAR and Mothers of Incarcerated Sons, said the D.A.’s office has not been fair to black people. By releasing the videos, it could put an end to speculations and rumors, she said.

“I think it’s only fair that the whole city gets to see the video,” she said.

In social media, some people have said that Myrick got what he deserved after hitting Best.

“There is no justification for the type of brutal beating and attack that he received,” Davis said. ”Absolutely none.”

“This is the beginning of the process,” Davis said. “This is the beginning of the change process because we’re going to continuously advocate and move forward.”

David Best, an activist from Kinston, said it is time for everyone to band together to bring about justice.

“We’re trying to bring about the right sort of change,” Best said. “You’ve got to stand in solidarity, black, brown, white, Mexican, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, whatever the case might be.”

Later, Bell added that there needs to be ”justice or else.”

“Or else is for them to worry about,” he said. ”All they have to do is provide justice.”

Without justice, there will be no peace, he said.

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Some organizations call for release of surveillance video of Greenville St. Patrick’s Day assault | WITN

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Apr 282016
 

witn

April 27, 2016
By: Lindsay Oliver/Elisse Ramey

To view news video on WITN, click here.

A group of citizens from different cities and different organizations stood side by side Wednesday night in West Greenville to make a request of the District Attorney regarding the St. Patrick’s Day beating of Patrick Myrick.

“The community needs to see the videos,” says Don Cavellini, the co-chair of Coalition Against Racism. “They need to be released because we don’t trust the District Attorney.”

The DA’s office subpoenaed ECU for all footage last week. ECU officials had previously said the video would be released once the investigation was completed.

Six people in all face charges for allegedly beating Myrick downtown on March 17th, an assault police say carried over on to ECU’s campus. Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said the FBI was called in to review the case to determine if possible charges of ethnic intimidation should be applied as well.

Myrick was charged with hitting Amber Best, 23. Police say that was what sparked the attack against him.

Sharon Evans of the organization CSI, an investigative community group, says the assault suspects took justice into their own hands.

“The videos will keep the people in the community from gossiping about what happened,” Evans said. “We will actually be able to see what happened. He allegedly slapped her. We do not know that to be true, and she waited one week to press charges.”

Myrick appeared in court for the misdemeanor April 22 and his case was continued to June.

Meanwhile, as ECU welcomed new chancellor, Dr. Cecil Staton, to campus Wednesday, WITN asked him about transparency in Myrick’s case.

“I do not believe as I look at this wonderful university that that incident is reflective of this university in any way,” Dr. Staton said. “I don’t think it’s reflective of the nature of crime, in particular, violent crime on this campus.”

An ECU police officer was also fired in connection to Myrick’s case. ECU Police Chief Gerald Lewis said Sgt. Ralph Whitehurst handcuffed Myrick after the assault and did not question as as to what happened, which the chief called unacceptable.

The organization, Mothers of the Incarcerated, was also represented at the press event Wednesday. All of the organizations say they are prepared to continue to fight for their cause.

WITN has also asked for the security video but the request was denied, citing public records laws. Media experts have said that the information should be available to the public.

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Citizens ask Pitt Co. DA to release video from St. Patrick’s Day assault | WCTI

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Apr 282016
 

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By Leland Pinder
April 27, 2016

To view the news video on WCTI, click here.

The case surrounding the March 17th assault of a 26-year-old black man by what has been described a mob of white assailants is under scrutiny in Greenville.

Wednesday evening a coalition of citizens called on Pitt County District Attorney Kimberly Robb to release ECU surveillance video of the St. Patrick’s Day assault of Patrick Myrick.

“We don’t trust the district attorney to do what’s right,” said Don Cavellini, Co-Chair of the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism.

Robb subpoenaed the video and any copies from the university. At the rally the group said Robb is not being open and transparent with the community and withholding the footage is causing division in the community.

“The release of the videos will keep the people in the community from gossiping about what happened. We will actually be able to see what happened,” said Sharon Evans of the community group, “CSI.”

The case in question started around 2 a.m. that morning when Myrick allegedly hit a woman in the face knocking her to the ground outside Club 519 on Contanche Street in uptown Greenville, according to police. Police said the woman’s friends assaulted Myrick there and then chased him to ECU”s campus and assaulted him again.

“There is no justification for the type of brutal beating that he received,” said Evans.

In a statement ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said, “The surveillance video of the March 17 assault that moved to East Carolina’s campus from a downtown Greenville club is in the hands of law enforcement. The Pitt County district attorney has instructed East Carolina that the video is not to be released because it is part of a criminal investigation. The district attorney has issued a subpoena to ECU for the video and any copies, and it remains part of the criminal investigation under the control of the district attorney. East Carolina intends to release the video just as soon as the university has authorization from the district attorney to do so.”

Newschannel12’s calls to Robb Wednesday, ahead of the rally, were not returned. Six people have been charged in the case and an ECU police officer was fired. ECU police Sgt. Ralph Whitehurst handcuffed Myrick after the assault but didn’t question him about the case, which ECU Police Chief Gerald Lewis said was unacceptable.

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Organizations join together to protest release of St. Patrick’s Day fight on ECU campus | WNCT

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Apr 282016
 

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By Adrianna Bradley
April 28, 2016

To view news video on WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Several organizations gathered at the Carver Library Wednesday evening to protest the decision to delay the release of a March 17th video which shows a group altercation on ECU’s campus.

The assault seriously injured a 26-year old African American man. It resulted in 5 arrests and the firing of an ECU officer who handcuffed the victim at the scene but did not arrest anyone involved in the incident.

All the suspects and the officer involved are white. The incident was captured by ECU surveillance cameras but the video was asked to be withheld until the case is resolved in court.

Now members of the community are gathering to ask that the videos be released to the public.

“We are saying to the District Attorney, your subpoena that took the videos from ECU is against the best interest of the people. We ask that you make these available especially in light of the fact that the Chancellor of the University said that as soon as the investigation is over they would turn them over to the people,” said Don Cavellini, Co-Chair of the Coalition Against Racism.

ECU’s legal department claims the video is an investigative record, not a public record because the ECU Police Department was monitoring the assault as it was happening and has had the video since the assault occurred.

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Christian group sues NC State University over speech policy | The News & Observer

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Apr 282016
 

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By Richard Stradling
April 27, 2016

A Christian student organization at N.C. State University has sued four administrators at the school in federal court, claiming that the university’s policy on student speech is both unconstitutional and unfairly enforced.

Grace Christian Life says it should not have to get a permit from the university to hand out fliers and talk to students about Jesus and his church. It also says that its members have been told they must remain at their assigned table in the Talley Student Union building while representatives of other organizations are seen wandering around handing out literature and collecting signatures on petitions.

The lawsuit was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization based in Arizona that has been involved in numerous legal fights over religion, abortion and other issues across the nation.

“Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not places where students need a permit just to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms,” ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer said in a statement. “The only permit needed to engage in free speech is the First Amendment.”

University officials called the lawsuit “both frivolous and without merit” and said they would fight it. In a statement, they said the university issues permits for distributing materials on campus “subject to constitutionally appropriate and reasonable time, place, or manner limits, without regard to the content or the viewpoint of the information being distributed.”

“NC State’s permitting process is constitutional, does not infringe on First Amendment rights, and is in compliance with applicable state and federal law,” the statement said.

At issue is NCSU’s solicitation policy which dates back to 1993 and governs where and how people and organizations can distribute written material and “oral speech to a passerby.” Among other things, the policy requires anyone involved in “non-commercial solicitation” to get a permit from the office of Student Involvement, which oversees student groups on campus.

The lawsuit contends that university officials told Grace Christian Life members last fall that they would need a permit to approach students in Talley Student Union. It says the group got a permit in January and was later told it needed to limit its activities to a table set up in the building.

The lawsuit cites several situations in which Grace Christian Life members say they saw representatives of other organizations, including a church, approaching students either without a permit or without remaining in one place. It says the uneven enforcement is partly a result of the policy itself, which the suit says “contains no guidelines or standards to limit the discretion of the administrator enforcing the policy.”

“The courts have well established that a public university can’t require permits in this manner for this kind of speech – and certainly can’t enforce such rules selectively,” another ADF attorney, David Hacker, said in a statement. “Unconstitutional censorship is bad enough, but giving university officials complete discretion to decide when and where to engage in silencing students makes the violation even worse.”

NCSU officials say their permitting process is applied consistently to all groups that distribute materials on campus.

“In fact, hundreds upon hundreds of individuals and groups have used this process each year to distribute information regarding topics ranging from faith to politics to health and any number of other interests,” their statement says. “NC State steadfastly remains willing to work with all individuals and organizations to educate them about the process and help them obtain a permit for distributing information and/or soliciting on campus.”

The lawsuit names four defendants: NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson; Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Warwick Arden; T.J. Willis, associate director of University Student Centers, and Associate Provost Mike Giancola.

This isn’t the first time that ADF has been involved in a lawsuit against a UNC school. It helped UNC-Wilmington criminology professor Mike Adams sue the school’s trustees after he claimed he was passed over for a promotion in 2006 because of conservative columns he published online. Adams eventually prevailed in 2014 in a settlement with the university, which promoted him to full professor, gave him $50,000 in back pay and a raise and agreed to pay $615,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

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Op-Ed: HB2 and a call for UNC campuses to comply with court ruling | The News & Observer

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Apr 282016
 

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By Jim Neal
April 27, 2016

On April 5, UNC system president Margaret Spellings sent a memorandum to all UNC system chancellors instructing them to comply with House Bill 2, including the controversial denial of bathroom access to transgender people based upon their gender identity. At the time, it was unclear whether the “bathroom” provision of HB2 was consistent with the federal Title IX amendment of 1972 that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funding.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt followed Spellings’ lead in a campuswide email three days later explaining the need to comply with HB2 while also lessening the impact on those who “now feel excluded and unwelcome here and in our state.”

Last week, circumstances changed profoundly following the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Grimm v. Gloucester County Public School Board. Gavin Grimm, a transgender student at a Virginia high school, sued his school board because it banned him from the boys’ bathroom. The 4th Circuit deferred to the U.S. Education Department’s position that transgender students should have access to the bathrooms that match their gender identities rather than being forced to use bathrooms that match their biological sex.

McGuireWoods – a prominent law firm in Charlotte whose vice chairman John Fennebresque is former chair of the UNC System Board of Governors and Spellings’ patron – stated in a legal alert on its website that “the decision in Grimm marks the first time that a federal court of appeals has held that a transgender student could state a claim under Title IX when he alleges that his school denied him access to the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity. In addition, implicit in the court’s ruling is the conclusion that a recipient of Title IX funding could violate Title IX and the Department of Education’s regulations when it refuses a transgender student access to the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.” The ruling establishes legal precedent in every state in the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina.

A Lethal Blow

Folt, N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and their peers at 15 other UNC system schools now have the authority and the duty to comply with federal law and open restrooms to people based upon their gender identity. The chancellors can deal a lethal blow to the most pernicious provision of HB2 by enforcing federal law across a 17-campus system having hundreds of thousands of students, faculty and employees. Will they embrace the principled conviction one expects of the highest administrators at institutions of higher learning, or will they remain cowered by a governor and General Assembly that have wielded knife and gavel to weaken post-secondary public education in North Carolina over the past several years?

No doubt Folt and the other chancellors are awaiting top-down approval from Spellings to give them political cover. Whether out of fear, an abundance of caution or self-interest, the fact remains that their schools are violating the legal rights of transgender people. I am uncomfortable waiting for Spellings to huddle with her Republican handlers in Raleigh. With federal law at their backs, it’s time that UNC system administrators showed a little backbone.

Jim Neal is an entrepreneur in Raleigh and the second openly-gay U.S. Senate candidate in U.S. history.

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UC-Davis chancellor placed on administrative leave after revelations of ‘scrubbing’ Internet | The Washington Post

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Apr 282016
 

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By Fred Barbash
April 28, 2016

To view video in The Washington Post, click here.

The chancellor at the University of California at Davis has been placed on administrative leave after reports that the school paid at least $175,000 to consultants to clean up the school’s online reputation.

University President Janet Napolitano, in a statement and letter made public late Wednesday, said there was a wider investigation underway involving Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, not just into the “scrubbing” incident but into possible conflicts of interest, among them, allegations of special treatment and large raises for her son and daughter-in-law, who are employees of the university with the son reporting directly to his own wife. Katehi’s daughter-in-law got salary increases of $50,000 over a 2½-year period, Napolitano said.

UC-Davis is one of 10 schools in the highly regarded University of California system. Located about 15 miles west of Sacramento, Davis has about 35,000 students.

The decision by Napolitano follows weeks of protest and turmoil since the Sacramento Bee revealed on April 13 that “UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,0000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings after the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university” and Katehi herself.

“Some payments,” the Bee reported, “were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching for information about the university or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled ‘venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.’”

Because of the Bee’s revelations, the scrubbing effort backfired badly, producing a mountain of negative publicity that ultimately served only to repeat thousands of times over details of the pepper-spraying incident that the consultants were attempting to erase from the public’s memory. The pepper-spraying incident was captured on video as Occupy demonstrators ignored orders to leave the UC-Davis campus and university police started spewing pepper spray into the crowd. The police response prompted massive protests on campus, which gained national media attention and ignited a debate about police brutality and use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.

Katehi, a scholar in electrical and computer engineering, became chancellor in 2009, and as the Los Angeles Times reported, “has been widely criticized for questionable moonlighting activities” as well as the scrubbing contract.

In her statement, Napolitano said:

Information has recently come to light that raises serious questions about whether Chancellor Katehi may have violated several University of California policies, including questions about the campus’s employment and compensation of some of the chancellor’s immediate family members, the veracity of the chancellor’s accounts of her involvement in contracts related to managing both the campus’s and her personal reputation on social media, and the potential improper use of student fees. The serious and troubling nature of these questions, as well as the initial evidence, requires a rigorous and transparent investigation. As such, President Napolitano will appoint an independent, outside investigator to conduct the investigation and submit a report, before the start of the 2016-17 academic year. The president, with the support of the leadership of the Board of Regents, has determined it is in the best interest of UC Davis that Chancellor Katehi be placed on investigatory administrative leave from her position as chancellor pending the outcome of this investigation. Pursuant to an existing delegation of authority, UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter will fill the chancellor role on an acting basis.

In a letter to Katehi, Napolitano also said, “Questions have been raised about the employment of some members of your family, including whether employment actions related to your daughter-in-law and son violate University conflict-of-interest policies and requirements related to the employment of near relatives. … Your daughter-in-law, who directly reports to one of your direct reports, has received promotions and salary increases over a two-and-a-half year period that have increased her pay by over $50,000 and have resulted in several title changes. During that same period, you put forward a pay increase of over 20% and a title change for your daughter-in-law’s supervisor.”

Katehi’s attorney, Melinda Guzman, in a statement reported by the Bee, called the action “entirely unjustified. This smacks of scapegoating and a rush to judgment driven purely by political optics, not the best interests of the university or the UC system as a whole,” Guzman wrote. “The Chancellor welcomes an independent, objective investigation and a full release of all relevant documents and public records. Make no mistake: we intend to vigorously defend Linda’s professional reputation and her standing as Chancellor of the university she loves.”

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Duke students shut down campus protest area | The News & Observer

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Apr 272016
 

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By Jane Stancill
April 26, 2016

DURHAM

A tent encampment at the center of Duke University’s campus was dismantled Tuesday, with students vowing to resume their protest in the fall.

The tents sprung up nearly a month ago, when nine protesters began occupying Duke’s main administrative building. The Allen Building, which houses the president’s office, was shut down for much of the weeklong occupation.

Outside, supporters of the protest kept overnight vigil in tents. The area became known as A-ville, because it was located on Duke’s Abele Quad. It became the site of activism, teach-ins, art displays and impromptu music.

For weeks, students focused their protest on the university’s treatment of workers. The group, known as Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity, issued a list of demands, including an increase in the minimum wage for university employees, an outside investigation of Duke’s employment practices and the termination of three administrators they say acted inappropriately.

In announcing an event Tuesday to take down the tents, the group said the decision was “a pre-emptive defense against heightened security risks” as Duke plans to celebrate the last day of classes Wednesday. Two banners and a gay pride flag had been stolen recently, the group said, and a racist flier was found. The group also maintained that other students uttered homophobic slurs outside the tents Sunday night.

Danielle Purifoy, a Duke graduate student and organizer, said the protest had “really galvanized our communities, bringing students and workers together,” she said.

“When that happens, those are the conditions under which change can happen,” she added. “So we’re hopeful.”

Seven of the nine students who occupied the building had faced disciplinary action after Duke officials had granted them amnesty during negotiations on April 3, the group said. Those charges were dropped Monday, Purifoy said.

The discipline related to the use of a balcony and bathrooms outside the office suite where the students held their sit-in. The university released a statement last week saying that the balcony was not a public space and that access to rooftops was already barred by current policies.

“The students were told there would be no sanctions for their actions in refusing to leave the Allen Building when it closed, and the university has honored that commitment,” the statement said. “However, the students were also advised in writing that to reopen the building, even on a limited basis, and do so in an orderly and safe fashion, they needed to abide by existing policies which prohibit unauthorized rooftop access. The area in question is not a public space and has never been used as such.”

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Editorial: In UNC-CH probe, the NCAA blinks and the scandal shrinks | The News & Observer

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Apr 272016
 

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BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
April 26, 2016

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill got a mild updated “notice of allegations” from college athletics’ weak governing body, the NCAA, regarding the disgraceful, long-running academic fraud scandal that touched on its athletics program. It should have come as no surprise that the NCAA is walking softly around Chapel Hill, though it does allege five “Level I” violations – the most serious – which the university will have to answer.

A multi-year scandal unfolded around fraudulent classes in African studies, “paper” classes wherein students did not attend lectures but simply wrote papers for a grade. Athletes, including men’s basketball and football players, were disproportionately enrolled in the classes. The News & Observer’s Dan Kane wrote a series of stories documenting those issues, and his stories led to a $3 million-plus investigation by Washington attorney Kenneth Wainstein, called in by the university. In the end, Wainstein essentially found that Kane’s reports were on target and that the university had a serious scandal on its hands.

Unfortunately, the university responded to the scandal with millions of dollars in outside public relations help to “manage” the story and with expensive legal counsel, and it managed to dismiss Mary Willingham, a courageous former academic counselor who was a whistleblower in the scandal.

The updated notice of allegations has the whiff of being weakened by UNC lawyers pressing the NCAA hard to parse terms and narrow the extent of when and where it would place blame. If so, the lawyers have earned their money, but the university has ignored its obligation to find and accept the truth rather than ways to dodge it.

Now the university will respond to the NCAA, and the “governing” body will presumably deliver punishment in the form of … well, who knows? Men’s basketball and football, after all, are not mentioned in the amended notice of allegations. So UNC fans are doubtless relieved that two basketball championships, in 2005 and 2009, probably won’t be at risk. The 2005 team had heavy enrollment in fake classes, but the 2009 team had fewer. And the NCAA has conveniently chosen to limit its probe to the fall of 2005 going forward.

Jay Smith, an outspoken history professor who has criticized the university’s handling of the scandal, said he believed the latest from the NCAA shields that 2005 team and a title he called “the most stained championship in UNC’s history.” Smith called the NCAA a “paper tiger.”

There will be some penalties. But the NCAA has signaled with its latest action that UNC-Chapel Hill, with its massive money-maker of an athletics program (and a basketball operation that just played in the finals of the NCAA tournament), has little to fear.

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National Football Foundation honors 24 N.C. players | The News & Observer

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Apr 272016
 

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By W.E. Warnock
April 26, 2016

CHAPEL HILL

Reminded that they should be grateful for all the support they received throughout their school years, 29 football players from eastern North Carolina have been recognized as NFF Scholar-Athletes by the National Football Foundation’s Bill Dooley Chapter.

Five collegiate players and 24 high school players and were honored Monday night with a dinner and recognition ceremony inside the Loudermilk Center’s “Blue Zone” at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium. Most were from Wake County schools, and most were accompanied by their family and their high school coach.

“If these young men are representative of the future of the United States, then we are in fine shape,” said keynote speaker Ken Huff. A former UNC and NFL player, Huff also received the NFF chapter’s Distinguished American Award, presented by former Northern Durham and UNC assistant coach Ken Browning.

The high school honorees included: Jalen Malik McNish (Athens Drive); Manny Paredes (Broughton); Thomas Ruocchio and Stephan Shank (both from Cardinal Gibbons); J.T. Berkowitz (Cary); A.J. Daodu (Enloe); Austin Pluckhorn (Fuquay-Varina); Stephen James Moore (Garner Magnet); Conner Redick (Green Hope); Harrison Freeman (Leesville Road); Matt Schmitt (Middle Creek); Asa James Rogerson (Millbrook); Cameron LeBlanc (Panther Creek); Ryan Baldy (Sanderson); and Cole Westberry (Wake Forest).

Durham Public Schools were represented by: Maliik Marcin (Jordan); Ankhenaten Truitt (Northern Durham); and Frank Adams III of Riverside.

Three from schools in Orange County were recognized: Theodore Bilden (Carrboro); Connor Korfas (Chapel Hill); and Eryk Brandon-Dean (Orange).

Pitt County players honored included: Malik Jordan (Greenville Conley) and Jajuan Rogers of South Central Pitt. John Winslow of Ayden Grifton was the lone NFF Scholar-Athlete not present; he played in a baseball game Monday night, when Ayden-Grifton lost 1-0 to Green Central.

purplearrowThe chapter’s University Scholar Athletes were: placekicker Ross Martin (Duke); offensive guard J.T. Boyd (East Carolina); letterman and graduate assistant Jarrod James (North Carolina); center Carl Jones (N.C. Central); and center Joe Thuney (N.C. State).

Each player received a plaque from the members of the Dooley Chapter, the NFF’s largest. It comprises players, coaches, administrators and fans from Durham, Orange, Pitt and Wake counties – all of whom support amateur football.

“Amateur football has given to me more, many times over, than I ever gave it,” said UNC administrator and former player Rick Steinbacher, master of ceremonies for the evening. Steinbacher received the chapter’s award for Outstanding Contributions to Amateur Football, presented by former high school and UNC assistant coach Moyer Smith.

Recipients of the NFF’s Scholar-Athlete Award all achieved a grade point average of at least 3.5, helped their football program and worked to better their respective community, said NFF board member Charlie Adams, former executive director of the N.C. High School Athletics Association. Most of the high school seniors have committed already to a college program.

“All these young men excelled, and they’ve done it the right way – on the football field, in the classroom, and in their community,” Adams said. He told the players before dinner that they should all “thank everyone who helped you – your coaches, your teachers, your principals, your athletic directors, your teammates, your classmates … your family, your friends and your God.”

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Exams, possible chancellor announcement highlight busy week for ECU | The Daily Reflector

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Apr 262016
 

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Holly West
April 26, 2016

It’s a busy week for East Carolina University, which in the next four days will wrap up spring classes, start final exams, celebrate Founders Day and, hopefully, find out the name of its new chancellor.

Classes end today. Wednesday will serve as a reading day before exams start Thursday.

Campus Recreation and Wellness is hosting several events throughout the week to help students stay physically, mentally and emotionally sharp despite the stress of the year’s end.

From 3-5 p.m. today, the “Day of Play” gives students a chance to play with puppies, do yoga and learn relaxation techniques, among other activities, in front of the Student Recreation Center.

Georgia Childs, associate director of wellness and fitness programs, said the activities are all based on teaching students how to manage stress.

“It’s important for people to sit back, decompress, get off your social media, put the computer down, put the laptop down, step away from the stress of going to class and studying, and take a moment to breathe,” she said.

On Wednesday, the rec center’s outdoor pool offers a pool party with free snacks starting at 1 p.m. At 4 p.m., the ECU Center for Counseling and Development will host ”Mind Body Connection” at Hendrix Theater in Mendenhall Student Center to talk about the importance of being mentally and physically healthy.

Childs said a good way for students to avoid end-of-the-year panicking is to keep up with studying and practice stress management throughout the year.

“If you take some of the tips we talk about and practice them every day, you won’t have to worry as much about test day,” she said.

Wednesday also is Founders Day and University Awards Day. A ceremony celebrating the founding of the institution by the N.C. General Assembly 109 years ago and the presentation of several awards will be held in Hendrix Theatre at 9 a.m.

According to ECU historian John Tucker, Founders Day was first celebrated in 1932 on the 25th anniversary of the March 8, 1907, legislation that created the East Carolina Teachers Training School, a precursor to the university.

“The 25th was the first noteworthy anniversary occasion where you could look back and say, ‘Wow, we’ve come a long way,’” Tucker said. “It was a special moment.”

The legislation authorized the State Board of Education to locate a school in some eastern town and appropriated $15,000 for equipment of the buildings. Greenville was the intended location of the school in the mind of the bill’s sponsor, Sen. James L. Fleming, a Greenville resident and one of the founders of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, but the city wasn’t named in the legislation.

Since several other towns in the east wanted the school, it would have been difficult to garner support for a bill that presupposed Greenville as its location, Tucker said.

The city later secured the school by offering $100,000 in local bonds, outbidding other municipalities.

Founders Day historically has been celebrated on or near the anniversary of March 8. However, in recent years, it has been held instead at the end of the semester near University Awards Day in an attempt to avoid the chaos of midterms, spring break and March Madness. This year, the celebrations have been combined into one ceremony.

“The feeling was that rather than try to do two things in rapid succession, Awards Day and Founders Day, it would be better to combine them into one ceremony at the end of the year close to commencement,” Tucker said.

Chancellor announcement

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors will meet in Chapel Hill on Wednesday to consider appointing ECU’s next chancellor.

The meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the board room of the Spangler Center. According to the tentative agenda, BOG members will go into closed session after taking roll to discuss the person UNC System President Margaret Spellings nominates for the position. They will then discuss and possibly vote on the candidate in open session.

Spellings will choose a finalist from among three candidates recommended to her by the ECU Board of Trustees.

The search process began in October when ECU announced the formation of the statutorily required Chancellor Search Committee and a second group, the Leadership Working Group, which worked to develop the profile for the position.

After holding several public meetings and forums to discuss the criteria for the candidates, the committee met in closed session twice to consider candidates. The top three candidates were presumably voted on during closed session in a special-called meeting of the Board of Trustees on March 28 and sent to Spellings.

Chancellor Steve Ballard will step down July 1.

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