Forums set for chancellor search | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 252015


By Holly West
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

East Carolina University has announced eight public forums to gather feedback about what students, faculty, alumni and the community would like to see in the university’s next chancellor.

The forums will be held the next two weeks, both on and off campuses and across the state.

Separate forums for ECU students and staff will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at various locations on campus. All other Greenville and Pitt County residents can voice their opinions at a Dec. 8 forum at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

Additional forums are being held in New Bern, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Chancellor Steve Ballard announced in early July that he will step down as ECU’s leader next year, serving in his role until July 1. Ballard has served as chancellor since 2004.

Student Government Association President Mark Matulewicz said he and Eliza Monroe, the student representative on the Chancellor Search Committee, have been working together to organize the on-campus forums for students, which are being held at the Science and Technology Building and the Brody Blue Auditorium.

“We sat down together and wanted to have some brainstorming sessions on how we can directly receive some student input on what are the characteristics and qualities we want to see in the next chancellor,” Matulewicz said.

He encouraged students to take an interest in the search and come out to the forums to give their opinions.

“Having the student input is probably one of the most important things for this chancellor process,” Matulewicz said. “We are the whole reason behind East Carolina University.”

Those who cannot make it to the forums can share their thoughts about the search through the online survey.

To access the survey, go to the search website,, and click “search survey” in the purple box on the left.

The survey asks about the strengths and weaknesses of the university, what qualities the next chancellor should possess and what his or her priorities should be upon taking office.

The search firm Witt/Kieffer, which was contracted by the university to help recruit candidates, will use the results of the forums and surveys to figure out which candidates are the right fit for ECU.

Matulewicz said he anticipates the qualities students and the community are looking for will be similar.

“From the conversations I’ve had from students, they want a chancellor who is transparent, as well as someone who appreciates the diversity and inclusion we have on campus, someone who has experience working with people and someone who has a passion to follow ECU’s mission, which is to be a model for student success and public service,” Matulewicz said Tuesday.


Raleigh’s Lex Gillette lost his sight but found his vision | The News & Observer

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Nov 252015


By Jessika Morgan
November 24, 2015

Lex Gillette can picture apple red or Carolina blue. He knows the shape of a square and remembers how his old neighborhood in Raleigh looked.

These colors, shapes and sites were part of the world he could see before he lost his vision when he was 8.

Gillette, now 31, said the blindness was gradual.

“I was at home in the bathroom one night, and I started to notice I was losing my sight,” he said. “That was the first day that started a long journey of being in and out of the hospital. The entire time, I had 10 operations. At one point, the doctor just said they couldn’t do anything to help my sight.

“I woke up one day and couldn’t make out anything in my room or in the neighborhood, no family or anything.”

Gillette lost his sight to retina detachments in both eyes. He said he had to relearn the world he once knew, including tasks such as cooking and cleaning. His family, especially his mother, was influential in the adjustment.

By the time Gillette got to high school at Athens Drive in Raleigh, he had learned independence and found sports. When he joined the track team, he used his life motto – “There’s no need for sight when you have a vision” – to elevate him into a professional athletic career, where he became a world champion long jumper.

He holds the world record in the men’s F11 – the class for visually impaired Paralympians – long jump and is a 16-time national champion.

He said one of his high school teachers introduced him to track and field.

“Initially, it was something that I didn’t want to do,” said Gillette, who graduated from Athens Drive High in 2003 before attending East Carolina University. “It was scary; I really didn’t know my surroundings.”

Gillette said his teacher helped him get started, clapping to give him the signal to run. Once Gillette started, he had to time his strides before the jump.

“My responsibility was to remember how many strides I would need to take, run as straight as possible and just give my best effort,” he said. “Once he told me about the Paralympics, that became my goal and that became my dream. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Becoming independent

Gillette earned silver at the Parlympic Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012. He won back-to-back gold medals at the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field National Championships in 2014 and 2015.

He said he will begin training for Rio’s 2016 Summer Paralympic Games on Dec. 1 in San Diego; he currently resides in California.

Ron Wheeler was the track coach at Athens Drive from 1999 to 2012. He remembers when Gillette was first getting started with his promising athletic career.

He said Gillette’s dedication to the sport even influenced some of the other athletes on the team.

“This is a visually impaired kid jumping 18 or 19 feet back in the day,” Wheeler said. “He really started to blossom right after he graduated. High school was a stepping stone for him. It’s no big surprise what he’s been doing. That’s his determination and his willingness to succeed in life.”

Gillette said his mother played a big role in his success. He said she was a source of encouragement after he lost his sight.

“Ironically, my mom would always say, ‘I know you can’t see anything, but you need to make sure when you step outside you look nice,’ ” said Gillette, who recently teamed with Tide Pods to make washing laundry a simpler task. “She’s been really influential in my life, and she taught me so many different things. When I lost my sight, it wasn’t about sports at the time. I was trying to become a young adult and be able to go out and be independent. She was more concerned with making sure I could cook and clean and do chores around the house.

“I had to take care of these things before I could compete in sports.”

Setting records

Gillette competed in the 2015 Parapan Am Games in August in Toronto, where his 6.73-meter mark — or 22.08 feet — set a new Parapan record, according to Gillette is the only totally blind athlete to reach the 22-foot barrier in the long jump.

Everywhere he goes, to the various cities and countries his athletic career has taken him, he carries his mantra.

“It wasn’t the sight that was a determining factor in whether I would have success. It was having a vision, having those dreams, goals and aspirations,” Gillette said. “I was confused (when I lost my sight). I had questions. Why me? I felt lost because I couldn’t see anything. One thing that brought me back … that showed me that I could be successful was knowing that everything that has ever been created or will be created, it started from a vision or dream.

“You see it in your mind first.”

For the countless jumps Gillette has taken, he sees it in his mind first. He pictures the large crowd, the 16 strides he needs to cover 110 feet.

He pictures the pit of sand, a coach near the line giving him the audible commands.

“When I leave the ground and fly through the air, it’s just a certain feeling,” Gillette said. “It’s a sort of fulfilling thing to know that I can’t see anything, but I just did this. Just being out there competing and representing the United States is everything.”


Committee lists skills it wants in community college system president | The News & Observer

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Nov 252015


From staff reports
November 23, 2015

A search committee looking for a president of the state’s community college system has crafted a profile of traits needed in the next leader.

On Friday, a search committee of the State Board of Community Colleges approved the 13-point presidential profile. The committee wants a leader with a passion for public higher education, success in working with a board, ability to build strong legislative relationships and other partnerships, and an understanding of effective financial management. Also desired are: a commitment to diversity; a collaborative leadership style; and an open communications style “with strong, listening, writing and speaking skills.”

The committee is working with consultant Hockaday-Hartford LLC, a national search firm, to build a list of candidates. The panel plans to interview candidates in February and March, with a goal of hiring the next president by March 31.

The next leader will succeed George Fouts, interim president, who assumed the role following the departure of Scott Ralls, who is now president of Northern Virginia Community College.

Read more here:


A debate over a mascot, a racially charged threat and another college cancels classes | The Washington Post

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Nov 252015


By Susan Svrluga
November 24, 2015

Classes were canceled Tuesday at Western Washington University after an alleged incident of hate speech on social media that threatened students of color, according to a message the school’s president sent to the campus community.

The threats came in the midst of a debate at the public university over an initiative to change the school’s mascot, Victor E. Viking, an angry-looking helmeted guy whose image has symbolized the school for nearly a century.

Some on campus said it could be offensive to non-white students, others were incredulous or angry about that idea, and back-and-forth continued on social media.

At some point in the past 48 hours, there were posts on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak that included hate speech and threats directed at people of color, said university spokesperson Paul Cocke. They’re not certain the two are connected, he said, “but we’re definitely looking into it.”

Both campus police and the Bellingham, Washington police department were investigating, Cocke said.

Bruce Shepard, the president, wrote to the campus community, “We need time to press the criminal investigation and to plan how, as a campus, we will come together to demonstrate our outrage, to listen to each other, and to support each other. So, I have decided to cancel classes today in order to provide that time.

“Have no doubt: this is not a capitulation to those I described as trolls and lowlifes. We are going after them.”

He said there was no threat to the campus generally, but “a threat to any one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Several colleges have shut down or issued alerts this fall over anonymous threats. Eastern Kentucky University closed for several days over graffiti threatening to “KILL ALL,” which came not long after a student at an Oregon community college walked into his classroom and fatally shot nine people. Two men were arrested after anonymous threats were made in the wake of protests over racist issues at the University of Missouri.

The threats indicate the saturation of anonymous social media on campus, the ugliness of some of the conversations there, and the intensity of racial issues on campus as protests spread nationally.

For some students, finding offense in a Viking mascot was an indication that concerns about stereotyping had gone too far.

According to a story in the Western Front, the campus newspaper, student leaders had proposed changing the mascot after getting a letter from a communications studies professor,Michael Karlberg, that questioned whether the mascot reflected the school’s “commitment to diversity, our commitment to create a more safe and attractive and inclusive environment on campus.

“… I think this mascot also reflects a sort of hyper masculine, hyper violent sort of image which is doubly problematic. I think we really ought to reconsider,” Karlberg wrote.

A student leader told the Western Front she had concerns that the mascot didn’t “portray students of color” and could seem to exclude them.

Another student advocated for Western ferns as a mascot since they’re “plants and also non-violent.”

Reaction was intense.

One student leader tweeted that there had been a popular reaction among students saying the Viking was a positive representation of their students, and urged people to contribute to the debate.

Someone else posted, “Western students voted to use the Viking as the mascot in 1923, the same year the KKK was established in [Bellingham]. Coincidence?”

Another wrote, “Today in the news: Western considers changing mascot from viking to multiracial transgender stoner. More at 11.”

Several student leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Post. Two referred questions to a university spokesperson.

Members of the Black Student Union at Western did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post. They had a warning posted online:

“Hi Ya’ll

Classes have been canceled today due to hate speech on social media. It is currently being investigated, and campus is still operating, but PLEASE STAY OFF CAMPUS!! As threats have been made directly towards certain Black folks and the larger students of color population at Western.


In a blog post Sunday, Western’s president wrote that he didn’t think it was likely the university would change its mascot. Shepard mulled the arguments. In response to what he said was a common concern — that the Viking looks sinister and evil — he broke down the difference between university mascots and sports mascots.

“Decades ago, I was at Oregon State University and was part of the discussion of the mascot: a warm, cuddly beaver. The Athletic Program wanted a mean, vicious looking varmint to put on the side of football helmets. Hard to imagine how to make a beaver look evil but graphic artists are talented.” The athletics department got a mean beaver, the university kept the cute one.

He considered the arguments that “Viking history and culture is long and distinguished by great literature, art, poetry, and inventiveness,” and also that the culture had, like many others (“ours prominently included”) gone through some dark times of “violent conquest, enslaving, and the like.”

He said the most serious question, at the brink of of a turning point in both higher education and society at large, is “does a Eurocentric and male mascot point to the future we wish to embrace? Or to the past we would move beyond?”

Students, alumni and others have such powerful attachments to university traditions such as mascots that they shouldn’t make the decision lightly, he wrote.

And: “I must confess that I have some sympathy with several who have asked me: compelling or not, when it comes to addressing the persistent and daunting issues of injustice and oppression, is this where Western is going to focus its energies?”

Here is the full statement from the president Tuesday morning:

A message from President Bruce Shepard:

Yesterday, we observed social media being used for hate speech targeted at Western students of color. I need to be VERY clear here: we are not talking the merely insulting, rude, offensive commentary that trolls and various other lowlifes seem free to spew, willy nilly, although there has been plenty of that, too. No, this was hate speech.

These are likely crimes in my view (and in the view of those in the criminal justice system we immediately involved). I cannot go into the details of an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Other than to assure you that this investigation is the highest priority of our campus law enforcement colleagues.

We do not know if the perpetrators are Western students. If not, they face the criminal justice system. If so, they also face the criminal justice system. And, when it comes to being associated with Western, I promise you it will not be for long.

Law enforcement has advised me of their assessment that, as the situation is currently understood, there is no threat to general campus safety. However, and I trust you stand with me on this: a threat to any one of us is an attack on all of us.

We have welcomed the guidance of our students of color as to how else we might be supportive. We have mobilized to offer support and to provide protection to those specifically targeted by the hate speech. With disturbing social media content continuing through early this morning, students of color have advised me of their very genuine, entirely understandable, and heightened fear of being on campus.

We need time to press the criminal investigation and to plan how, as a campus, we will come together to demonstrate our outrage, to listen to each other, and to support each other. So, I have decided to cancel classes today in order to provide that time.

Have no doubt: this is not a capitulation to those I described as trolls and lowlifes. We are going after them. Rather, the pause is necessary so that we may learn more as we advance the law enforcement investigation and, together, plan responses that will make us stronger. In a phrase I often hear you use, it is because “Western Cares.”

While classes are cancelled, the university will continue to be open and operating.

Thank you for being there for all who are Western,



Hotel, alumni center planned | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 252015


By Abbie Bennett
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A $15 million hotel, which will include a new East Carolina University alumni center, is planned for downtown, according to a longtime university supporter and downtown businessman.

Rumors and speculation about a potential downtown hotel have circulated for years, but plans are beginning to take shape.

While no contracts have been signed and no ground has been broken, officials said a hotel is planned for the corner of Fourth and Reade streets, behind Sup Dogs and next to the William H. Long House, about a block away from the city’s new parking deck.

Don Edwards, a businessman, property owner and downtown advocate, said he does not have an official role with the hotel’s development but has served as a liaison between the parties, as he has with several other area projects.

The site is made up of two parcels — one in the center of the block owned by ECU, home to the university’s environmental health and safety building, and the other owned by Classic Property Associates, according to Pitt County records.

Classic Property Associates is a limited liability company with John van Coutren as its registered agent and Tom Glennon as a managing member, according to N.C. Secretary of State corporate records. The parcel owned by Classic Property Associates is vacant.

The two properties together make up about half an acre. Edwards said van Coutren and Glennon implied the hotel likely will be in the Hilton hotel family, which includes Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn.

Edwards said the project likely will total $15 million.

Glennon and van Coutren also are founder and CEO, respectively, of Prime Investments, a limited liability company that owns the Hilton Greenville, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn and the Greenville Convention Center.

Heath Bowman, ECU associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, said the hotel and alumni center are in concept phases, and no contracts exist. The university and alumni association are collaborating with the development company, Bowman said. The groups hope to forge a formal partnership at the alumni association’s Dec. 4 board of trustees meeting.

The project will be privately funded, Bowman said, and plans do not call for use of public funds.

“We think it’s an attractive concept just because it would allow for the association to provide an enhanced alumni focal point to the university,” Bowman said. “We’re very excited to possibly be a part of that Uptown core.”

The redevelopment of an entire city block bounded by Fifth and Cotanche streets, which came to be known as the Superblock, was key in the planning of the hotel.

“It was so important,” Edwards said. “We had to close down some nightclubs that were crime-ridden and problematic. I think that’s very important to note. That had to happen before this hotel.”

The placement of the city’s parking deck just a block away also was a significant factor, Edwards said.

“This is about density, it’s about walkability, it’s about being able to connect with our greenway, arts, science, entertainment district,” Edwards said. “It’s just absolutely spectacular.”

Edwards said this is one more step toward the revitalization of Greenville’s downtown area.

“Possibly the biggest step,” Edwards said. “This is going to be so transformative. And this wouldn’t be possible without partnerships between our wonderful university and our private partners.”


Local Hospital First In The World To Use New Lung Biopsy Device | Public Radio East

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Nov 242015


By Jared Brumbaugh

November is awareness month for Lung Cancer, the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. Doctors at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville are betting on new technologies to reverse that trend. Sarah Finch has more on a new lung biopsy device and how it’s changing healthcare options in eastern North Carolina.

In North Carolina alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 8,000 people will be diagnosed with lung or bronchus cancer this year. East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Director Doctor Carlos Anciano says that lung cancer is decimating our population.

“When we start throwing numbers, they get so vague that people lose a little bit of what the true impact of lung cancer has in our society today. When you add up the next 5 cancers that happen together, they still don’t add up to the mortality, the number of deaths that lung cancer creates. About 430 to 450 people die daily from lung cancer.”

As an ECU physician, Doctor Anciano also works closely with Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. His colleague at Vidant, Doctor Mark Bowling, says they see a particularly high incidence of new lung cancer cases in the region than compared to the national average.

“In Eastern North Carolina we have a tremendously high amount of lung cancer. Since last November we’ve screened approximately 120 individuals and we’ve already found 12 cancers. In one of the largest trials, called the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, the average rate of lung cancer detection was 1 in 320. And you can see we’re already at 10 percent.”

Dr. Mark Bowling is also the Interventional Pulmonology Director at East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine. He went on to say that despite this overwhelming lung cancer data, the problem boils down to the individual.

“Statistics are statistics. But to the individual, there’s no such thing as a 50 or 60 percent. It’s either 100 percent or zero. It’s tough. I mean imagine. If you go to the doctor and the doctor says well I saw something weird in your lungs. This could be cancer. I would be very nervous about it and very anxious.”

Vidant Medical Center is currently the only hospital in the world using the new lung-biopsy tool called the CrossCountry. Medtronic, an internationally known medical technology company, selected Vidant to be the first to use this device because of their state-of-the-art hybrid operating rooms and the growing number of lung cancer cases in the region.

In a traditional lung examination, a doctor inserts a tube through a patient’s nose or mouth to examine the airway. It’s a common and effective way to investigate lung abnormalities, but Dr. Anciano says it is limited in that it can only reach the most central airway of the lung.

“The airways, they are like a tree that branches and branches and branches as you go deeper into the lungs to the points where you don’t branch anymore and you’re just in a microscopic open space.”

A Bronchoscope can only reach the main airway, but now the CrossCountry device allows access to microscopic portions of the lung. Along with a system that has GPS like qualities, doctors can guide a scope through the tiny airways to get a closer look at the tumor.

“It’s a fact that close to half of all lung cancers happen outside of these airways. And that’s where the cross country device comes in. The Cross Country device is a long narrow sheath that we navigate with, it goes outside of the airways, through the lung tissue until it reaches the area where the tumor or cancer is.”

Doctors say this new device prevents patients from having to undergo invasive surgical procedures. During the CrossCountry procedure, they are able to biopsy – remove a tissue sample – from a lung mass far removed from the patient’s central airway. This allows the doctors to provide a more accurate diagnosis without cutting into the patient. Dr. Bowling says the CrossCountry device can now help lung-cancer patients avoid complex surgeries and long hospital stays.

“It’s nice to be able to tell a patient, that when they come in, we want to do everything we can safely in that one sitting. And that’s really what we’re heading toward.”

The CrossCountry device is FDA approved and is considered a stepping stone in less-invasive approaches in the field of lung cancer. It expands the physician’s ability to deploy future markers, dyes or treatments with no more incision or pain to the patient. Doctor Anciano says he is honored to incorporate such a revolutionary tool to manage this relentless disease.

“It’s the combination of all these new technologies that takes us to the point where we are today being able to offer the best there is in our hands right now. It’s not just a matter of being able to go in there with a bronchoscope, its being able to tell the patient that we are at the right place, that we are getting the right tissue, that we are making the right decisions.”

This new lung-biopsy procedure is covered by most insurance plans including Medicare. Doctor Bowling says the CrossCountry tool also has the potential, in the near future, to deliver innovative treatments.

“The only thing that I would add is to really get the message out there of hope with lung cancer. You google it, it looks really bad. But I always remind folks, that things are moving at such a rapid pace, that I think in the next 10 years we’re going to see a huge dent. So I want people to know that you have to go after it. And I think being appropriately aggressive is what you have to do. It’s not a death sentence.”

Experts point out that lung cancer is not always caused by smoking, there are other genetic and environmental factors that may cause this prevalent disease. According to the Centers For Disease Control, people who smoke and who are between 55 and 80 years old should be screened annually.


College enrollment rates are dropping, especially among low-income students | The Washington Post

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Nov 242015


By Emma Brown
November 24, 2015

Low-income high school graduates were far less likely to enroll in higher education in 2013 than in 2008, a downward trend that came at the same time the Obama administration was pushing to boost college access and completion, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data.

College enrollment rates have fallen for all students since 2008, which is not surprising given that the economy has improved since then and therefore more young people can find jobs right out of high school. But the enrollment rates among the poorest students has fallen much faster, according to the analysis, which is slated to publish in a forthcoming edition of the Presidency, a publication of the American Council on Education.

According to an annual Census Bureau survey, overall college enrollment rates dropped three percentage points between 2008 and 2013, from 69 percent to 66 percent.

But college enrollment among the poorest high school graduates — defined as those from the bottom 20 percent of family incomes — dropped 10 percentage points during the same time period, the largest sustained drop in four decades, according to the analysis. In 2013, just 46 percent of low-income high school graduates enrolled in two-year and four-year institutions, according to the data.

Enrollment was dropping at the same time as federal and private grant aid was increasing and high school graduation rates were rising — two trends that higher education advocates hoped would boost college access for poor youth.

“We think that others and ourselves need to be asking some pretty hard questions about why might this have happened,” said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, who co-wrote the report with ACE’s Christopher J. Nellums. “This information cries out for more analysis.”

Hartle said policymakers should be particularly concerned because more than half of the nation’s K-12 public school students are considered to be from low-income families.

Hartle said that the trend could be due to fast-rising sticker prices at many colleges that lead low-income students to deem higher education unaffordable. Or it could be due to the economic recovery and the availability of more jobs. It could be, still, that the data are wrong: The data from the Census Bureau survey are the best available, he said, but the survey covers just one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. population.

Anthony Carnevale, a research professor who directs the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that he wasn’t surprised by the findings. A low-income student’s decisions about college are more sensitive to broader economic trends and to sticker prices than a more affluent student’s might be, he said.

That’s in part because while affluent young people often think of themselves as students who might work on the side, low-income students tend to see themselves differently: “They see themselves as workers who are going to school,” Carnevale said, so going to school is about getting a better job.

Carnevale argues that college as it’s currently designed drives away low-income students because they often have to slog through two years of general requirements before they focus on their major and on skills that will make them more employable.

Many low-income families also don’t want to risk taking out loans, he said. Stronger counseling could help students minimize the risk and understand the earnings-potential boost that comes with a degree.

A strong comprehensive counseling program has helped the District push its college enrollment rates above the low-income average. The nonprofit organization D.C. College Access Program has counselors in every D.C. traditional and charter school, working with students to apply for college and for scholarships.

Enrollment rates have held steady since 2006, at between 58 percent and 62 percent, said Argelia Rodriguez, president and chief executive of D.C. CAP. Three-quarters of D.C. high school seniors complete the federal application for financial aid, a greater proportion than any state.

“I think it just tells you how strong a college-going culture we’ve been able to build over the past 15 years,” Rodriguez said.


Johnston County Schools name superintendent | The News & Observer

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Nov 242015


By Drew Jackson
November 23, 2015

Ross Renfrow gained two titles last week – doctor, when he successfully defended his dissertation at East Carolina University, and superintendent of Johnston County Schools.

The county board of education chose Renfrow to succeed outgoing superintendent Ed Croom, who announced last month he will retire March 1, 2016.

“I’m humbled and appreciative to the board,” Renfrow said after the unanimous vote naming him Johnston County’s next superintendent. “I appreciate the trust and faith the board has in our ability to lead this district.”

Renfrow now serves as the district’s deputy superintendent and was the only candidate the board of education interviewed for the top post. His hiring marks the second consecutive internal hire for superintendent, with the popular Croom following a similar ascension when tapped to lead the schools in 2008.

“The board wanted to go internally, if possible,” board chairman Larry Strickland said. “We held one meeting and discussed strategies for finding our next superintendent. We identified several individuals in that meeting, and David Ross Renfrow was quickly determined to be the best choice. His job as deputy superintendent has him handling a lot of the day-to-day operations, and we think he can lead us in a way that’s very similar to Ed Croom.”

Johnston County’s Board of Education might have preferred to hang on to Croom, who said he was retiring so as not to lose potentially thousands of dollars in retirement benefits, but the board felt Renfrow represented the best option for staying the course. Croom seemed pleased with the hire.

“This is a day any leader would be proud of,” Croom said. “Ross is instrumental in the day-to-day running of the schools. If I were to walk away today, I wouldn’t worry about where this district is heading.”

Renfrow is a 22-year veteran of Johnston County Schools but began his career in Wilson as a teacher and coach at E.T. Beddingfield High School in 1988. In Johnston County he taught at South Johnston High School and Princeton High before moving into administration at Corinth Holders Elementary School in 1998. He later served as principal of North Johnston High School, where he’s a 1983 graduate, and Corinth-Holders. He’s been in the district’s front office since 2012.

“It’s not about the individual, it’s about the district,” Renfrow said. “This goes to show that one of our own can be superintendent – that doesn’t happen every day. It speaks well for our school system, community and citizens.”

Renfrow said there were likely more similarities than differences between himself and Croom. In taking over the position, he said he would work collaboratively with those in the district and consider every option for bettering Johnston County Schools. Renfrow’s tenure looks to be one of significant growth in the district’s 34,000-student enrollment, but he said growth is one of those good problems.

“Growth is a great problem to have – I welcome growth,” Renfrow said. “Ultimately, we want what’s best for the students and want to do whatever it takes so that when they have their diplomas, they’re ready.”

Strickland said Renfrow’s compensation would be the same as Croom’s, according the the state salary schedule. For superintendents with doctorate degrees, it would be between $109,224 base salary and $139,284. Local school boards can also add a local supplement.

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Playing in the Red | The Washington Post

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Nov 242015


November 23, 2015

In September, Auburn University’s football stadium debuted one of the largest video boards in North America. At just shy of 11,000 square feet, the high-definition screen is roughly the size of a five-story building. During a test one night this summer, the glow was visible in the skies over the rural plains of eastern Alabama nearly 30 miles away.

When he announced the purchase, Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said the new board would help recruit star athletes and sell tickets. This convinced Auburn’s board of trustees to approve the $13.9 million expense even though the athletics department posted a deficit of more than $17 million the previous year, an analysis of financial records shows, one of the worst fiscal years in Auburn athletics history.

The same month, about 1,000 miles away in the crowded suburbs of northern New Jersey, another Rutgers University football season began with much less fanfare. There was no new video screen to celebrate, just a football team that has struggled to keep up with powerhouses like Auburn — on the field and financially — for more than 30 years.

Six years had passed since Rutgers’s last big athletics purchase — a $102 million expansion of the football stadium, which the former athletics director said would help finally make the program financially self-sufficient. That plan hasn’t worked yet. In 2014, Rutgers’s athletics deficit topped $36 million, an amount equivalent to losing $1, every second, for a year.

Big-time college sports departments are making more money than ever before, thanks to skyrocketing television contracts, endorsement and licensing deals, and big-spending donors. But many departments also are losing more money than ever, as athletic directors choose to outspend rising income to compete in an arms race that is costing many of the nation’s largest publicly funded universities and students millions of dollars. Rich departments such as Auburn have built lavish facilities, invented dozens of new administrative positions and bought new jets, while poorer departments such as Rutgers have taken millions in mandatory fees from students and siphoned money away from academic budgets to try to keep up.

To examine why so many big college athletic departments struggle to profit, The Washington Post reviewed thousands of pages of financial records from 48 public universities in the “Power Five,” the five wealthiest collegiate conferences. All 2004 figures are adjusted for inflation.

Among the findings:

●From 2004 to 2014, the combined income of the 48 departments nearly doubled, from $2.67 billion to $4.49 billion. The median department saw earnings jump from $52.9 million to $93.1 million.

●After a decade marked by surging income, 25 departments still ran a deficit in 2014. Twelve departments, including Auburn and Rutgers, actually lost more money in 2014 than in 2004.

● While some athletic programs have eliminated or reduced mandatory student fees earmarked for sports, other programs are charging more than ever. Students paid $114 million in required athletics fees in 2014, up from $95 million in 2004.

Athletic directors at money-losing departments defend their spending as essential to keeping pace with competition. Their programs benefit universities in ways that don’t show on athletics financial statements, they said, like media exposure that can cause increased applicants and help fundraising.

“This is a competitive race among some of the biggest universities in this country to compete and achieve at the highest level,” Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Hermann said.

To critics of big-time college athletics in America, however, the persistent inability of programs to profit despite continually rising income is evidence of systemic, wasteful spending.

“College sports is big business, and it’s a very poorly run big business,” said David Ridpath, a business professor at Ohio University and board member for the Drake Group, a nonprofit advocating for an overhaul of commercialized college sports.

“It’s frustrating to see universities, especially public ones, pleading poverty . . . and it is morally wrong for schools bringing in millions extra on athletics to continue to charge students and academics to support programs that, with a little bit of fiscal sense, could turn profits or at least break even.”

The frantic spending race is playing out differently across the country. Higher coaches salaries, while common, are just part of an array of expenses soaring at athletic departments that fail to profit.

At the University of California Berkeley, the mortgage on athletics buildings went from $0 to $23.4 million in a decade. At the University of Wisconsin, annual maintenance and spending on facilities went from $10.5 million to $38.2 million. At Florida State, pay for athletics staffers — not including coaches — went from $7.7 million to $15.7 million. At other schools, rising costs for travel, severance pay, recruiting and other items combine to keep athletics in the red.

Auburn and Rutgers provide two very different answers to the same question: “How do big-time college sports departments lose money?” To some critics, the spending decisions the people running these operations have made, and the way they’re financing them, illustrate fatal flaws in the financial arms race of big-time college sports.

“The current model does not work,” Ridpath said. “Some day it will implode.”

Not enough money

For the vast majority of the more than 4,000 colleges and universities in America, athletic departments should lose money. Their football and basketball teams don’t appear on national television, apparel companies don’t pay them millions for endorsement deals and they don’t have stadiums and arenas generating millions in ticket revenue.

But for athletic departments in the “Power Five” conferences — which includes 48 public universities that complied with records requests — a failure to profit is not inevitable, but the result of an athletic director’s decision to outspend income.

The sports programs in these five conferences — the Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-12, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference — are the wealthiest in the country, and they are wealthy because of football.

Men’s basketball is also a money-maker, but arenas are smaller than football stadiums, limiting ticket income, and the sport’s largest television deal is managed more socialistically. The NCAA controls television rights for the wildly popular March tournament, and every year divies up nearly $800 million among hundreds of schools.

Football — where championship television rights belong to the conferences — separates Power Five schools from everyone else. ESPN is in the midst of a 12-year, $7.3 billion contract to televise the College Football Playoff that will primarily benefit the Power Five. Three of the conferences have launched their own television networks, creating additional revenue streams.

Within the Power Five, the popularity of a school’s football team separates the richest of the rich from everyone else. Powerhouse football teams fill stadiums with 100,000-plus paying customers, and command seven-figure donations from boosters to secure luxury suites.

Ohio State, Texas and Alabama are part of the 1 percent of college athletics, departments that annually bring in more than $140 million, enough to cover seven-figure salaries for head coaches and a near constant process of building and upgrading facilities without losing money.

Colleges generally treat athletic departments as stand-alone organizations, free to spend every dollar they earn. Colleges also rarely prevent athletic directors from outspending their earnings, often allowing them to charge mandatory student fees and take university money away from other departments to cover costs.

This financial setup leads to a seemingly inconsistent truth that surfaces in any argument over how colleges should spend the billions they earn from sports: No matter how much more money flows into the top tier of college athletics, few big-time athletics departments turn a profit.

To try to determine exactly how much money athletics programs cost or earn for schools, the NCAA has for years made every member school complete an annual financial report. This story is based, in part, on an analysis of the 2004 and 2014 NCAA financial reports from 48 public schools. (There are 53 public schools in the Power Five conferences, but five refused to provide their 2004 reports, which were exempt from public records laws in those states.)

Some athletic directors argue these reports present incomplete pictures of a program’s finances, and should not be used for comparing programs. In an interview, the NCAA’s director of research, Todd Petr, countered those claims.

“That’s exactly why we do this. . . . The goal of the report is to determine how much it costs an institution to support an athletics department,” Petr said. “Our data should encompass every variable they have, and then some.”

The number of profitable athletics departments, according to NCAA data, has remained remarkably stable for years: about 15 to 25 every year. NCAA officials have repeatedly cited this statistic to argue against expanded benefits for athletes.

In 2008, former NCAA president Myles Brand cited the low number of profitable programs in an op-ed arguing against paying players.

“That flies in the face of the popularly held perception that intercollegiate athletics — think of all those television contracts, all that bowl money, all the merchandizing — are awash in excess revenue. It just isn’t so,” Brand wrote.

In 2014, NCAA President Mark Emmert made the same argument from the stand in a federal lawsuit over whether schools should share licensing earnings with players.

“Any way you cut it, a very small portion of NCAA institutions are actually generating a profit,” said a narrated video the NCAA submitted as evidence in the O’Bannon vs. the NCAA lawsuit.

To critics, the number of athletics departments struggling to profit is not evidence of inexorably rising costs, but of bloated spending.

“There’s no shareholder demanding a dividend, there’s no one to take in profits, so they take in the money, and they spend it,” said Dan Rascher, a sports economist who has testified against the NCAA. “I just wonder if these school officials who claim they can’t afford anything, if they actually believe what they’re saying.”

There are athletic departments that profit without a perennially great football team, and without taking millions away from students. Indiana University routinely does it, despite being in the middle of the pack of the Power Five in earnings, with $84.7 million in 2014.

How do they do it?

“Hoosier tightwadness,” Indiana Athletics Director Fred Glass said. “We don’t spend more than we take in.”

Glass expressed puzzlement when asked why so many departments struggle to turn a profit.

“If I knew the answer to that, maybe I’d be head of the NCAA or something,” he said.

One of the first and most strident critics of the spending habits of top-tier athletics departments was the man who helped commercialize college football and basketball: Walter Byers, the NCAA’s first executive director, once the most powerful man in college sports.

A diminutive, gruff Missouri native fond of cowboy boots and Scotch, Byers, who died in May at age 93, ended his career an apostate. In 1984, he suggested forming an “open division” that would allow wealthy programs to pay players.

In his memoir, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes,” Byers devoted an entire chapter to assailing athletics spending. As wealthy programs spent freely, Byers wrote, needier programs increasingly took money from government, academics and students to keep up. The chapter’s title: “Not Enough Money.”

“Do any major sports programs make money for their universities? Sure, but the trick is to overspend and feed the myth that even the industry’s plutocrats teeter on insolvency,” Byers wrote. “At the heart of the problem is an addiction to lavish spending.”
Scenese from Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The cost of doing business

The cost of doing business

In downtown Auburn — not far from Toomer’s Corner, the intersection fans fill after big wins to watch students drape two oak trees in toilet paper — there is a road sign that explains the significance of college football in the city.

In a region devastated financially by the Civil War, a small, underfunded agricultural college started a football team in 1892. In the 123 years since that first game, Auburn football has won five national championships and evolved into an economic engine that generates millions of dollars every year for the university and merchants.

The day before the debut of that massive new video board, Auburn Athletics Chief Operating Officer David Benedict explained in an interview how his department lost more money in 2014 than it did in 2004, even though its income nearly doubled during that time.

To understand the culture of Auburn athletics, Benedict explained, one must start with the program’s motto: “All In.”

“When we do something, we’re going to do it at the highest level possible,” Benedict said.

In 2004, Auburn athletics nearly broke even on earnings of $57.5 million. (All 2004 figures are adjusted for inflation.)

By 2014, income had risen to $109.3 million, but spending soared to $126.5 million.

Benedict disagreed with an analysis based on the school’s annual financial report to the NCAA, which he said overestimated the department’s losses. Auburn athletics lost money in 2014, he acknowledged, but internal figures showed $8.2 million.

Auburn athletics is normally profitable, and Benedict expects the program will return to the black in 2015. In 2014, Auburn drew from its cash reserves to cover losses which Benedict attributed to a few unique situations.

While Auburn’s athletics spending has more than doubled in a decade, Benedict defended most of it as inherent to bankrolling a top-notch college program. Tuition, room and board nearly doubled (from $7.5 million to $12 million). Coaches’ pay more than doubled (from $9.3 million to $20.4 million). Facilities spending tripled (from $8.6 million to $27.8 million), thanks to a building boom including a new basketball arena and practice facility ($89.4 million), a new indoor football practice facility ($23.1 million) and a new soccer-track facility ($17.7 million).

Some purchases, Benedict acknowledged, were optional, like two new twin-engine jets: a six-seat 2008 Cessna Citation CJ2+ ($6.4 million) and a seven-seat 2009 Cessna Citation CJ3 ($7.8 million), each bearing a blue and orange “AU” insignia on its tail.

The jets are used primarily by coaches to criss-cross the country meeting with recruits, contributing to Auburn’s recruiting costs nearly doubling in a decade, from $1.6 million to $2.7 million.

“If you want to be in recruiting at this level, private planes are utilized,” said Benedict, who pointed out most of Auburn’s competitors also own jets.

That new video board, the largest in college sports, was also optional. Auburn has a history of trend-setting electronics displays. In 2007, it installed the first high-definition video board in the SEC, a $2.9 million purchase Athletic Director Jacobs decided was obsolete eight years later.

“For us to be financially healthy, we need our stadium to be full every Saturday,” Benedict said. “One of those ways we can do that is to make sure everybody has an unbelievable game-day experience.”

The most important part of a good game-day experience is a win, so football coach at Auburn, like at many big schools, is a well-compensated gig with very little job security. In 2012, the Tigers went 3-9, a season that resulted with the firing of coach Gene Chizik just two years removed from a national championship.

In 2013-14, Auburn paid Gus Malzahn $4.3 million to coach its football team. That same season, Auburn also paid Chizik and three assistants a combined $4.1 million to not coach its football team.

That year, Auburn also paid $400,000 to former baseball coach John Pawlowski (fired in May 2013), and $242,000 to former men’s basketball coach Tony Barbee (fired in May 2014) as part of $2.4 million the school will pay Barbee, in monthly installments, until 2017.

“That’s the cost of doing business in this league,” Jacobs said. “If you don’t graduate athletes and you don’t win championships, you’re not going to be around here very long.”

Auburn fans would argue Chizik’s severance was worth every penny, as his replacement Malzahn’s first season was a thrilling success, ending with two stunning last-second wins and a narrow loss in the national championship game.

That historic run should have helped the athletics department’s bottom line. By making the title game, Auburn earned an extra $2.6 million cut from the game’s revenue. After the 34-31 loss to Florida State, though, an Auburn official told a reporter the school actually lost $1 million on the game, due to the exorbitant cost to send people to Los Angeles. (The game was played in nearby Pasadena.)

It is expensive to send a football team, coaching staff, and a marching band to Los Angeles. It is much more expensive, however, when you also send dozens of staffers and their spouses. Auburn sent an estimated “team and staff” party of 370 to Los Angeles, all expenses covered, for eight days, helping contribute to a $2.7 million travel tab. Florida State sent 237 team and staff members, spending $1.9 million on travel.

“Whether it was the receptionist answering the phone every day, or a member of our board, they were all, in some way or another, important to us getting to a national championship game,” Jacobs said. “We wanted them all there, so we could thank them, and also create the expectation we’re going to get back there again, and we’re going to need them to work twice as hard.”

Auburn’s lavish spending on athletics employees is not limited to title game trips. In a decade, Auburn’s athletics payroll — not counting coaches — has ballooned from $9 million to $19.9 million.

Since 2004, records show, Auburn athletics has created more than 100 positions, including 15 jobs paying $100,000 or more in a region where median income is $35,055. Among the new positions are 18 full-time football support staff members (four make $100,000 or more), two senior associate athletic directors (earning $205,620 and $122,490, respectively) and a chief marketing officer ($185,400).

Jacobs defended the hiring spree, which also included a dietitian and a psychologist, as enabling more individual attention on athletes.

“You need more people just to provide the best possible student-athlete experience,” he said.

Jacobs’s pay has steadily risen since he started in 2005, from $407,300 to $648,700, and he’s been able to hire some help. In January 2014, Jacobs created a chief operating officer position, a No. 2 to take over the department’s day-to-day operations.

For that job, Jacobs chose Benedict, whom he lured away from Minnesota athletics with a salary of $310,000.

Benedict strongly disagreed with characterizing any Auburn spending as bloated.

“I don’t think it’s any different than any other competitive industry,” Benedict said. “As college athletics has generated more money, we’re going to invest more.”

It’s not accurate, Benedict said, to analyze college athletics in terms of profits or losses.

“There’s no for-profit company that would operate the way college athletics do,” he said. “We don’t make decisions based on the bottom line. If we did, things would operate very differently.”
The fan’s perspective at Auburn, with a new $13.9 million scoreboard, and Rutgers, which spent $102 million to expand its stadium six years ago. (Auburn photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire via AP Images; Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Going big time

There are no jets for recruiting at Rutgers. The athletics department doesn’t even own buses. When Rutgers teams travel, they sometimes depart their fragmented campus in anonymous, rented coach buses.

Rutgers’s main campus in New Brunswick is actually five smaller campuses spread across both sides of the Raritan River. Rutgers athletics is headquartered in Piscataway, not far from the football stadium that bills itself as “the birthplace of college football.”

On Nov. 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton clashed in the first recorded college football game, a 6-4 Rutgers win. Over the next 100 years, as college football grew more popular, Rutgers officials decided the school fit better outside the top tier.

In the early 1980s — after prodding by Sonny Werblin, an alum and owner of the New York Jets — Rutgers launched an effort to join the top level of college sports. Gone were the annual games against Princeton; it was replaced with tilts against Alabama and Penn State.

On the field, there hasn’t been much glory. The 2006 season is the high-water mark: an 11-2 record highlighted by a win over then-No. 3 Louisville, a game the school refers to as “Pandemonium in Piscataway.”

Off the field, financial success has proven even more difficult. Rutgers athletics has perennially lost lots of money, according to “Going Bigtime: The Rutgers Experience,” by the late Richard P. McCormick, a former history professor.

In the 1980s, Rutgers athletics annually lost hundreds of thousands; in the 1990s, the department annually lost millions; and in the 2000s, annual losses topped $10 million.

“Rutgers was not yet ready for bigtime — after thirty years!” McCormick wrote.

In 2004, Rutgers athletics deficit was $22.7 million, and the department needed $6.4 million in student fees and $10.5 million from the school to pay its bills. Two years later, Rutgers cut six sports to try to save money.

By 2014, the financial picture only worsened. The athletics deficit hit $36.4 million. To pay its athletics bills, Rutgers to diverted $26 million in school funds and charged students $10.3 million in fees, or about $326 for each of the 31,630 full-time undergraduate students in New Brunswick.

Rutgers Athletics Chief Financial Officer Janine Purcaro also said the school’s financial report to the NCAA presents an inaccurate picture. In 2014, for example, it included a $6.5 million charge the school will pay out over several years to leave the smaller American Athletic Conference for the wealthier Big Ten.

The conference switch, Rutgers athletics officials say, is the key to the program’s eventual success. In 2014, each full member of the Big Ten received at least a $27 million cut of the league’s revenue. By 2021 – when Rutgers becomes a full conference member – that payout could top $40 million per school, thanks to rising television contracts.

In the early 2020s, Purcaro projects, Rutgers athletics will finally be almost self-sustainable. Until then, though, the department could lose another $1oo million.

“The next four or five years will be challenging to difficult, financially,” said Hermann, the school’s athletic director. “But this [conference change] will allow our athletics department to become financially sustainable in a way that we never could have.”

The annual losses infuriate economics professor Mark Killingsworth, who has watched as the school of Arts and Sciences has cut classes and replaced full-time professors with adjuncts.

In March, Killingsworth wrote a scathing report on athletics spending — approved by the university’s senate, which has both student and faculty members — that demanded a five-year plan for athletics to become self-sufficient. That’s simply not possible, Purcaro said.

The financial struggles of Rutgers athletics is a long-running controversy on campus, and Purcaro and Killingworth are familiar adversaries. There is exactly one thing the two agree on: the department’s biggest problem is income, not spending.

“It’s not like they are spending like drunken sailors. They are just not generating nearly enough revenue,” Killingsworth said.

An examination of Rutgers’s athletics spending shows tuition, coaches’ pay, and front-office pay have all steadily increased in a decade, but one item has taken a massive jump. Facilities costs leapt from $2 million to $11 million, caused by increased upkeep and $6.5 million in annual debt after an expansion of the football stadium in 2009.

Donations were supposed to cover a chunk of that project. State Senator Ray Lesniak, a Rutgers alum and longtime athletics booster, joked Rutgers would raise $30 million with “one spin through Jon Corzine’s Rolodex,” referring to the wealthy, well-connected New Jersey governor.

That spin wasn’t quite so lucrative. Corzine donated $1 million, and after Rutgers struggled to raise anything else, the school ultimately borrowed the entire $102 million.
An artist’s conception of America’s first intercollegiate football game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. Rutgers has been trying for more than 30 years to reach the top level of college sports. (File photo via Associated Press; Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

That experience demonstrated the biggest difference between Rutgers and Auburn — fans who will pay top-dollar to go to games and support the program.

In 2014, Auburn athletics made $69.2 million in ticket sales and donations, thanks in part to a tiered football season ticket strategy that requires donations ranging from $140 to $3,575 per seat. (The $3,575 seats sold out, and there’s a waiting list.)

Rutgers has tried a similar strategy – soliciting donations ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 for premium seating – but with much less success, making $18.6 million in 2014.

The financial struggles have not chastened Sen. Lesniak, who thinks Rutgers athletics isn’t spending enough. In February, Lesniak sent a letter to Rutgers President Robert Barchi calling for $30 million in upgrades to the basketball arena and a new practice facility.

“We’re in the Big Ten. We should act like it,” wrote Lesniak, who criticized Killingsworth’s report on athletics losses as based on “sixth-grade math.”

“I love it,” said Killingsworth of the criticism. “It only takes sixth-grade math to see that the program is a complete mess. It’s not rocket science . . . People are insisting Rutgers University build stuff, and then they don’t want to pay for it. They want academics to pay for it. They want the students to pay for it.”

Not every Rutgers professor thinks athletics is doomed to lose money forever.

History professor Richard L. McCormick is the son of the man who wrote the critical history of Rutgers athletics. The younger McCormick has an interesting perspective on the issue; from 2002 through 2012 he was Rutgers’s president. He endured criticism as Rutgers athletics cut sports, and as fundraising for the stadium expansion sputtered.

Like his father, McCormick doubted the wisdom of Rutgers jumping to big-time college sports. But the 2006 football season changed his mind.

“There is nothing the university could realistically do that would attract anywhere near the attention garnered by a successful football program. Academics and intellectual purists may lament this truth, but it is inescapable,” McCormick wrote in his memoir “Raised at Rutgers.”

McCormick expressed optimism the switch to the wealthier Big Ten will bring success. He predicted Rutgers will soon have a thriving athletics program, winning on the field, and raking in millions off it.

There was one looming possibility, though, that concerned McCormick.

“Maintaining that excellence will demand . . . discipline to resist the pressures that could put success at risk,” he wrote. “The most worrisome is competitive pressure toward unbridled spending.”


ECU breaks ground on student center | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 232015


By Holly West
Friday, November 20, 2015

East Carolina University officials broke ground Friday on the building that will eventually become the center of student life at the university.

Over the next two years, a 210,000-square-foot Main Campus Student Center will be constructed, along with a 700-space parking deck. The lot sits on 10th Street behind Mendenhall Student Center, where the Wendy’s restaurant used to be.

“We’re excited about what this will do for our students,” said Board of Trustees chair Steve Jones. “This has been a journey, it’s been in the planning for years and it’s taken a lot of different twists and turns, but here we are today, on a beautiful day after a Pirate football victory last night to celebrate this new center.”

The center has been in the works for almost 12 years. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy said the chancellor asked her to make it a priority when she took her position six years ago. By mid-2018, the long-held vision will finally become a reality.

Once it is completed, the center will house Dowdy Student Store, the LGBT Resource Center and the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center. It will have retail spaces and six dining options, including a Starbucks Coffee and Au Bon Pain Cafe.

Students will be able to meet and work in various lounges and study rooms, put on shows in a black box theater and hang out with friends in the gaming center. A 14,000 square foot ballroom will provide space for big events, and outside the building, a plaza with a 24 by 42 foot outdoor digital display screen will be available for movies or presentations.

Hardy said the state of the art facility will be a gathering place for both students and faculty.

“The student centers will enhance the quality of life on campus for our students, providing them with an attractive, open, engaging face that will meet their needs and encourage more congregation and social interaction,” she said. “It will cultivate intellectual, artistic, recreational and cultural exchange among our students, staff and faculty.”

The combined cost of the center and the parking deck is $122.2 million, which is being funded mostly through an increase in student fees.

Chancellor Steve Ballard said this project is important for the university because it will enhance the experience for current students and make ECU even more attractive to prospective students.

“In today’s competitive market, student centers and having a home for our students is a vital part of that mission for student success, so I appreciate the work of hundreds of people that made it possible to have this ceremony today,” he said.


Opinion: Ramsey, Willson: Preparing for flu | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 232015


Saturday, November 21, 2015

As we move into the winter months, it is the prime time for the return of respiratory virus infections such as influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the common cold. These viruses can cause serious illnesses to those who are already susceptible to infection — especially children who have asthma.

At Vidant Medical Center, we owe it to our patients, families, visitors and employees to do all we can to limit the spread of infections. For the fourth year in a row, we have taken the proactive step of requiring annual flu vaccinations for more than 13,000 Vidant Health employees, volunteers, and all health care providers in our hospitals, clinics, physician practices, wellness centers and home health and hospice locations. This action was taken to prevent our employees from getting the flu, and to protect our patients, families, visitors and other employees from becoming ill and inadvertently infecting others. When the level of RSV and influenza in the community rises, it will be necessary to limit visitation in areas where patients are most vulnerable to infections, such as the pediatric units where we see the smallest of infants and the sickest of children. When that time arrives, children under 12 years of age will not be permitted to visit children in pediatric areas of the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at the medical center. When families experience an extended stay, we will provide alternate ways for the patient and family to stay connected. Additionally, family members under 12 can visit their healthy newborn brother or sister in the labor and delivery or immediate post-delivery area.

We do this to protect our smallest and sickest children so they don’t become inadvertently exposed to respiratory infections. We also request that all family members and visitors follow the precaution signs and wear gloves and gowns, where indicated, to prevent spread of these viruses to others throughout the hospital.

Hospitals need the help of everyone to preserve a safe harbor for the most vulnerable people in our community. Please help us to protect these patients, and do everything possible to keep away viruses. While you might not exhibit any of the symptoms, you never know if you could have been exposed to one of these viruses. We know no one intentionally wants to make someone sick. But these viruses, especially RSV, are easily spread by physical contact. Touching, kissing and even shaking hands with an infected person can spread this virus. They are also spread through the air by sneezing and coughing. As you might guess, infections like RSV spread rapidly in crowded households, day care centers, schools, churches and hospitals. Please wash your hands frequently, and cover your cough or sneeze while visiting in the hospital.

We also recommend that you be proactive at home and in the community to prevent infections: Wash your hands frequently; keep your children home from school when they are sick and do not share cups or utensils; stay home if you are sick. And the most important protection against Influenza infection is to get a protective flu shot.

All of us at Vidant Medical Center appreciate your help in keeping your loved ones safe.


Editorial: Salary demands | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 232015


Saturday, November 21, 2015

It is easy to see why the University of North Carolina’s governing board was nearly evenly divided over last month’s closed-door decision to raise salaries for 12 university chancellors. The move has predictably created a backlash among faculty and staff frustrated by the decision to boost salaries for the chiefs while everyone else’s pay remains stagnant.

The board voted 16-13 to raise the chancellors’ pay by as much as 19 percent based on an assessment showing that annual salaries for North Carolina’s university leaders are under national averages. It is unlikely that faculty and staff will see their salaries adjusted based on national averages, but they are justifiably demanding just that.

Even so, it is the students and families facing rising tuition costs who have the greatest cause to complain about the Board of Governors’ misplaced priority.

East Carolina University’s outgoing Chancellor Steve Ballard is realizing a $63,000 increase from the Board’s market-based decision last month, bringing his pay to $385,000. The ECU Faculty Senate quickly responded by asking that a similar study be conducted to see how their salaries measure up to national averages.

On Wednesday, the ECU Staff Senate passed a resolution asking for a compensation study and raises for non-faculty university employees. The vote came during a standing-room-only meeting at the 250-seat East Carolina Heart Institute auditorium.

Workers complained that despite a $1,000 raise last year — the first in several years — staff salaries remain below market rates, and no merit or cost-of-living raises have been granted for this year.

“Nobody cares,” Ann Taft, an environmental technician for the housekeeping department, said. “As long as everybody else gets their money, y’all leave us out there in the cold, and it’s not right.”

While that conclusion is not entirely correct, it reflects the perspective of many in Wednesday’s meeting who struggle to make ends meet while seeing the Board of Governors raise the already high annual salary of ECU’s chancellor by far more than they will earn in a year.

Faculty and staff on campuses throughout the state are reacting in similar fashion to the decision to boost chancellors’ pay while everyone else’s has remained mostly flat since the recession. There has been criticism from students as well, albeit less vocal.

The 16 board members who voted for the increase must firmly believe it will ultimately benefit faculty, staff and, most importantly, students. Those ECU employees at Wednesday’s meeting are not off base, however, in demanding that, all things being fair, the same market-driven approach should be applied to their salaries also.

The demand is at least as logical as the vote to raise the chancellors’ pay.


Western Carolina considers center funded by Charles Koch Foundation | The News & Observer

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Nov 232015


By Jane Stancill
November 20, 2015

A proposed Charles Koch Foundation-funded center on free enterprise is a step closer to reality at Western Carolina University, where the Faculty Senate has voted to oppose it.

On Friday, WCU’s provost, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, recommended to Chancellor David Belcher that the WCU Center for Study of Free Enterprise go forward, according to a university spokesman. If Belcher agrees, the proposal will go to the campus Board of Trustees for consideration in December.

The center would be launched with $2 million over five years from the Charles Koch Foundation, which was established by billionaire businessman Charles Koch. He, along with his brother David Koch, is known for funding conservative, libertarian, pro-business and anti-regulation causes.

On Oct. 28, the Faculty Senate at WCU took a stand against the center, citing concerns about potential costs, threats to academic freedom and reputation, the lack of peer review and whether the center was needed. The vote to oppose the center was 21-3, with 4 not taking a position.

“The Charles Koch Foundation has previously set forth explicit expectations in line with their political views in exchange for monetary gifts to universities, thereby constraining academic freedom by influencing and interfering with the development of new knowledge,” a statement by the senate said.

Even if no strings are attached to the current gift, the statement said, “the legacy of such gifts carries a burden.”

Edward Lopez, an economist and professor who proposed the center, said it fits with WCU’s goals. “Western’s mission and its strategic directives are heavily occupied with serving the state and the region on matters of economic development,” said Lopez, who is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism at the university. “This center adds a research dimension to Western’s capabilities and pursuing that mission.”

He said any major initiative would draw scrutiny, but added, “I think some of it is ideological.”

The Republican-dominated UNC Board of Governors this year completed a controversial review of all UNC system centers, and eliminated three that were focused on poverty, voter engagement and biodiversity. During the review, board members objected to centers that they characterized as having a political agenda.

In WCU’s proposal, the center is described as providing “thought leadership” on economic development “by conducting scholarly inquiry, policy analysis, educational activities and community outreach on the role of free enterprise in a flourishing society.”

Neither the provost nor the chancellor at the Cullowhee campus were available Friday, according to a spokesman.

David McCord, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said some faculty were concerned about the university having to invest $1.4 million in the proposed center. Though proponents say much of the money will come from vacant faculty positions, McCord said there are too many unknowns.

“What’s the ongoing cost to the university in really lean times of doing this?” said McCord, a professor of psychology.

He said much of the opposition revolves around academic freedom. The Koch foundations have a history of explicit curricular requirements and intrusion into hiring decisions, he said.

Last month, the Charles Koch Foundation, which supports 250 universities, published on its website a set of principles for awarding grants. “We are committed to advancing a marketplace of ideas and supporting a ‘Republic of Science’ where scholarship is free, open, and subject to rigorous and honest intellectual challenge,” the statement said. “We seek university partners who are committed to realizing this ideal.”


Missing Washington College student found dead in Pennsylvania | The Washington Post

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Nov 232015


By Martin Weil
November 21, 2015

Jacob Marberger, the student at Washington College in Maryland whose disappearance prompted a suspension of classes, has been found dead in Pennsylvania, state police there said.

The Hamburg, Pa., division of the state police said he was found Saturday afternoon at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The Chestertown, Md., college had shut down operations after information indicated that Marberger was upset and armed.

Relatives said that Marberger, 19, a sophomore, had been despondent about incidents at the college.

State police said sanctuary staffers found Marberger in a picnic area, along with the vehicle he was believed to be using.

The sanctuary is in east-central Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half northwest of the Marberger family’s home near Philadelphia.

Marberger’s parents had phoned the college Nov. 16 to report that he had come home distraught and taken a rifle case and was not responding to text messages.

The call prompted a campus lockdown and a decision by the school to close for the month.

College administrators grew concerned that Marberger could present an imminent danger. Recent incidents of mass shootings and of threats at educational facilities had reinforced their apprehensions.

“The guidepost is student safety,” said Sheila Bair, president of the college, a 1,400-student liberal arts institution on the Eastern Shore.

Authorities had been searching for the student, who was reported last seen in the Hamburg area at some point Nov. 16. That was the day he was believed to have purchased ammunition.

In an interview last week, Marberger’s father, Jon, said he never saw his son as a threat but thought that notifying the college was the right thing to do.

He described his son as “an intellectual, conscientious young man” who loved his fraternity, was a student government leader and was active in theater.

School officials have said that Marberger was upset by a prank played on him in early October. A trash can full of water was apparently placed against his dorm room’s door so that when he opened it, the water spilled in.

A school official has said Marberger thought that a couple of students were ridiculing or persecuting him.

Later, Marberger allegedly brandished a pistol at his fraternity house, possibly while drunk, according to school officials. He was expelled from his fraternity and resigned as speaker of the Student Senate.

He was suspended by the college and faced expulsion.

On Tuesday, a warrant was issued for his arrest on weapons charges.

In a statement, the college called Marberger’s death “a terrible blow to our community” and extended its “deepest sympathies” to the Marberger family “in their time of unimaginable grief.”


At Princeton, Woodrow Wilson, a Heralded Alum, Is Recast as an Intolerant One | The New York Times

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Nov 232015


November 22, 2015

PRINCETON, N.J. — Few historical figures loom as large in the life of an Ivy League university as Woodrow Wilson does at Princeton.

As the school’s president in the early 20th century, Wilson initiated its expansion into a full-scale university. He lifted educational standards, created academic majors and introduced the small-group classes, often led by professors, known as precepts.

To honor him, Princeton created the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs — an elite institution within an elite institution — and a residential complex, Wilson College, where quotations from the revered leader have been displayed on a television screen in the dining hall.

So central is Wilson to Princeton’s identity that a theatrical revue performed for freshmen pokes fun at the obsession. “Come into our Wilsonic Temple, a sacred space devoted entirely to our 28th president!” a fervent Wilsonite tells visitors in a skit.

But until posters started appearing around campus in September, one aspect of Wilson’s legacy was seldom discussed: his racist views, and the ways he acted on them as president of the United States.

The posters, put up by a year-old student group called the Black Justice League, featured some of Wilson’s more offensive quotes, including his comment to an African-American leader that “segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you,” and led to a remarkable two days at this genteel campus last week.

After a walkout by about 200 students, and the presentation by the Black Justice League of a list of demands, about 15 students occupied the office of the president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, overnight on Wednesday. On Thursday, Mr. Eisgruber agreed to begin discussions on campus and with trustees about the demands.

At the top of the group’s list was a demand that the university “publicly acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson” and take steps to rename the public policy school and residential college.

While naming decisions are up to the university’s board of trustees (which includes Mr. Eisgruber), Mr. Eisgruber promised to push for removing a large mural of Wilson from the residential college’s dining room and to direct the trustees to survey “the campus community’s opinion” on the Wilson School name and then vote on it.

The protesters also called for mandatory courses on “the history of marginalized peoples,” for “cultural competency training” for the staff and the faculty and for the creation of dedicated housing and meeting space for those interested in black culture.

But as Princeton takes its turn in the national roll call of college campuses where long-festering issues of race have burst into the open, spurred by events in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Charleston, S.C., it is not surprising that the conversation would pivot around Wilson, an alumnus.

“In some ways, that’s the role that symbols play in American politics and culture,” Mr. Eisgruber said in a phone interview on Sunday before sending an email addressing the issue to the university community. “People become very invested in symbols. And one of the benefits of having a genuine public discussion, informed by scholarly opinion, about some of these questions is that it can help educate people about problems that go beyond the symbol in our society.”

In the wake of the sit-in, students were divided on the renaming; even many sympathetic to the Black Justice League’s other demands said that expunging Wilson’s name went too far, or was unlikely to serve a constructive purpose, or both.

A counterpetition circulating on called the proposal a “dangerous precedent” for future students who “seek to purge the past of those who fail to live up to modern standards of morality,” as well as a bid to erase Wilson’s positive contributions.

But one Black Justice League member, Wilglory Tanjong, rejected that argument.

“We don’t want Woodrow Wilson’s legacy to be erased,” said Ms. Tanjong, a sophomore who was born in Cameroon and grew up near Washington. “We think it is extremely important that we understand our history of this campus. But we think that you can definitely understand your history without idolizing or turning Wilson into some kind of god, which is essentially what they’ve done.”

Perhaps best known for leading the United States during World War I and for trying to start the League of Nations, Wilson as president rolled back gains blacks had made since Reconstruction, removing black officials from the federal government and overseeing the segregation of rank-and-file workers.

Raised in the South, he wrote of “a great Ku Klux Klan” that rose up to rid whites of “the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant Negroes.”

During Wilson’s tenure as president of Princeton, no blacks were admitted — “The whole temper and tradition of the place are such that no Negro has ever applied,” he wrote — though Harvard and Yale had admitted blacks decades earlier. Princeton admitted its first black student in the 1940s.

At Princeton today, Black Justice League members said they had often felt excluded and continually if subtly called on to justify their presence at one of the nation’s top schools.

They protest the fact that only about 2 percent of the faculty is black (the student body is around 8 percent black).

And for students like Ozioma Obi-Onuoha of the Black Justice League, Wilson’s name and image around campus feel like constant reminders that they are not entirely welcome.

“It’s a haunting,” said Ms. Obi-Onuoha, a senior majoring in politics who grew up in North Carolina.

Online, sometimes under the cloak of anonymity, many people mocked the group’s efforts.

“Will the proposed Black Cultural Space have its own water fountain?” a commenter on a Daily Princetonian story asked.

But in the dining hall of Wilson College on Friday, against the backdrop of the Wilson mural, made from a photograph of the president throwing a first pitch at a baseball game, students took the debate seriously.

“I’m a little bit torn,” said Takim Williams, a senior majoring in philosophy who is black. “My race has never been a disadvantage to me — at least that’s how I view it — so I haven’t had the same visceral reaction.”

He said he found the renaming idea “drastic.” His tablemate Calvert Chan, a sophomore who is Asian-American, said, “If the criteria for naming a building for someone was that they’d be perfect, we shouldn’t name buildings.”

Nearby, Amina Simon, who is white and took part in the protests, said Wilson’s name did not belong on a dorm complex “where you’re expected to have residential college spirit and cheer for Wilson College.” For black students, she said, “having to identify yourself with the name of someone who did not build this place for you is unfair.”

Across campus on Friday evening, as she walked out of the soaring atrium of the public policy school, the school’s dean, Cecilia Rouse, who is black, declined to take a position.

“I think we have to look at what it means to change the name of an internationally known school,” she said. “Our alumni are identified with the Woodrow Wilson School, so it’s not an easy decision.”

But she added: “I think it’s an important conversation for our students, for our faculty, for our staff, to really understand the many dimensions of Princeton’s legacy with race. I actually think it’s a very good thing.”


Paris attacks provide stark lessons– Business Insurance

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Nov 232015

Business Insurance logo

Published: Nov. 22, 2015

Paris attacks provide stark lessons

Business must prepare its international travelers


East Carolina routs Central Florida 44-7 | The News & Observer

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Nov 202015


By Chris Hays
November 20, 2015

Isaiah Jones apparently likes playing in the state of Florida. Blake Kemp doesn’t seem to mind, either. Winning makes it even better.

Jones, a junior receiver, had another big game in the Sunshine State on Thursday night as the Pirates made easy time of Central Florida in a 44-7 rout at Bright House Networks Stadium.

“Yeah, I do. I love Florida,” Jones laughed after the Pirates racked up 605 yards of offense and snapped a three-game losing skid.

Jones teamed up with junior quarterback Blake Kemp to dice up a Central Florida defense that has had an abysmal season. Jones, who caught 14 passes in a tough loss at Florida this season, caught 13 passes for a career-high 164 yards and two touchdowns against Central Florida.

[East Carolina 44, Central Florida 7]

“It’s huge, man,” Kemp said of Jones. “He’s just a guy that you know when you throw him the ball there’s a good chance he’ll come down with it and make a play and it’s awesome to have him out there on our team.”

Kemp passed for 448 yards and four touchdowns, also career bests, as East Carolina piled on the lowly Knights (0-11, 0-6 American Athletic).

“Blake did a great job and I felt like our preparation showed,” Jones said. “Coaches put us in a position to make plays and our offensive line did a good job of blocking.”

The makeshift line might have been the most impressive part of the Pirates’ performance. With three starters out, the line show no signs of missing a beat.

“That’s a huge credit to coach Brad Davis, who does a great job with those guys. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the nation,” Jones said of the offensive line coach.

Kemp, who sat out the Pirates’ last game, had all the time he needed as the offensive line built a barrier around him. Kemp picked apart a pass defense that ranked No. 98 in the nation.

“It felt good to be back out there on the field and the O-line did great job of protecting so that really helped me go through my reads,” Kemp said. “I had a lot of fun out there tonight.”

The Knights didn’t have an answer on the ground, either, as East Carolina running back Chris Hairston carved up the run defense (ranked No. 97 overall) for 123 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Central Florida was ranked No. 103 in total defense coming in, giving up 449 yards a game. East Carolina eclipsed that number during the first three quarters (573 yards).

The Knights gave the few fans who did show up Thursday some early optimism. They took just three minutes to go 71 yards to start the game. Tre’Quan Smith capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch from Justin Holman to provide an early 7-0 lead.

That was short-lived. East Carolina came out firing with Kemp connecting on his first four passes. The Pirates’ hurry-up offense moved the ball quickly down the field and Kemp capped the 81-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bishop.

Jones caught two passes on the opening series to give him 35 straight games with at least one reception, and it was only a precursor of what was to come.

By halftime, Jones had six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, Kemp had thrown for 260 yards and three touchdowns and Hairston had 76 yards and another score to give East Carolina a 31-7 lead.

The final numbers could have been worse. Jones had two touchdown passes, one for 67 yards and one for 18, called back because of penalties, as did Hairston on a 50-yard second-half run.

“I’m proud of (Jones). He got a chance to get his hands on the ball tonight,” East Carolina coach Ruff McNeill said of Jones. “We know our skill set is talented. (Jones) did a great job of catching it and getting vertical … (Jones) is one of those players who leads by example.”

The Pirates (5-6, 3-4) have one game remaining, a home date Nov. 28 with Cincinnati. A victory over the Bearcats (6-4, 3-3), who will play Friday night at South Florida, would make the Pirates bowl eligible.

“There’s the left-hand column and the right-hand column, and I’m just glad to get one in the left-hand column,” McNeill said of the victory. “We’ll just get ready for the next one. There’s more than 24 hours this time though. We won’t think about Cincinnati until Sunday.”


GAMEDAY: ECU-UCF | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 192015


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One football team starving for a late-season winning streak faces a team with absolutely nothing to lose tonight, except a couple more games.

But perhaps that makes host Central Florida — still winless at 0-10 this season — at least somewhat dangerous to East Carolina, which kicks off against the Knights at 7:30 p.m. in Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla., in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

For the Pirates (4-6, 2-4 American Athletic Conference), a three-game winning streak to close the season is still in the offing. With it would come a surprise 7-6 finish, but that would also mean a home win against Cincinnati next Saturday followed by a bowl victory for a team currently riding a three-game losing streak.

Before any of that can happen, the anemic ECU offense must find its footing against a UCF team being coached by interim Danny Barrett following the midseason departure of longtime head man George O’Leary.

Though there is nothing left to play for but pride for the Knights (0-6 AAC), ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill knows UCF is desperate and has a strong history against his team, including winning three of the last four meetings against the Pirates and the last two in Orlando.

“UCF is having a tough time too right now, but it’s a George O’Leary program,” said McNeill, who is 41-33 as he nears the end of his sixth season as ECU head coach. “George built that program absolutely from the bottom, and you see it brick by brick.”

In order to jump-start an attack that has plummeted to ninth in the American in rushing (138.3 yards/game) despite somehow staying at fourth on the pass (258.5), McNeill and offensive coordinator Dave Nichol opted this week to return to the formula that has worked this season by using both of the team’s former backup quarterbacks instead of just one.

The hope, seemingly, is to rebuild some passing prowess on an offense that averages roughly 110 yards less through the air than it did last season.

Reverting back to the two-QB system means the first game action for junior Blake Kemp (1,878 pass yards, 11 pass TDs, 10 interceptions) since ECU lost to UConn on Oct. 30.

James Summers (443 rush yards, 673 pass yards, 12 TDs) scored his team’s lone two touchdowns on QB keepers in ECU’s 22-17 home loss to South Florida on Nov. 7, which led into the team’s one and only bye of the season last week.

“They’re really good teammates, so it really wasn’t a huge deal for him,” Nichol said of Kemp’s reaction to not playing in a game for the first time all season against USF, though the first-year coordinator said that was not necessarily the plan going into the game. “It was the way the game has gone. It didn’t necessarily mean we’re not playing Blake or anything. It’s just kind of the way it worked and what gives us, against their defense, the best chance to win.”

Junior slot receiver Isaiah Jones (team-high 72 receptions for 794 yards and three TDs) exemplified the Pirates’ recent identity crisis on offense, making a mere two catches for eight yards against the Bulls. Behind him, tight end and recent Senior Bowl selection Bryce Williams (47-502-3) has remained a consistent weapon in the pass game, followed by sophomore outside receiver Trevon Brown (30-369-3), junior OWR Davon Grayson (26-316-2) and senior tailback Chris Hairston (24-159-1).

ECU’s often inept rush attack has at times been carried by Hairston (team-high 144 rushes for 615 yards and seven TDs), but he and Summers have been the only threats on the run.

Like the Pirates’ 3-4 defensive setup, UCF’s 4-3 scheme is built around its linebackers, primarily senior middle man Domenic Spencer (team-high 84 tackles and eight tackles for loss) and sophomore outside linebacker Chequan Burkett (6.5 TFLs, three sacks).

Also prominent in the Knight defense are junior cornerback Shaquille Griffin (44 tackles, team-high two INTs) and junior free safety Drico Johnson (61 tackles, four TFLs). Up front, sophomore defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman has five TFLs and a team-high 3.5 sacks.

Although a large share of the blame for ECU’s three-game skid rests with the offense, the Pirate defense has yielded late touchdowns more than once in the team’s decline, creating a redemptive mood on both sides of the ball in the season’s final games.

At the forefront, senior linebackers Zeek Bigger (team-high 81 tackles and six QB hurries) in the middle and Montese Overton (team-high 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks) will attempt to neutralize a Knights offense that ranks dead last in overall production with an average output of 278.6 yards per game.

Fellow senior Terrell Stanley (36 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) continues to spark the front line, along with junior fellow end Fred Presley (40 tackles, four TFLs, two forced fumbles) and junior nose tackle Demetri McGill (5.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks). Also at LB, former walk-on Jordan Williams (63 tackles, four TFLs, two sacks, INT, FF) has proven a strong complement for Bigger.

At the back end, true freshman Corey Seargent will make his first collegiate start tonight in place of senior field cornerback Josh Hawkins (38 tackles, team-high two INTs, TD), who committed a costly 15-yard penalty late against USF.

Seargent’s surge has continued despite a midseason injury that cost him three games.

“He’s 100 percent but missed like three weeks where he got no reps at all,” defensive coordinator Rick Smith said of Seargent. “(Against USF) he played about 10 plays and on one of them he fell down and the post was wide open.”

Senior free safety Domonique Lennon has also surged to challenge season-long starter Travon Simmons (team-high seven pass breakups). Meanwhile, junior strong safety Terrell Richardson remains questionable with a ligament strain in his lower leg.

The futility of UCF’s offense is reflected by its league-worst 15.7 points-per-game average through 10 games.

Quarterback Justin Holman has thrown for 1,153 yards with six touchdowns against 11 picks in the seven games since taking over under center.

Behind him, lead rusher C.J. Jones, a redshirt freshman, has managed just 291 yards and one TD on 76 carries, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Fellow frosh Taj McGowan has 170 ground yards and one of the Knights’ mere four rush scores this season.

Leading the UCF pass-catchers by far is another freshman in Tre’Quan Smith, whose 41 catches for 572 yards and three TDs is 23 more than teammate Tristan Payton (18-239-1), who is second on the team.


One Community program unites ECU Greeks | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 202015


By Holly West
Thursday, November 19, 2015

An initiative at East Carolina University is unifying students involved in Greek life to showcase the good they do and keep them accountable.

Presented to university trustees at a committee meeting Thursday, the One Community program brings together students in sororities and fraternities from each of the four

organizations on ECU’s campus — the InterFraternity Council, which governs traditional fraternities; the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which governs nine historically

black fraternities and sororities; the Panhellenic Council, which governs traditional sororities; and the Multi-Cultural Greek Council, which governs five sororities and

fraternities that promote diversity.

“We’re wanting to bring those four councils together and for them to operate as one Greek community,” Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, said.

Hardy said the One Community initiative will not change anything about how Greek organizations are run or interfere with their national philanthropic projects.

It is essentially a rebranding effort that will let people know how big a contribution these organizations make.

For example, they will create a visual representation of how much money all the organizations have raised and place it in a prominent place on campus.

“We’re not asking them to do more,” she said. “We’re going to just show that collectively, the 2,500 students collectively of Greeks have raised X amount of dollars.”

Trustee Max Joyner suggested the initiative find a way to show the amount of time students put into charity work.

“The volunteer hours is what’s going to blow people away, when they see how much they do,” he said.

Trustee Danny Scott said it is important to show the positive effect of Greek organizations because issues such as sexual assault often are the only thing about them

that make the news.

“It only takes one major incident for folks to shine a light on problems with Greeks,” he said. “All the good goes away when you have some major issue that comes up.”

The initiative does, however, address tough issues through a series of programs that promotes the values sororities and fraternities espouse.

Topics this semester have included hazing prevention and consensual sex, as well as leadership training and building community.

The initiative also tracks the academic performance of students in Greek organizations and challenges members to maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

Hardy said most female students involved in Greek life either meet or are close to meeting that standard; most male students involved in Greek life have lower GPAs.

Bond support

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the university affairs committee voted to send to the full board a resolution supporting the Connect NC bond, a $2 billion infrastructure

investment that North Carolina residents will vote on in March.

If the referendum passes, ECU will get approximately $90 million to build a life sciences and biotechnology building.

Provost Ron Michelson said that money would fund a building of about 150,000 square feet.

Michelson said it will be used for multidisciplinary research, instruction and team collaboration.

“The building will include certainly aspects of the department of biology, genetics and the like, but it will also include aspects of engineering that are tightly wound with biology,” he said.

The resolution will be up for a final vote of approval at today’s full board meeting, which will be held in the Mendenhall Student Center at 9 a.m.

At 11:30 a.m., trustees and other university officials will break ground on the Main Campus Student Center behind Mendenhall.


Brody launches new program | WNCT

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Nov 202015


By Zora Stephenson
November 19, 2015

To view news video on WNCT, click here.

Medical students at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine launched a new program Thursday.

30 new Ipads are now in the anatomy labs. Brody is the only medical school in North Carolina that uses Ipads in their labs. Students came up with the idea themselves. After a lot of research, they decided which applications they wanted on the devices.

The Ipads are used to supplement the students’ learning experience. They are full of all the latest medical applications. One student who helped come up with the idea says having this technology in the labs deepens the learning experience.

Brody student Zachary Frabitore says, “I think this is a very very powerful tool, and technology is everywhere now. It allows you to do so many things we couldn’t do before.”

Thursday’s launch is just the first phase, the students hope to add more apps in the future.


ECU, NC State to increase security at home football games | WITN

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Nov 202015


November 19, 2015
By: Brendan King, Gina DiPietro

To view the news video on WITN, click here.

The France terror attack is prompting some North Carolina universities to boost security at athletic events.

Both N.C. State and East Carolina University announced plans on Thursday to increase security at home football games.

French Police reported multiple attacks that day, and reports indicated the first bombs were destined for a soccer stadium.

With the Pirates next home game about a week away, ECU Police say they’re honing their own game plan.

Chief Gerald Lewis says, in addition to seeing more officers on the ground, expect to arrive at the gates earlier.

“We’re going to have to enforce our policies regarding bags and umbrellas, signs with poles on them, things of that nature. I would anticipate people would see a little bit of a delay.”

Chief Lewis added there are other plans they will not disclose.

“Anytime you have an act of terrorism, they want people to change their game plans. To change their lifestyle. And we don’t want that at East Carolina University.”


Protesters issue demands at UNC-Chapel Hill meeting on race | The News & Observer

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Nov 202015


By Jane Stancill
November, 19, 2015

To view news video in the News & Observer, click here.

At a “town hall meeting” about race at UNC-Chapel Hill on Thursday night, a group of protesters issued a list of demands before individual students pleaded for a more inclusive environment.

Read more here:

The event, in a packed Memorial Hall, was tense at times, with black-clad protesters immediately seizing the forum from moderator Clarence Page, a journalist from the Chicago Tribune.

They chanted, “Whose university? Our university!”

Their demands were expansive – the elimination of tuition and the use of SAT tests in admissions, no outsourcing of campus jobs and no investments in prisons. They called for gender neutral bathrooms and the firing of the recently hired UNC system president, Margaret Spellings. Then they read additional demands for administrators across the nation, at the University of Missouri, and across the world at the University of Cape Town.

The protesters walked out of the town hall, where other students, one by one, put forth suggestions to make everyday life more comfortable for students of color. The Black Student Movement asked for a dedicated space to replace the one lost when a campus building was torn down. Several called for the removal of Silent Sam, the Confederate monument at the center of campus.

“We all agree on one thing,” said Madrid Danner-Smith, a sophomore. “Systemic racism exists.”

His suggestion drew applause: “Mandatory racial equity training,” he said, for every student, professor, administrator and staff member. “That’s all I got to say.”

At universities around the United States, a wave of student activism has erupted in the aftermath of mass protests at the University of Missouri that led to the resignation of the president this month. Demonstrations about other racial incidents have occurred at Yale, Duke and many other campuses.

UNC’s town hall meeting came a week after a large rally on campus in support of Mizzou. But UNC students have been active for years on racial issues, and pressure from students led the Board of Trustees this year to rename Saunders Hall, a building named for a purported Ku Klux Klan leader.

Laurie Medford, a graduate student in 19th Century history, pointed out the irony of the event being held in a building that commemorates war dead.

“Southern colleges and unversities have a complex, often uncomfortable history,” Medford said. “An inclusive Carolina is not owned by its Confederate past. This is a small step, but badly needed. How can my students and my classmates feel welcome and included on this campus with the Lost Cause narrative owning our campus space?”

A history task force has embarked on plans to place markers on McCorkle Place, where Silent Sam is located, to give full context to it and other memorials. The group is also studying the feasibility of creating a museum to give a full account of UNC’s history.

Thursday’s town hall came 50 years after black students made similar demands and a year after the birth of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. “Still talking about the question raised by a man named King,” said Page, the moderator. “I don’t mean Martin Luther King. I mean Rodney King. Can we all get along?”

Some students described what they said were microaggresions at UNC. One female African-American student, a political science and biology major, said someone had asked what sport she played – implying that she wasn’t smart enough to attend UNC. Another, a Latina student without documentation, described picking tobacco with her family at age 11 to escape poverty, only to be told by someone to go back to her country.

The event was heavily attended by faculty and staff, who were asked to be there by Chancellor Carol Folt.

One professor, Jennifer Ho, stood up to assure students that faculty cared.

“Institutional racism and white supremecy are very real,” said Ho, an English professor, “and very tied to the history of UNC-Chapel Hill.”

After the forum, Folt made no specific promises, but said her administration is committed to improving the campus climate.

“You can’t have been listening to this without feeling the pain that people are feeling,” she said. “I hear it loud and clear that people want action.”

Cara Pugh, a sophomore, asked UNC leaders for an action plan, concrete steps, by February.

“Students are hurting,” Pugh said, “and students need change.”


Princeton president and protesters reach agreement — and university warns of a bomb threat | The Washington Post

 News clippings compiled by ECU News Services  Comments Off on Princeton president and protesters reach agreement — and university warns of a bomb threat | The Washington Post
Nov 202015


By Susan Svrluga
November 19, 2015

A 32-hour protest about the racial climate at Princeton ended Thursday night when the president and students reached an agreement that included consideration of the idea of renaming the university’s storied Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Soon afterward, the university announced an anonymous threat of violence that referenced the protest.

The debate came in the midst of a national escalation of the topic of race on campus, with students at dozens of colleges confronting administrators and other students and presenting demands — and anonymous threats surfacing, as well.

The Black Justice League at Princeton had demanded that the president acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson and remove his name from buildings on campus, mandate “cultural competency” courses for all faculty and staff, and provide cultural space for black students on campus.

President Christopher Eisgruber immediately agreed to the idea of a cultural space Wednesday night, but declined to sign the demands and promised to continue talking with students about the other ideas.

Wilson, an alumnus and president of the university who went on to become the 28th president of the United States, advocated for separation of races and opposed efforts by civil rights leaders to combat discrimination against black people. Students asked that his name be removed from a residential college, the university’s school of public and international affairs, and that a mural of him be removed from a dining hall.

Eisgruber agreed that in his opinion the mural should not be there, and the process began to consider its ultimate removal.

He agreed to write to the chair of the board of trustees to discuss Wilson’s legacy, including the group’s request that his name be removed, and for the board to collect information from the campus community about the name.

University leaders essentially agreed to further efforts to train staff to understand cultural differences, and to discuss the possibility of a required course in diversity issues for all students.

They said that students who left Nassau Hall peacefully would not be subject to disciplinary action.

“We appreciate the willingness of the students to work with us to find a way forward for them, for us and for our community,” Eisgruber said in a statement. “We were able to assure them that their concerns would be raised and considered through appropriate processes.”

Not long afterward, the university issued a campus safety alert: Bomb and firearm threat.

“The Department of Public Safety, out of an abundance of caution, is alerting members of the University community about a non-specific bomb and firearm threat that made reference to a student protest on campus.

“In response to the threat, which was received in an email, the Department of Public Safety is enhancing campus patrols and actively investigating the threat in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies.”


ECU Senate asks for pay study | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 192015


By Holly West
November 19, 2015

After a lively and chaotic employee forum, the East Carolina University Staff Senate passed a resolution asking for a compensation study and raises for non-faculty university employees.

So many employees attended the forum that the 250-seat East Carolina Heart Institute auditorium was standing room only and additional people had to watch from an overflow room.

The main complaint was that despite a $1,000 raise last year, staff salaries still are below market rates. Last year’s raise was the first granted to staff in several years, and no merit or cost of living raises have been granted for this year. Meanwhile many faculty members are expected to get merit raises of about 2.4 percent.

Myrtle Carmon, a housekeeping supervisor, said she and many of her coworkers struggle to pay their bills.

“I have got paid, paid out all my money, and I had to call them right back the same day to get a salary advance,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way. We are working at a multi-million dollar university.”

The lowest base salary for any employee of the university is $26,300. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator, the salary needed to maintain a normal standard of living for a Pitt County family of two adults and two children in which only one adult works is $47,224. For a family with one adult and one child, the living wage is $44,201.

Another point of contention among the staff is the recent $63,000 raise granted to Chancellor Steve Ballard. He was one of several leaders whose salaries were bumped after the University of North Carolina Board of Governors commissioned a study that found that the salaries of most senior leaders in the system were below market rates.

In response, the ECU faculty senate asked for a similar study to be conducted on their salaries, and Wednesday’s resolution asked for the same for non-faculty staff.

“Data drives decisions and decisions drive actions,” Dwayne Reeves, assistant director of facility services and a former ECU staff senate chairman, said. “The staff deserve the same information and analysis. We should not have to wait on an analysis to be done by the state’s office of human resources.”

Many staff members expressed concern that university officials do not value staff as much as faculty and do not advocate on their behalf to the Board of Governors and state legislature.

“Nobody cares,” Ann Taft, an environmental technician for the housekeeping department, said. “As long as everybody else gets their money, y’all leave us out there in the cold, and it’s not right.”

Taft said that in addition to not receiving pay raises, many employees are asked to do extra work when their departments are understaffed.

“We do it if we don’t have enough people because we pull together, but we’re not getting compensated for it,” she said. “We’re just worked to death and that’s it. Nobody appreciates us enough to do something for us besides giving us a chicken and barbecue.”

Several employees said their bosses have told them if they are not happy with their pay, they have a stack of applications from people who would happily take their jobs.

The chancellor issued a response to the issues raised in the forum through ECU News Services.

“We want to thank the Staff Senate for its critical leadership role on our campus and say in particular we appreciate the group holding these forums that are providing an open dialogue on concerns,” the statement said. “The chancellor’s office is reaching out to the group immediately to ask to meet with its leadership to hold direct discussions so we can hear and understand firsthand the concerns that were brought up.”

Faculty senate vice chairwoman Kylie Dotson-Blake expressed her support for the staff and said it is important for the higher-ups to understand that faculty and staff are not only employees of the university, but residents of eastern North Carolina. ECU often prides itself on being an economic engine for the region, and Dotson-Blake said it can fulfill that mission by giving fair compensation to its own employees when it has the money and advocating for more funding from the state when it does not.

“If we’re serious about regional transformation at this university, we have to understand that that transformation starts in our home,” she said. “We are the region, our families. We are the people that send our children to this university. We are the people that buy ECU merchandise out in the community. We are the people that make sure that the face of this campus is well-represented when visitors come here.”

UNC Staff Assembly delegates Garrett Killian and Mary Schillar, who along with representatives from other UNC system universities advocate for staff to the Board of Governors and General Assembly, said it’s important for staff to speak up about their needs. They said past efforts to get feedback from staff have been unsuccessful. Additionally, they said the chancellor always has been an advocate for the staff.

“We can complain all day, but we need to come up with a solution,” Schillar said. “Asking Chancellor Ballard to advocate for us, he’s been doing that all along.”

Taft said she has not spoken up in the past several years because she figured the state eventually would give staff raises, but it has become clear that is not going to happen.

“I’ve never even been late for this job more than one time and I’ve been here 11 years, and have I been compensated? No,” she said. “I’ve got evaluations that say outstanding. Have I been compensated? No. We need help, not just somebody running their mouth. We need some help and it needs to be seen by all of us.”


Syrian refugee crisis discussed | The Daily Reflector

 News clippings compiled by ECU News Services  Comments Off on Syrian refugee crisis discussed | The Daily Reflector
Nov 192015


By Holly West
The Daily Reflector
November 18, 2015

Professors from East Carolina University’s department of geography, planning and environment held a panel Wednesday night to discuss the natural causes and effects of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Millions of Syrians have fled their country due to civil war, but panelist Tom Rickenbach, associate professor at ECU, said the environment was one of the factors that caused the unrest.

The country experienced a severe drought for several years, resulting in farmers losing their crops and livestock and being forced to move to cities. About 1.5 million people were displaced.

“Does climate change cause terrorism?,” Rickenbach said. “No, I’m not saying that. But it’s the box in which a country can come unstable.”

The panel was planned a month ago, but organizer Burrell Montz said the conversation was especially fitting in light of the recent attacks on Paris, which were perpetrated by the terrorist group Islamic State of Syria, or ISIS. The threat of ISIS attacks has been a major cause of people fleeing from the country.

“It’s become even more important that we cover this because of what happened in Paris,” said Montz, the chairman of ECU’s department of geography, planning and environment. “That’s bringing the refugee crisis to the forefront.”

Since 2011, 4 million refugees have fled to other countries from Syria. About half of those are under the age of 18.

Many have fled to neighboring countries like Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. While Turkey has taken the most refugees, professor and panelist Gaines Townsend said Jordan has been popular among those hoping to immigrate to Western countries.

“Most Western countries have a pretty good relationship with King Abdullah and his people,” he said.

Some Western countries, such as Germany and Sweden, are welcoming refugees due to their low populations.

“They’re good humanitarians, but they’re also being very strategic,” assistant professor and panelist Beth Bee said.

Each is taking at least half a million displaced people. Professor and panelist Tom Allen said a friend of his visiting Vienna, Italy saw the backlog of people trying to enter Germany firsthand.

“He couldn’t believe the throngs of Syrians and Afghans in Vienna, waiting for somewhere to go, waiting to be hopefully let into Germany,” he said.

Other countries, like the United States, have been more hesitant. President Barack Obama has promised to accept 10,000 Syrians, but many people, particularly Republicans, have come out in opposition to taking refugees.

Townsend said opponents mostly fear that among the refugees will be radicalized ISIS supporters, but he said he does not see that as a serious threat.

“It’s very unlikely you’re going to have ISIS sympathizers among a large group of people who are there to flee from being attacked by ISIS,” he said.

While the mass exodus of Syrian citizens is the biggest refugee crisis many people have seen in their lifetime, Rickenbach said it won’t be the last.

He said climate change is causing changes in sea level that will put several places around the world under water, forcing residents to flee.

By 2100, 20 percent of Bangladesh will be uninhabitable, leaving 10 million people without a home.

The island country of Tuvalu, off the coast of Australia, might completely disappear. It is just three meters, or about nine feet, above sea level. Its government already has created a gradual evacuation plan.

Rickenbach said it is important for people to be aware of these future refugee crises, not only so they can prepare for where to put those displaced, but to do all they can do slow the process down.

“Those small, inconsequential changes in climate can be a catalyst,” he said.