Oct 212014


Updated: Mon 10:01 PM, Oct 20, 2014

A group of children playing basketball with worn, dry-rotted basketballs, received a gift by two ECU officers on patrol in their neighborhood.

East Carolina University officer Frances Finch and Aaron Stangland patrol the warehouse district on Clark and 11th Streets where young kids in the nearby neighborhood play basketball.

Last week they noticed the mobile hoop didn’t have a net and the basketballs the kids used were worn and waterlogged.

The officers decided to ask the men’s basketball team if they could donate a couple of their used practice basketballs to them. But men’s basketball coach Jeff Lebo and his operations director Kyle Robinson decided to give two brand new purple and gold basketballs to them instead.

Monday, while working on this story, Lebo and Robinson gave us another basketball to give the kids.

The officers also gave the kids a basketball pump and a new net for their hoop.

Oct 212014


By Brian Haines

bhaines@newsobserver.comOctober 20, 2014

GREENVILLE — When Ruffin McNeill began coaching football 29 years ago, his father introduced him to a barometer by which to gauge his seasons.

“My dad always told me: if you coach when you have to wear jackets and its cold and snowy then you had a good year,” McNeill said.

The No. 18 Pirates (5-1, 2-0) on Thursday can ensure that they will be playing in winter weather when they attempt to clinch bowl eligibility at home against UConn (1-5, 0-3 AAC) at 7 p.m.

“To become bowl eligible is a thing that you shoot for,” McNeill said. “… To become bowl eligible, I think it’s great for our players and our staff and our staff’s family.”

If East Carolina can get past a struggling UConn team, it will clinch its fourth bowl berth in the past five seasons.

The Pirates narrowly avoided an upset their last time out, as they overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit against South Florida to secure a 28-17 victory.

East Carolina committed 12 penalties for a season-high 148 yards against the Bulls and now rank 114th in the nation in flags per game, something McNeill addressed during the team’s bye week.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” McNeill said. “… Yes, we have emphasized that. We have to adjust to how they’re called. We haven’t changed our coaching technique or anything like that, we’ve been coaching the same way since we’ve been here.”

Thursday’s meeting with the Huskies will mark the first in ECU’s history. Connecticut has lost four straight games, with its last being a 12-3 defeat at the hands of Tulane.

Third down’s the charm: The Pirates are averaging 41 points per game, 11th in the nation, and the key has been their success on third downs. Led by the record-breaking duo of quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy, ECU has converted 48 percent of its third downs, which is 12th-best in the nation.

“You have to be able to move the chains,” McNeill said. “How you move them? Don’t care. You just have to move them. Either run or pass you just have to be able to move the chains.”

How well the Pirates continue to move the chains figures to play a key role Thursday when they face a Huskies team that leads the American Athletic Conference in third down defense (31 percent).

Injury report: East Carolina receiver Jimmy Williams, who has missed the past two games due to an ankle injury, is expected play Thursday. Defensive end Damage Bailey (knee) and DB Cody Purdie (wrist) will be sidelined with injuries, while ILB Devaris Brunson (knee) is out indefinitely.

Oct 212014


By Dan Kane


October 21, 2014

Since at least the early 1990s, UNC-Chapel Hill sought to limit the number of “special studies” undergraduate students could take toward their degrees. The limit was the equivalent of four such classes – a small minority of the courses needed for graduation.

Those classes usually meant independent studies, which involved meetings with a professor, required reading, and a paper due at the end.

But a second type of independent study evolved into a scandal at UNC: classes in the former African and Afro-American studies department advertised as lectures that never met and required only a paper at the end. More details that have emerged about the no-show classes provide evidence that several athletes in men’s basketball and football had taken far more of the two types of independent study classes than the rules would allow.

As Kenneth Wainstein prepares to deliver the results of the latest investigation into the scandal on Wednesday, the heavy use in no-show classes by athletes raises a key question: Were they created to help athletes – and perhaps other students – get around the four-class limit?

Five members of the 2005 championship basketball team accounted for at least 52 classes that were either accurately characterized as independent study or were identified as confirmed or suspected no-show classes, according to enrollment data provided by Mary Willlingham, a former learning specialist for UNC athletes who became a whistleblower. That averages out to 10 classes per athlete.

Meanwhile, a transcript for Julius Peppers, who played football and basketball at UNC until 2001, listed nine independent studies or no-show classes.

Richard Cramer was a longtime sociology professor and spent six years as associate dean for UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences. One of his jobs for the college for the past dozen years as a part-time employee included checking the transcripts of students close to graduation to make sure they had met various academic requirements.

That included checking the number of independent studies taken. But he said the no-show classes at the heart of the academic scandal would have escaped detection because they looked like lecture-style classes.

“We wouldn’t know,” said Cramer, who retired last summer after his position was cut. “We wouldn’t ask unless somebody told us.”

UNC officials have declined to explain the independent studies limit, other than noting it was in a report the university produced in the wake of the scandal. That 2012 report, however, did not identify a problem with independent studies within the AFAM department exceeding enrollment limits. The News & Observer first cited the limit in a June article about the 2005 men’s basketball team.

Joel Curran, a UNC spokesman, said Monday that he expects Wainstein to address questions about independent studies in his report. Wainstein said he could not comment on the independent studies limit or his report until Wednesday.

Why independent study?

The university’s undergraduate bulletins, which explain the university’s academic requirements to students, weren’t a model of clarity when it came to independent studies.

For many years, the bulletins identified them as “correspondence courses” that on-campus students couldn’t take without a dean’s approval. They could be taken at any time, and students had up to nine months to complete them. Academically ineligible students were encouraged to take them, and could take up to 30 credit hours.

During those years, the four-class limit was on “special studies.” They weren’t specifically called independent studies until the start of the 2006-07 academic year. Since that time, the correspondence courses have been referred to as “self-paced” courses.

Higher education experts outside of UNC say limits on the number of independent studies students can take aren’t surprising. But the reasons for them vary.

Jason Johnson, an education professor and associate dean for undergraduate affairs at the University of Washington, said most universities aren’t worried about students abusing independent studies. They are more concerned about making sure students graduate on time. Students enrolling in too many independent studies could lengthen their stays by not fulfilling core requirements that reflect the university’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education.

“Universities are always very concerned about a student’s academic progress and their movement through the curriculum,” Johnson said.

Independent studies risks

There’s another financial incentive to limit independent studies: They are among the most expensive a college can offer, because they represent a 1-to-1 student-to-professor ratio, as opposed to a professor teaching 20 or more students in a classroom.

Two independent studies scandals over the past decade at the University of Michigan and Auburn University have alerted colleges to the potential for abuse.

In both cases, professors were offering scores of independent studies to students within an academic year. Athletes were big beneficiaries, but neither case drew substantial NCAA involvement because nonathletes were also in the classes.

“This is an area that by the very nature of it is prone to abuse,” said Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the American Association of University Professors. “Also by the very nature of it, it could be the most meaningful learning experience, and you’ve got to watch both ends of it.”

Auburn’s scandal drew the attention of UNC faculty in 2006, leading the Faculty Council to ask the university’s Faculty Committee on Athletics to check for signs of independent studies abuse.

At that time, the African studies department was offering far more independent studies than its faculty could manage. Shortly after, the number of independent studies in the department dropped significantly.

But that drop didn’t become known until years later, in the wake of the scandal. It is not clear why. Meanwhile, the no-show classes continued until 2011, though they dropped off after the African studies department’s longtime manager, Deborah Crowder, retired in 2009.

Kane: 919-829-4861

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/10/21/4250913_were-unc-no-show-classes-designed.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1#storylink=cpy
Oct 212014


By Jane Stancill


October 20, 2014

RALEIGH — Shaw University is laying off 10 employees and eliminating 11 vacant positions, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The cost cutting was announced by Shaw late Friday but no details were available on the extent of the reductions. On Monday, university spokeswoman Odessa Hines said a total of 21 jobs would be lost. The university is also renegotiating contracts with vendors to save money, Hines said.

Last week, Gaddis Faulcon, Shaw’s interim president, said the measures could save the university $2 million during the next year. “We want to not just survive, but thrive and we can only do so by continuously examining our internal processes to determine how we can be more effective,” Faulcon said in a statement.

The reductions follow steady enrollment declines in recent years – a trend that has played out at historically black universities across North Carolina.

From 2010-11 to this year, the student population at Shaw has dropped 36 percent. Shaw has 1,729 full-time students this fall, according to preliminary numbers, compared to 2,722 in the fall of 2010.

Shaw’s cuts come at a time when supporters have worried over the university’s future leadership.

This summer, 50 alumni signed a letter that was highly critical of the search for a permanent replacement for Dorothy Yancy, who retired as president on Dec. 31.

Alumni complained that a search consultant helping the university had no experience in higher education and had filed for bankruptcy. They also cited an article in HBCU Digest that said the Shaw board almost hired the head of an online university in California – Andrew Honeycutt of Anaheim University. He had not been named as a finalist by the Shaw search committee.

Problems with the search led the board in August to extend the contract of Faulcon for a year. His title was changed from acting president to interim president.

Shaw’s latest federal tax form indicated a shortfall, with $1 million more in expenses than revenue.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

Oct 212014


By Jane Stancill

jstancill@newsobserver.comOctober 20, 2014

Law school is getting a makeover in an era of plunging applications and slimmer job opportunities.

This fall, Campbell University’s law school in Raleigh opened its doors to part-time students who can take up to six years to finish their law degree. Eighteen students – primarily working adults and parents – enrolled in Campbell Flex.

Earlier this month, Elon University’s law school in Greensboro announced an entire top-to-bottom redesign of its program. Starting next fall, Elon students will complete law school in 2 1/2 years, compared with the traditional three.

They will participate in “residencies,” gaining contacts and professional experience while in school. And they’ll pay less – $14,000 less in tuition toward their degree, which will cost about $100,000.

The newfangled options aim to revamp the law school experience and appeal to those who are reluctant to put their lives and livelihoods on hold at a time of dwindling job prospects for lawyers.

The overall employment rate for law school graduates fell for the sixth year in 2013 to 84.5 percent, according to the National Association for Law Placement. The class of 2013’s unemployment rate was up to 12.9 percent, but those who found work had higher salaries, on average.

One consultant, Economic Modeling Specialists, estimated that through 2015, there would be roughly 500 job openings a year in North Carolina but double the number of bar exam passers.

A weak job market has prompted some to question the value of a law degree, which usually requires heavy student loans. Since the recession, interest in law school has declined dramatically. In 2009-10 nationally, 171,500 hopefuls took the Law School Admission Test; this year, the number was down to 105,500, according to the Law School Admission Council.

Meanwhile, the number of law schools has grown from 183 in 2001 to 201 in 2013, according to Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, which last year reported that the sector faces “significant credit risk.” However, the agency said, more attentive management and new education models could offset that risk in a market where demand may be permanently altered.

Elon faculty and administrators spent two years “reverse engineering” the law school curriculum, said Luke Bierman, who became dean in June. It was clear, he said, that this was not a time for incremental change.

The thinking is this: No longer do students have to spend so much time working through cases and slogging through old-style Socratic method classes. Instruction on legal doctrine is less important now. Anyone can look up legal cases on the Internet.

“We really need to focus on analysis, that judgment – how to use the law, how to counsel people,” Bierman said. “We think the best way to get students prepared to do that is to give them experience doing it.”

The changes mirror recommendations in a January report from an American Bar Association Task Force, which called for more innovation, experimentation and skills training at U.S. law schools, as well as rethinking the price structure.

The emphasis on experiential learning may give Elon students a leg up in their job search. While in school, they’ll be surrounded by a four-member professional advising team – a faculty adviser, a practicing attorney mentor, an executive coach and a career consultant.

‘Right for the times’

Abigail Seymour, 47, a first-year law student at Elon, is a little jealous of next year’s incoming students.

“It’s really right for the times,” she said of the remake. “I think the legal profession is not at all what it was 20 or even 10 years ago. … I think this is what the future will look like.”

Victoria Hinton, 25, a second-year Elon student, said the residency component, similar to the medical school model, will put students physically in a networking vibe.

“One of the things I learned pretty early on was the importance of networking and getting yourself out there,” Hinton said.

Elon’s law school was born in 2006 with 115 first-year students. Applications hit a high of 898 in 2012, but plummeted to 604 this year. The new class is 112 students, and the goal ahead is for 125-140 students per class, Bierman said.

Less expensive

The shortened path to a degree will save students tuition and living expenses. They will be able to take the bar exam in February instead of summer. But the redesigned curriculum is the driving force behind the change, Bierman said.

Students will learn the basics their first year and do a residency with a prosecutor, lawyer or judge in the second year, while continuing contact with faculty. After the residency, the students will bring their work experiences back to the classroom. Finally, they will be offered “bridge courses” to prepare for the job market.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school has not changed its curriculum but has expanded career development and this year doubled summer stipends for students who want to try public-interest law, said Paul Rollins, associate dean for student affairs.

Applications at UNC have dropped by 49 percent since 2010, according to figures released by the school, but rose slightly this year from 2013. The size of the entering class has dropped by 22 percent since 2011.

UNC, a public law school, will remain a magnet for applicants at a time when people are increasingly concerned about student debt, Rollins said.

“Some of the newer schools are looking for ways to distinguish themselves in a competitive market,” he said.

Positive signs

Rollins said another dip in June LSAT test takers nationally may mean that law school applications may not have hit rock bottom yet. But there are some positive signs, including an uptick in summer jobs for law students, he said.

Campbell’s law dean, Rich Leonard, said while applications were flat this year, the school experienced a 50 percent increase in its yield, or the number of accepted students who enrolled. That translated to the second-biggest class Campbell has ever had. Almost a third of them are the new part-timers.

Everyone is trying to figure out what the legal job market will look like as the U.S. economy rebuilds, Leonard said. But he has a prediction. “I think three years from now it’s going to be a good thing to be a lawyer,” he said.

When the recession first hit, there was a surge of people headed to law school in 2009-10. Once they graduated, the jobs weren’t there.

Now, he said, there’s a silver lining to the national decline in law school interest.

The ones who show up are really committed.

“They want to be lawyers,” Leonard said, “and boy does it show up here.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

Oct 212014


From staff reports

October 20, 2014 Updated 13 hours ago

DURHAM — A new scholarship program at Duke University will benefit graduates of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the university announced Monday.

The scholarship fund was created with a $1 million gift from Sean Fahey, a graduate of both schools and co-founder of Claren Road Asset Management, an $8.5 billion credit hedge fund manager.

One student in each Duke class will benefit from the program, which will provide full and partial scholarships to NCSSM graduates who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need. It’s the largest gift of its kind to a North Carolina university to support graduates of NCSSM.

Thirty-eight NCSSM graduates are currently enrolled at Duke; 77 have earned Duke degrees in the past five years.

NCSSM became the first public residential high school in the nation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education when it opened in 1980 in Durham. It is tuition-free and serves high school juniors and seniors.

Oct 212014


By Nick Anderson October 20

Rice University launched a free Advanced Placement biology course Monday on a Web site overseen by two other elite schools, a potentially significant milestone for a movement that aims to bring college-level courses to high school students.

The site, edX, was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 2012 as a nonprofit platform for those universities and selected others to offer massive open online courses, or MOOCs , to the world.

AP Biology from Rice is the first MOOC on the site advertised as an AP course for high school students. It is divided into four content segments — the Cell; Genetics; Evolution and Diversity; and Ecology — followed by an exam in April.

How many students will take AP Biology or any other AP class in this way is anyone’s guess. The College Board reported that 213,000 students took the AP biology test in May. More than 2.3 million took at least one AP test in subjects ranging from art history to Spanish literature. Students don’t have to take an AP class to take a corresponding test.

Sometimes students pay to take AP classes from online providers. Advertised tuition for such classes ranges from $75 to more than $500.

“Our program you can take for free,” said Reid Whitaker, executive director of the Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship at Rice. “This is a comprehensive program. Free resources. That’s a game changer.”

Whitaker is co-teaching the MOOC with Kara Burrous, a veteran AP biology teacher at Stephen F. Austin High School outside Houston. He acknowledged that his course cannot replicate the kind of hands-on laboratory experience that would be required in a typical AP biology class, but he said the MOOC plans to give recommendations for labs. There will be lecture videos as well as multiple-choice practice questions, free response questions and tutorial videos to show how to solve problems step by step.

A key marketing point for these MOOCs will be their connection to top-name universities. Boston University will offer AP Physics 1, and MIT will offer AP Physics C: Mechanics, both starting in January. There also will be AP MOOCs in computer science and chemistry from Cooper Union; in physics: electricity and magnetism from Georgetown University ; and in English language and composition from the Tennessee Board of Regents.

The College Board, a nonprofit organization based in New York, oversees the AP program. A summary of Rice’s AP Biology course notes that the College Board “is not currently in partnership with edX to develop or promote these offerings.”

“We are interested in the work edX is doing to create supports for more students to enroll in AP coursework and are looking forward to further discussion with them regarding our shared goal: to remove obstacles and deliver opportunity,” Trevor Packer, a College Board senior vice president, said in a statement.

David Knuffke, a veteran AP biology teacher at Deer Park High School in New York who moderates an online discussion board for teachers in the discipline hosted by the College Board, said he was unsure how many students would be attracted to an online version of a class that is lab-intensive. “If it’s a useful resource for my students, I’ll be cluing them into it,” he said.

Students who obtain a high mark on an AP exam often are able to bypass introductory courses in that field when they enter college or can qualify for college credit.

Since it began in May 2012, edX has drawn about 3 million registered users. Of those, 150,000 are believed to be high school students.

Oct 202014


By Jane Dail
October 18, 2014

East Carolina University took the first step in considering merging two colleges, though administrators and faculty are skeptical of the need for it and the potential cost savings.

Interim Provost Ron Mitchelson met Friday afternoon in Hendrix Theatre with about 100 staff and faculty from the College of Human Ecology and the College of Health and Human Performance to discuss the process and the possibility of merging the two.

The possible merger came about from recommendations proposed by the University Fiscal Sustainability Committee which included reducing the number of colleges by at least one.

Mitchelson said consolidating the two colleges is not set in stone.

“It’s not a done deal,” he said.

Mitchelson said his preference is to go through the process of bringing the two colleges together, which could save an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in administrative costs.

“I can’t put all the positive spin you’ll need to make a wise vote or decision,” he said. “I am very interested in reducing administrative costs. I’m very interested in moving that savings back into the laboratories and classrooms where you work with your students.”

With a 2.43 percent reduction in this year’s ECU budget, about $10 million, Mitchelson said it is time to at least consider restructuring.

One change that may take place before the possible merger is nutrition science, currently under the College of Human Ecology, moving to the Division of Health Sciences. Mitchelson said a group of faculty voted to make that move, and that proposal is before a committee.

He said a work group will analyze costs savings and determine if combining the colleges is worth it. The work group would include faculty from both colleges as well as other appointments.

After the work group has made its findings, at least tenured faculty will vote for or against the move, though the chancellor has the authority of reorganization with the approval of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

If the two colleges merged as they are now, it would account for 2,400 undergraduate students, 500 graduate students and 200 faculty.

Mitchelson said he expects to see the work group’s report by late spring.

Sharon Ballard, department chair of child development and family relations in the College of Human Ecology, said it seemed as though the decision to merge was already made because of Mitchelson’s preference to go forward with it.

“I’m wondering why we’re going through the motions,” she said. “It’s going to waste a lot of time to continue to have these forums, to continue to talk about it if it’s going to happen anyway. If it’s a done deal, let’s just move forward.”

Mitchelson said his preference does not carry enough weight to make that determination.

Ballard said the move seems political and does not have much to do with cost savings.

“It’s very patronizing, I think, to tell us we have a voice when really I don’t think we do,” she said.

Ginger Woodard, associate dean of the College of Human Ecology, described the two colleges as the “leanest” on campus, and the loss of productivity and morale will create expenses.

“It would actually cost thousands of dollars to implement this,” Woodard said. “When you are considering faculty have not had raises in the last seven years, I think that’s a bit hard to swallow.”

She also said because a dean that may have lost his or her position in the merger has the right to a faculty position, the savings would only be about three months of that person’s salary.

Woodard also questioned the university’s decision to pursue a School of the Coast and a School of Public Health if the intent is to save money.

“That seems to have a contradiction in train of thought,” she said.

Sandy Lookabaugh, child development and family relations associate professor, said the work group would be an “exercise in futility” and she would rather move forward with the other college if it is going to happen.

“If these two colleges are going to merge and become one, I personally would rather put my effort in working with our new counterparts at (College of Health and Human Performance) and going forward and not spinning in circles,” Lookabaugh said. “… I personally would rather use my energy and efforts in a very positive direction, and that’s going forward.”