Oct 202014


October 18, 2014

Lenders want to make sure you have the ability to repay your loans and the willingness to use your resources to do so. Both factors are important to a lender because money you do not pay back results in a loss for them. Large losses cost the lender profits and people who work for the lender their jobs. Even on a smaller scale, every loss to a lender results in higher fees and rates for those borrowers who do pay back their loans. Thus, lenders pay a lot of attention to both your ability and your willingness to pay the loan back.

First, any lender wants to make sure you have the ability to pay back your loan. You may be the most honest person on the planet. You have every intention of repaying your loan. Most important, you can demonstrate your honesty to the lender. However, if you have no income, then no lender will lend you money. Even in cases where you can find lendera to loan you money, they will not lend you as much as you want and they will charge you much more interest on the amounts they do lend you. The bottom line is that lenders make sure you have the ability to pay the loan back before they are willing to lend you their money.
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Likewise, you may make lots of money and definitely have the ability to repay the loan with no problem at all. Now the lender makes sure you are willing to pay back the loan. Not everyone who has money is responsible with it. Again, a lender may decide not to lend to you or to lend to you at a higher interest rate if you have a history of making late payments or missing them altogether. So how do lenders determine if someone is able and willing to pay back a loan? They use the five C’s of credit.

The five C’s of credit are character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions. Each is intertwined, and lenders use all five to assess if they will lend to you, and if so how much and at what cost. Let’s look at each.

Character is your willingness to pay your bills on time. Your credit history is the key here. Late payments may be an indication that you are not as serious about your financial obligations as you should be. Most creditors won’t report a late payment until it is more than 30 days late. So late payments raise a “red flag” to lenders and hamper your ability to get the loan or at best increase the rate you have to pay.
Capacity is your ability to pay the loan. Do you have the financial resources to pay the loan when it is due? Typically this comes from your income. Do you have enough income after all your other obligations to pay back the loan? Lenders usually do not like to see your debt payments (home, car, credit cards, and other loans) exceed roughly 36 percent of your gross monthly income. Anything more is a sign to a lender that you do not have adequate resources to pay the loan on time.
Capital refers to your assets (the things you own). Here the lender is trying to see if you could sell anything to satisfy the loan in a worst-case scenario. Closely related to this is your net worth. It helps the lender understand if, over time, you are moving in the right financial direction. A negative net worth is not necessarily bad. It depends on the circumstances. A college graduate at age 22 who has a negative net worth of $15,000 from student loans is in much better shape than a 45-year-old with a small positive net worth.
Collateral is a specific asset of some value that you own that is pledged to the lender. It can be taken away by the lender and sold to satisfy the debt if you do not pay the loan. You typically receive better loan terms when you provide collateral like your house or your car for a loan.
Conditions take into account the big picture. What economic conditions, typically beyond your control, could affect your ability to repay the loan? Are you working in an industry that is currently downsizing? How well is the economy in general doing? Did you leave your last job of ten years to go to work for a new company? When the economy is good, credit is readily available and relatively cheap. When the economy is sour credit is more difficult to get and more expensive.

Len Rhodes is director of technology, information and operations in the College of Business at East Carolina University.

Oct 202014


Monday, October 20, 2014

CHAPEL HILL — UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members are in a “holding pattern” while waiting on the results of an independent investigation into academic irregularities in one department, one professor said this week.

Attorney Kenneth Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, was hired to investigate after a series of reviews found academic irregularities — including unauthorized grade changes — in what’s now called the Department of African, African-American and Diaspora Studies. The findings arose out of a 2010 NCAA investigation into the school football program. His report is expected this fall.

According to an emailed statement from the university, officials believe Wainstein has interviewed hundreds of individuals, including former faculty, athletics staff, academic advisors and counselors, administrators and students. The statement said he’s collected and searched millions of emails and analyzed records, including transcripts, of students going back to the 1980s.

“Carolina believes this independent and thorough investigation is the only way to truly understand and address what went wrong,” the statement said. “We have a responsibility to the Carolina community to ensure we get this right and are committed to transparently sharing the findings with the public.”

The university plans to use the findings in the report to “further strengthen processes and policies in-place to ensure nothing like this happens again,” the statement said.

In response to questions about faculty expectations for the report, Layna Mosley, a political science professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, said the idea is that Wainstein may have had “better access” than previous investigators. That may allow for a more complete picture of what happened.

She spoke Wednesday after a public listening session held by the Faculty Athletics Committee, of which she is a member.

“None of us have seen it,” she said of the forthcoming report.

Andrew Perrin, a sociology professor, committee member and member of a working group on school athletics policy, said he thinks there are “lots of questions” about how far the academic misconduct went and to what it extent it was driven by athletics or athletics academic support officials, as opposed to academic leaders.

“I sure hope we don’t find that the misconduct went further than sheer numbers than we already know,” he said. “I think the possibilities are almost endless. By design, none of us on the university side know what they’re doing until they release their report.”

He said he believes there are two faculty camps, split between a “significant subset of the faculty who remain pretty upset about the situation” and another group that is concerned and looking for closure.

He said he has heard many colleagues say that what they most want to do is “ is move on in an honorable way.”

Jay Smith, a history professor, said after the meeting that he’s hoping the inquiry explores the origins of the scandal, the motives of people involved, to what extent athletic officials were involved and who may have benefited.

Smith is working on the book “Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, the Future of Big-Time College Sports” with Mary Willingham. She is the former athletics learning specialist who spoke out on her findings of low-literacy levels among a segment of college football and basketball athletes. She left the university and has sued for alleged retaliation. The book is expected to be published in March, Smith said.

“I think historians, as a rule, think it’s harder to move (into) the future if you don’t know where you’ve been in the past,” he said. “Everyone at the university ought to have an interest in how it all started.”

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, a professor and chair of anthropology, said after the meeting that much of the faculty are leaving the issues to established committees and administration. They’re in a “holding pattern” waiting on the Wainstein report.

Barbara Osborne, an associate professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Exercise and Sport Science, said Thursday she believes faculty members are tired of the issue.

“The media in general is more focused on perpetuating the … accusations of the story than really reporting what UNC has done to fix things to make things better, or fix things that are wrong,” she said in a telephone interview. “I think the faculty is really sort of tired of it because we have invested tremendous time, manpower and resources in examining all of those things.”

But she also said she believes there’s curiosity about the Wainstein report. She said it might uncover new information that will shed some light on “the how” of the unraveling.

“But it’s also entirely possible that all he’s going to do is show that everything that was done in past investigations and past reports is all there is to it,” she said. “And if that’s the case, then I do think that this is going to be something that never ends. Because the naysayers are going to say that he’s just part of the cover-up too, instead of saying ‘wow, UNC has done everything that a human being could do to look at this issue and fix it, and we’re done.’”

Joy Renner, committee chair and a clinical associate professor and director of the radiologic science division at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, said she believes faculty care “very deeply.”

“We were not the best that we could be based on previous reports and investigations,” she said in an email. “This report may be very informative to our community regarding what went wrong and when so that we can do what we do best – analyze the facts and determine the best course of action to right the wrongs and enhance what was already right.”

Oct 202014


Posted: Sunday, October 19, 2014

By Danielle Battaglia danielle.battaglia@news-record.com

GREENSBORO — Hundreds of students gathered at a reflecting pool on the N.C. A&T campus Sunday night to remember their classmate killed earlier that day.

“We lost a very special Aggie,” Student Government Association President Dorian Davis said. “We’re here not to grieve but to celebrate this special Aggie.”

Dorian Tawan Edwards, 19, of Atlanta was fatally shot at what Greensboro police described as a large party at the Sebastian Courtyard apartment complex about two blocks south of A&T.

Edwards was described by friends as happy and outgoing and never without a large smile.

But something went wrong Sunday morning.

Around 12:40 a.m. police went to 1409 Perkins St. to investigate reports of gunfire.

Officers found Edwards shot. He later died at Moses Cone Hospital.

Police released few details and have made no arrests. But police said the shooting stemmed from an argument between several people at the party. Police did not say if they think Edwards was involved in the fight or if he was a bystander.

“I’ve never seen him mad,” A&T student Cortney Henderson said. “Knowing who he was, he probably had nothing to do with this.”

Edwards was a freshman chemical engineering major who was in his second year on campus. He hadn’t yet earned enough credit hours to be classified as a sophomore.

“He’s a sophomore to us,” said Corey Herriott, an A&T sophomore.

His classmates surrounded the reflecting pool by the Aggie Village dorms. Some cried. Others laughed. A few talked with counselors.

They sent balloons into the sky in his memory and spelled out his name with candles on the water’s edge.

“He didn’t deserve this at all,” Herriott said.

Police are still seeking information about the shooting. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at (336) 373-1000. Callers may remain anonymous.

Oct 202014


October 18, 2014

RALEIGH — The interim president at Shaw University rolled out a cost-savings plan on Friday that could save nearly $2 million in the coming year.

Gaddis Faulcon, who has been the acting president of the South’s oldest historically black college since January, offered few details in a news release sent out Friday.

Efforts to reach him since then have been unsuccessful.

Faulcon, who joined the Shaw faculty in 1998 and has been a longtime professor and dean there, said the savings would come from the elimination of positions that have been vacant, restructuring contracts and “limited personnel reductions.”

What those reductions would be was not specified.

Faulcon said in the release that the plan would give Shaw, founded in 1865, a chance at fiscal stability.

“We want to not just survive, but thrive,” Faulcon said, “and we can only do so by continuously examining our internal processes to determine how we can be more effective.”

Shaw has faced management challenges in recent years.

There has been turnover at the top and budget woes across the university, which has more than 2,100 students in more than 30 degree programs.

“These are challenging times for institutions like Shaw, but we will continue to scrutinize every dollar spent,” Faulcon said in the news release.

Oct 202014


October 20, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. — Keene State College students quickly cleaned up from a chaotic weekend on Sunday after violent parties near the city’s annual pumpkin festival led to destruction, dozens of arrests and multiple injuries.

The parties around the school coincided with the Keene Pumpkin Festival, at which the community tries to set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place. The violence prompted police in riot gear to use tear gas as they tried to control the crowds.

Sophomore Mallory Pearce, vice president of the student body, said she saw a car flipped over in a parking lot, another car being destroyed and people being pepper-sprayed.

“It got way out of hand. Everyone I talked to said, ‘I feel unsafe, I’m going home.’ They didn’t want to be part of the riot, and they couldn’t do anything to solve it,” she said. “I honestly did not feel safe.”

While Pearce was extremely disappointed in the violence, she said her faith was restored when about 200 volunteers showed up Sunday morning to clean up.

“We all recognize that we made a mistake, and we’re going to do better next year,” she said. “We’re not going to let this happen again.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement Sunday night, “Like most New Hampshire citizens, I am outraged by the irresponsible, terrible actions that marred a New Hampshire tradition.”

She called on the state’s colleges and universities to “take swift action to hold students involved accountable.”

A police department log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday and made at least 49 arrests. Not all were part of the disturbances, but at least 14 on Saturday and early Sunday appeared related to the unruly behavior. Most involved disorderly conduct or alcohol-related offenses.

WMUR-TV in Manchester showed video of a crowd overturning a car, people running from tear gas clouds, street signs being torn down and fires burning in the streets. Police also investigated reports of people throwing glass bottles and fireworks, jumping off a roof and banging on cars.

One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone “threatening to kill officers,” according to the police log. About 20 injured people were taken to hospitals, Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard told New England Cable News.

Student body president Bobby Graham said he was disgusted by the destruction he saw and believes most of the perpetrators were not Keene State students.

“We are devoted to our community and very much engaged with our community,” he said.

Junior Brian Mazzola said most of the students in his apartment building decided to stay inside Saturday night after hearing about the brewing trouble.

“We could hear the helicopters circling around telling people to go inside,” he said.

Eammon Flynn, who was among about 30 students visiting for the weekend from Castleton College in Vermont, said he didn’t participate in any destruction but “went out and joined the mayhem.”

“The parties ended up being boring, and the riot ended up being wild,” he said. “It was fun to be around.”

College President Anne Huot said in an emailed statement that the festival has been promoted by others “as a destination for destructive and raucous behavior” and the college had tried working with the city and campus to prevent unruly conduct.

Officials are reviewing photos, videos, media coverage and social media postings to identify those responsible, Huot said, and the most serious offenders could be expelled.

“We care deeply about the citizens of Keene and our students, and we lament the impact of inexcusable behaviors on our city,” she said.

Ruth Sterling, whose company manages the festival, said the violence did not spill over into what she called “a truly beautiful event.”

Oct 202014


By T. Rees Shapiro and Ashley Halsey III October 19

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Police on Sunday combed a narrow two-lane back road near an abandoned property in Albemarle County south of here, where searchers on Saturday found human remains thought to be those of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

Graham, an 18-year-old from Fairfax County, vanished in the early hours of Sept. 13. Jesse L. Matthew Jr., a 32-year-old Charlottesville man with whom Graham was last seen, was arrested and charged in her disappearance, but the young woman’s whereabouts were unknown.

The remote location where the body was found was within three or four miles of the hayfield where the body of another missing college student was found in 2010. Both Graham and the second woman, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, disappeared late at night in Charlottesville.

Police on Sunday blocked off a three-mile section of Old Lynchburg Road near where the body was found as investigators scoured the area. For much of its length the road is unmarked and without shoulders, surrounded by woods that are turning amber, gold and crimson, and with houses set back from the pavement, several with white country fences. A tiny brick church sits at one end of the barricaded stretch, across the road from a cemetery with several dozen weathered tombstones.

The northernmost police barricade on Old Lynchburg on Sunday was at its intersection with Red Hill Road. From that point, Red Hill winds a little more than three miles to the northwest before it borders the 742-acre Anchorage Farm. It was there that Harrington’s skeletal remains were found.

Virginia State Police investigators said last month that the arrest of Matthew was a “significant break” in the Harrington case and provided an unspecified “new forensic link” in the quest for her killer.

The remains found Saturday were discovered by a sheriff’s deputy searching an abandoned property, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said. A conclusive identification has not been made and the remains were sent to the Virginia medical examiner’s office for forensic testing.

Longo said Graham’s family members had been notified. They have not commented on the discovery of the remains. Authorities also called off a search for Graham planned for Sunday, saying they would focus on identifying the body.

Graham’s disappearance has shaken Virginia’s flagship public university, where students have held candlelight vigils and worn orange ribbons in the hope of Graham’s return.

Student council president Jalen Ross helped organize a vigil on the U-Va. campus that attracted hundreds of students. Ross and others at the event, which occurred five days after Graham was last seen, spoke about the missing sophomore in the present tense. Now Ross said that the student council was planning a memorial for Graham to provide a central place on campus for students to honor her.​

“Nobody wanted to hear there’s been a body found,” Ross, 21, said Sunday.

But it was the news many students were expecting, Ross said. In the five weeks since Graham disappeared, a dark mood has again descended over the school.

“It revives the whole pool of sadness everyone went through originally,” Ross said.

Many students have donned orange ribbons to keep Graham in mind. Every day since Graham vanished, Ross has worn one pinned to his shirt.

“I told myself I’d wear it until they found her,” Ross said.

Ross said many students recalled that it took investigators 101 days to find Harrington.

“A lot of us were worried that it would take a long time or infinite time to get closure” in Graham’s case, Ross said.

On Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Heather Warren crafted the words for her evening sermon at St. Paul’s Memorial Church, across from the Charlottesville campus.

“It’s just profoundly sad,” Warren said. “There was always this hope that she might be found alive. That’s not there now.”

In the weeks after Graham vanished, the church kept its doors open for students distressed by the sophomore’s disappearance. Warren said the church has helped students find solace in prayer and passages of Scripture. In recent days, Warren said, she has been drawn to Psalm 139, which explores the constant presence of God even in the worst of times.

“Whither can I go from your presence?” Warren said Sunday, quoting the psalm’s first verses. “You might not know what that presence feels like. But that does not mean you are abandoned.” She began Sunday evening’s service with a moment of silence for Graham.

Friends and teachers have described Graham, a 2013 graduate of West Potomac High School in the Alexandria area of Fairfax, as a good student with a sense of humor.

At U-Va., Graham participated in an alternative spring break as a freshman, volunteering to spend long hours rebuilding homes destroyed by tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She was known as a central figure in the college’s ski club.

The investigation into Graham’s disappearance has produced leads in other unsolved cases.

Matthew, who had worked as an orderly at the U-Va. hospital, has been linked by DNA evidence to the investigations of two violent crimes: a sexual assault in Fairfax City in 2005 and the abduction and slaying of Harrington, police have said.

He has not been charged in either case.

In addition, two Virginia universities that Matthew attended between 2002 and 2003 said he was implicated in sexual assault cases. Both women declined to press charges against Matthew, and he was not convicted of any crime connected to the allegations.

Graham spent the evening of Sept. 12, a Friday, drinking and socializing with friends near campus before going out about midnight. By 1 a.m., she was seen wandering the Downtown Mall, about a mile and a half from her apartment. She sent messages to friends indicating that she was lost.

Shortly after 1 a.m., witnesses saw Graham with Matthew near the Tempo restaurant.

Brice Cunningham, the owner of Tempo, told The Washington Post that his employees later saw Graham and Matthew leaving the area together. She had not been seen since.

Police quickly focused on Matthew, searching his car and his Charlottesville apartment and eventually seeking a warrant for his arrest. Matthew was arrested Sept. 24 on a beach near Galveston, Tex., more than 1,300 miles from his apartment.

Matthew was charged with abduction with intent to defile, indicating that police think he planned to sexually assault Graham.

He is being held without bond in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

James L. Camblos III, the lawyer representing Matthew, said he would await further information.

“The police have located human remains, and we will wait to see what the medical examiner says to see who it is,” Camblos said.

Oct 202014


Texas Tech freshman Regan Elder helps drape a sign over the university’s seal on the Lubbock campus on Oct. 1. Students put up bed-sheet signs at three locations to protest what they called a “rape culture” on campus. (Betsy Blaney/AP)
By Nick Anderson October 19
The number of federal investigations into how colleges handle sexual violence reports has jumped 50 percent in the past six months, reflecting a surge of recent discrimination claims and the difficulty of resolving high-profile cases that often drag on for years.

On May 1, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights released the first public list of colleges and universities under scrutiny for possible violations of federal law in their responses to sexual violence allegations.

At the time, 59 cases were pending at 55 schools. As of this week, 89 cases are pending at 85 schools. Eight cases are more than three years old, including one focused on the University of Virginia, one on Harvard Law School and one on Princeton University.

The rapidly rising total poses challenges for the Obama administration as it seeks to lead a national campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. The students whose complaints sparked many of the cases are anxious for federal action, while colleges want to escape a list that puts an unflattering question mark next to their brand name.

Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said more students are turning to her office, known as OCR, for help as they have become aware that the government is willing to intervene to guarantee fair treatment.

List: Sexual violence investigations

“The list is growing partly because we’ve told people we will be there for them,” Lhamon said. “And there’s value in coming to us. I’m really pleased that people trust us — and hope to earn that trust.”

Some higher education officials wonder why the government can’t accelerate. “At some point, that list will be so big it will be meaningless,” said an official at one West Coast school who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school is under federal investigation.

Lhamon said OCR’s staff has shrunk — to 544 full-time positions this year from 619 in 2011 — as its workload has grown. Its mandate is to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, disability or gender in federally funded schools. Sexual violence issues at colleges account for a small share of the agency’s cases.

Lhamon, who took office in August 2013, said she wants, as often as possible, to resolve investigations within six months. “I have made it a priority to close out our old cases as quickly as we can,” she said.

But since May 1, just two schools have dropped off the sexual-violence investigation list.

In June, OCR closed a six-month probe of the State University of New York at Binghamton because it determined that the issues at hand were covered through a previous accord with the SUNY system. In September, OCR resolved a four-year-old case at Ohio State University after investigators found that written policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual violence and harassment did not follow requirements of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX.

Schools under OCR scrutiny are generally loath to say anything about the cases beyond affirming cooperation with the government. Officials at U-Va., Harvard and Princeton declined to discuss the longevity of inquiries into their schools. The U-Va. case began in June 2011. The Harvard Law and Princeton inquiries date to December 2010. (A separate investigation of Harvard College, the main undergraduate unit of the university, began six months ago.)

Harvard and Princeton this year announced new policies on sexual violence, which could clear the way for ending their OCR investigations. But 28 current and retired members of the Harvard Law faculty have criticized the university’s action, saying it failed to provide due process protections to accused students.

“Harvard apparently decided simply to defer to the demands of certain federal administrative officials, rather than exercise independent judgment about the kind of sexual harassment policy that would be consistent with law and with the needs of our students and the larger university community,” the professors charged Tuesday in an opinion column published in the Boston Globe.

The university said its policy provides “an expert, neutral, fair, and objective mechanism for investigating sexual misconduct cases involving students.”

Much of OCR’s power stems from its authority to halt federal funding to colleges found to be in violation of the law. But the agency has never taken that step.

Instead, OCR uses the financial threat as leverage to negotiate measures schools will take to improve their sexual violence policies whenever the agency finds shortcomings. Those negotiations are sometimes prolonged.

The schools under investigation represent a broad swath of higher education: a community college district in California, a state university system in Alaska, two professional schools, several liberal arts colleges and dozens of public and private universities.

Catholic University is under scrutiny in the District. Listed from Maryland are Johns Hopkins University, Frostburg State University and Morgan State University. In addition to U-Va., Virginia schools on the list are James Madison University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond and Virginia Military Institute.

Investigations can begin in two ways: through a complaint from an individual or through a government decision to examine records and policies in what is called a “compliance review.”

Interviews with officials at four of the 85 schools on the list — all speaking on the condition of anonymity because their cases are pending — cast light on how investigations proceed. First, a regional unit of OCR notifies a school of a new case. Then, it makes a substantial request for records and information. It might summarize an allegation from an individual, if there is one, and ask for the school’s version of what happened. The request typically seeks records on sexual violence incidents for the previous three years, as well as information on the school’s protocol for response and discipline.

There might be phone calls between the school and OCR to hone or clarify the request. All of this can take several weeks. “It’s a lot of time. A lot, a lot of time,” said the West Coast school official. “We produce so much material. They’re going to look at all your policies, all your practices.”

Eventually, OCR schedules a visit. This can occur several months after the investigation begins. Focus groups are organized to talk with OCR about issues related to sexual harassment and violence. The groups might be drawn from faculty, staff, student-athletes, resident assistants, fraternity members, sorority members and campus organizations.

Schools must give public notice of the OCR visit, disclosing information on how to contact investigators. One official at an East Coast school under investigation said the school was not allowed to observe OCR’s meetings with focus groups or other community members. “We have no idea what they’re going to be told, who is telling it, who may have a biased or skewed version of the facts,” the official said.

Sometimes, OCR makes multiple campus visits. Afterward, schools wait as the inquiry continues. At some point, the regional unit of OCR sends preliminary findings to Washington. Final determinations and settlements come from headquarters. Some school officials complain that they are not likely to be shown any draft findings before they are made public.

In April, Tufts University rebelled. The prestigious university in Massachusetts had reached an agreement for measures to resolve a long-running OCR investigation. Then, it abruptly revoked its approval, objecting to certain findings that the university failed to comply with the law in its handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints.

Federal officials warned the standoff could lead to an unprecedented cutoff of funding for Tufts. A few weeks later, the university relented and gave renewed approval to the resolution. The episode offered a rare public glimpse of the brinkmanship behind these investigations.

An official at another East Coast school under investigation said the school simply wants to cooperate and move forward, as fast as possible. “Right now, we’re just sort of hanging,” he said, “waiting for them to tell us what needs to change, what doesn’t need to change.”

Oct 172014



By Michael Abramowitz

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Viewing Photo 1 / 3 Students and faculty packed the room to listen during the "Ebola" African Dilemma or Global Heath Crisis" panel discussion at East Carolina University on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

Students and faculty packed the room to listen during the “Ebola” African Dilemma or Global Heath Crisis” panel discussion at East Carolina University on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

East Carolina University experts from a variety of disciplines offered a wider perspective Thursday evening on Ebola, going beyond the medical facts about the deadly disease.

The panel invited students and the public as they discussed whether the disease is an African dilemma or a global health crisis.

Alethia Cook, a professor in security studies, talked about public fear associated with the Ebola pandemic, and its prominence in world news in relation to its actual threat to public health.

“As with other pandemics, there is a chance that people’s reaction to it will have more of an impact than the disease itself,” Cook said. “It’s important to determine how concerned we should be so we are engaged enough to protect ourselves, without being overwrought with fear of sickness.”

One of the difficult challenges for public health and government leaders lies in determining when the threshold has been crossed, Cook said. The knowledge that the disease is difficult for individuals to contract when proper public protections are in place is contrasted by the realization that when it is contracted, it has no specific cure and a very high fatality rate, she said.

The social and economic effect of the public’s fear of Ebola could become more widespread than the actual disease, Cook said.

Holly Matthews, a medical anthropologist who studies human responses to disease and people’s efforts to promote health across cultures, said professionals in her field work with the international Ebola response teams to help them understand how people think about the disease so they can prepare to work as outsiders trying to control its spread.

“It’s very easy to make cultural mistakes when you’re trying to battle an epidemic,” Matthews said. “Many people get hostile, attack health clinics and try to release people from isolation.”

All people fear serious illness, but not all nations and cultures share the same knowledge and understanding of its origins, causes and treatments, she said.

“People in Liberia have very little access to medication and supplies, so they use their own herbal remedies to try and treat the illness, and even when directed to health centers in cities that have medicine, the wait is very long,” Matthews said. “One consequence is a very high infection rate among relatives who become involved in helping a sick family member.”

Health experts addressing the Ebola crisis in Africa try to determine how and where outbreaks might occur based on environmental conditions, according to Viva Reynolds of ECU’s Department of Geography, Planning and Environment. They believe, for instance, that there is a tie to the bats and bush meat that constitute many people’s diets, she said.

“In terms of the scale of the epidemic and its impacts, we know this is now a global issue,” Reynolds said. “We now can spread this disease rapidly through international airports, so we’ve already seen many airlines cancelling flights into and out of this region.”

The fear of where Ebola might go next has direct effect on global commerce and the level of attention given by larger and more affluent nations, even in Africa, Reynolds said.

“Nigeria, which has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, halted the spread of Ebola quickly when it occurred there,” she said.

Public health officials worldwide have described Ebola as the most severe public health emergency in modern times, potentially affecting international peace and security, according to Dr. Kristina Simeonsson of the Department of Public Health and Pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine.

“(Communication about) outbreaks is always difficult for public health officials because it’s hard to keep up with the 24-hour media news cycle,” Simeonsson said.

The N.C. Department of Public Health has opened a citizen question-and-answer hotline on its website. People with questions or who want more information about Ebola can visit http://publichealth.nc.gov.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.