Apr 242015


Thursday, April 23, 2015

As East Carolina University seniors prepare to graduate, many of those in the School of Theatre and Dance have been tasked with one final challenge on stage.

The school will present its production of “The Tragedy of Coriolanus,” which continues at ECU’s McGinnis Theatre through Tuesday. The play is one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known works, a fact which director John Shearin believes is at least partly due to the challenges it presents to its actors, director and staff.

But Shearin also believes that this group of seniors is up to the challenge.

The play tells the story of Caius Maritius (played by senior Alan Chandler) — deemed Coriolanus after his success at the battle of Coriolus — who strives to lead an emerging Roman republic as Consul despite his utter disdain for the common people.

“I really think Alan Chandler has done a really fine job of just finding the way to invest this character with humanity without being false to the Shakespeare,” Shearin said.

It’s a common thread in many of the play’s main characters to not be particularly likeable, which is one of the challenges for the actors, Shearin said.

“I think our actors in those difficult roles have found ways to make those characters sympathetic in places without betraying the nature of the characters as written — their own humanity has found ways to be invested and bring to light elements of the spirit and humane elements of these characters. If played purely as written, they could really be unsympathetic.”

Shearin said he sees a lot of parallels in the story and its characters to today’s society and politicians.

“You have candidates for national office who can basically speak of discounting 47 percent of the populations. You have others who seem to be playing to the masses. It seems to me that this is really current in feeling, this play. You say ‘I’ve seen this guy. I know this person’ in contemporary politics — and I mean on both sides of the aisle.”

The setting chosen for the play is what Shearin refers to as a sort of ancient “Mad Max Beyond Thurderdome” interim period between the old kingdom of Rome and a new, struggling Republic.

“The commoners are rioting because of the shortage of food and grains and they are suspicious of the patricians because they believe the patricians are holding out on them, that they have hidden supplies of grain that they are not releasing,” he said. “There’s this wonderful conflict between external forces on Rome and even internal forces and I thought that visually it would be interesting and reinforcing of the plot to see a Rome that was emerging from ruins.”

Extra attention has been paid to achieve the sort of scale the play demands. The sheer size of the cast is much larger than the majority of ECU’s plays, with 31 members, some of them playing as many as five parts. But the cast size has also allowed several undergraduates to gain valuable stage experience early on.

“This is a particularly rewarding outing because we had so many things going on this semester,” Shearin said. “There are a lot of people who have been able to work in main-stage outings that may not have otherwise been able to, because we do have very stiff competition here. We have a lot of first-timers in it and they’re holding their own. They’re doing a good job.”

Then there are the riot and battle scenes, of which there are several. Shearin brought in faculty member Jill Carlson, a Society of American Fight Directors fight master to organize all the fight scenes.

“She’s finally gotten a play where all her expertise is called on,” Shearin said. “We have virtually every weapon imaginable in this show.”

The logistics of such a large cast, the challenging characters and other factors led Shearin to call it likely the most challenging Shakespeare play he’s done, “and I’ve done a fair number of them now,” he said.

“Some of our seniors are just doing such excellent work in it,” he said. “I’m really just proud to see them go out this way. I just love to work with them and see what they’ve done with a very difficult piece of work.”

Apr 242015


By Michael Abramowitz
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Put into perspective, a half-million dollar operating deficit was good news to the members of the Health Sciences Committee of East Carolina University’s Board of Directors.

ECU Physicians, the clinical services arm of the Brody School of Medicine, on Thursday reported the loss as evidence of the success its fiscal policies have generated in the short time since receiving an administrative mandate to find operational efficiencies.

The year-over-year loss for the fiscal year to date (through March 31) represents nearly a $20 million flip from where ECU Physicians stood at the same time last year, Rick Niswander, ECU vice-chancellor for administration and finance, told the committee members and Chancellor Steve Ballard. The full board of trustees meets today.

“A lot of what we’ve done in the last nine to 12 months is starting to show clear positive fruit and for a wide variety of reasons,” Niswander said. “It represents a mind-set change.”

Following funding cutbacks in 2013 and into 2014 by the N.C. General Assembly, the university and its medical education arm in particular were forced to re-evaluate their management approaches to meet the growing demand for low-cost medical care for an eastern population with fewer resources.

ECU Physicians’ board of directors last week approved a new mission statement, “To provide the highest quality and most compassionate health care to the people of eastern North Carolina while creating the next generation of health professionals to do the same.”

New core values were established by the board to provide timely access to patient-centered health services and cultivate a clinical environment of leaning, innovation and discovery with a passion to improves patients’ care and overall experience.

At the clinical level, common rules were established for processes and procedures across the practice, including common hours, numbers of appointments, increased co-pay collections and other ambulatory care standards.

The changes have resulted in $61.8 million in outpatient revenues during the 2014-15 fiscal year, compared to $50.4 million the previous year.

“That was a big contributor to our losses last year,” Niswander said. “Some of that is starting to reverse this year.”

Changes in physicians’ compensation packages have created incentives for them to create more efficient approaches to clinical operations, resulting in an 8.3-percent increase in procedures and work output at lower costs, Niswander said. As a result, billed charges increased 3.6 percent this year to $276.9 million and collections on professional fees increased 15.7 percent to $85.1 million.

Those increases in productivity occurred while the number of providers decreased by 7.5 percent to 335 credentialed providers at the same time last year.

The unfilled positions resulted in an additional $7 million toward this year’s savings, Niswander said.

During a 12-month period, ECU Physicians’ cash reserves have increased by about $4 million, giving the practice 66 days of operating reserves, compared to 58 days last fiscal year, Niswander said. The group’s goal is to reach 90 days of reserves, he said.

“The kinds of things we’ve put into place after many months of planning through a period of wailing and gnashing of teeth is starting to bear fruit,” Niswander said.

Apr 242015


By Nathan Summers
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Video footage that was not initially intended to see the light of day now has more than 32 million hits on YouTube.

It began more in the vein of a personal tutorial for former East Carolina football player Giavanni Ruffin when he left college after the 2010 season and set his sights on his lifelong dream — the NFL. Not long after the video of his workouts eventually titled “How Bad Do You Want It?” began trending worldwide, however, even basketball megastar LeBron James was watching it daily for motivation during the NBA Finals in 2011.

But when Ruffin and a friend first started filming his intense training regimen — footage that was later edited and meshed with music and the audio of motivational speaker Eric Thomas about the drive to succeed — all the former Pirate tailback wanted was a chance in the NFL at any cost.

“I came out during the (NFL) lockout, so I had to train every day, and during the lockout, I would train so much that my friend just started recording it. He was like, ‘Just let me follow you around one day,’ and basically that’s how it happened,” Ruffin said last week while he was in town to watch ECU in the annual Purple-Gold game.

They proved to be incredible, inspiring days of training. The video features footage of Ruffin’s intricate footwork drills, breathless running sequences, unassisted leaps back and forth over fences and even moving push-ups with 40-pound weights in each hand.

But Ruffin had not a clue as to what kind of motivation the video would instill in others. For him, it helped to launch a clothing brand and begin speaking around the country when his NFL career did not materialize, but for others it became inspiration for everyday life.

Ruffin was skeptical about posting any of the footage anywhere initially, most certainly on YouTube.

“I didn’t want to put it out. It was personal motivation, but I saw how many lives it changed,” Ruffin said. “That’s why I’ve ended up being humble about it. I’ve met 60-year-old women, people on Wall Street, people all over the world (who have seen the video). I was getting thousands and thousands of emails. It was just pushing people to don’t give up no matter what it is.”

Fittingly, Ruffin’s clothing brand is called Take No Days Off, and he said the video became a platform for that and for speaking to and mentoring people in a way similar to that which he said Thomas has mentored him.

The five-minute video also landed him a once-in-a-lifetime meeting.

“LeBron, before the championship game, was watching it for motivation before he won the title,” Ruffin said. “I met him in D.C. He got his manager to reach out to me and come meet him. The first thing he said to me is he doesn’t know how I’m not playing (football) anywhere. He just said, ‘Man, I just wanted you to know that you motivated me.’”

Farewell tour

ECU senior Zeek Bigger is the unquestioned leader of this year’s ECU defense, but he downplayed the fact that he is preparing for his final season when asked about it early in spring drills.

The inside linebacker was more reflective after the Purple-Gold game.

“At first it kind of was a little emotional for me, knowing that it’s my last one,” he said. “But coming out with these boys and knowing that they are giving it their all, each and every day I can count on these guys. … It was great to come out and play in front of some people and against each other to get the emotions and some motivation flowing.”

— Ronnie Woodward

Pirates in pregame

The Pirate offense struggled making first downs early in the scrimmage and nearly went scoreless in the first half, but a 44-yard Kurt Benkert pass to Trevon Brown set up a short Chris Hairston rushing touchdown on the final possession before halftime.

Aside from a lack of success on third down, first-year offensive coordinator Dave Nichol had an interesting take on the slow start, saying that he didn’t think some of the players looked sharp during warmups.

Sparked by flashes of big-play ability from sophomore running backs Anthony Scott and Marquez Grayson, and efficiency from Benkert — the first-string QB — the offense was more productive after the break.

“We can’t go out there and just kind of roll the ball out there,” Nichol said of warmups. “We had 100 to 200 recruits here and (the coaches) were kind of doing that and they were warming up like that. That’s a big part of starting fast. … But I was glad to see the ones had our two scores. That was key, and other than that, it was sacks or penalties that were stopping ourselves.”

— Ronnie Woodward

Apr 242015


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The East Carolina University Department of Athletics is turning to its strongest ally and greatest source of energy — its fans — to help plot the future of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU has partnered with Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL), an advisory and planning firm, to conduct a market and financial feasibility study to obtain feedback and help generate informed decisions about possible renovations to the 52-year-old football facility. Subsequently, the athletics department and Pirate Club will soon be reaching out to the Pirates’ loyal fan base seeking input for what course to chart.
Story continues below advertisement

“Our fans have created one of the best game-day environments in college football,” East Carolina Director of Athletics Jeff Compher said. “Not only have they earned a justified voice in this process, but I would like to think it’s also a wise business decision to ask customers about customer service”.

Emails will be sent to all Pirate Club members, season ticket holders and alumni next week encouraging participation in a survey that will gauge interest and perhaps determine a direction for enhancing the fan experience before, during and after the game.

Through on-site tours and an initial assessment, East Carolina and CSL have identified four potential target areas and elements that warrant an early evaluation of interest:

Premium seating opportunities on the south side (suites, loge boxes, club seats)
Potential for west end zone on-field premium experience (hospitality tent suite or club)
Tailgate and parking upgrades
Technology needs in premium areas

The study will also determine the viability and sustainability for the development of condominium or apartment-style units adjacent to the stadium.

“To make responsible and sound decisions, it is critical we are fully aware of what and where the interest level is.” Compher said. “This survey will be an important element of that fact-gathering process and to determine what our potential resources are.”

Apr 242015


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The first Eastern Women’s Show, a daylong event focusing on all things female, will be held Friday at the Greenville Convention Center.

The Daily Reflector’s Her… magazine, The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce and East Carolina University’s Apparel and Interior Merchandising Organization have partnered to create the event.

“We are very excited about offering this event for women and our great speaker lineup this year,” Lynn Pischke, chamber vice president of programs and events, said.

The show will begin with the chamber’s Women’s Conference from 9 a.m. to noon. The conference includes four speakers and a brunch catered by Rep Express.

Keynote speaker Inez Rubistello, from Tarboro’s On the Square restaurant, will discuss “Life After Windows: Coming Home, Looking Up and Moving Forward.” Advance tickets are required.

Following the conference, Her… magazine will continue its tradition of a spring Her… Shopping Spree from 12:30-9 p.m. Nearly 100 vendors will offer a variety of goods and services, from jewelry and health care to cars and cosmetics.

The 11th annual AIMO fashion show, “The Chic Show,” will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. as part of the Shopping Spree.

Admission to the shopping spree and fashion show is $5. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

The Greenville Convention Center is at 303 S.W. Greenville Blvd.

Apr 242015


Chapel Hill, N.C. — Lawyers for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Thursday asked that a lawsuit filed by former student-athletes be dismissed, laying out a number of legal arguments that, in essence, questioned the validity of the students’ right to sue.

Four men and women who played for the Tar Heels are suing the university for breach of contract, among other things, arguing that it failed to provide them with a promised education.

Michael McAdoo, a former football player, and Kenya McBee, a former basketball player, filed the suit in November, seeking class-action status for other athletes who would join their case.

In a 38-page memo submitted Thursday to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, UNC lawyers detailed five reasons they believe McAdoo and the other do not have standing to sue.

They questioned first whether the case had the right components to be considered in federal court.

“Plaintiffs have brought six claims arising under state law, and the case presents no questions of federal law,” the attorneys wrote.

They also argued that North Carolina, as represented by the state university system, has immunity from such claims and that the former students had waited too long to file suit.

McAdoo and the others base their suit on the claim that coaches and others, in the athletic recruiting process, promised them an education. Then, once the students enrolled, “the University allegedly funneled student-athletes into non-rigorous classes ‘designed to provide virtually no education,'” according to the lawsuit.

The former student-athletes are asking both that the university reimburse them for their losses and that it guarantee future scholarships for four years. They are also asking the court to provide oversight of the curriculum and course selection for all student-athletes for five years.

Apr 242015


7:06 p.m. Thursday, April 23, 2015

Valdosta State University officials announced Thursday night that all classes and on-campus events scheduled for Friday have been canceled in the wake of security concerns that arose following protests related to the treatment of the American flag.

On its website, the school said: “After further discussions with local law enforcement and in the interest of the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, Valdosta State University will suspend normal business operations for Friday, April 24.”

The school also said that: “For students living in on-campus housing, we will have an increased law enforcement presence on campus to ensure their continued safety throughout the protests scheduled to occur around Main Campus.”

The university plans to resume normal operations for all classes and events scheduled Saturday, April 25.

University police this week issued an arrest warrant for a campus protester after they found a backpack on school property with a handgun inside that they linked to him.

Police were trying to locate that man, Eric Sheppard, who they said they believed to be in hiding and is considered armed and dangerous. Initially, police said there was no evidence that he was on university property.

The backpack was found Tuesday afternoon by police who were performing extra security patrols in light of recent protests at the school.

Authorities were investigating what appeared to be threats made on social media related to the protests.

An Air Force veteran was banned from the south Georgia university after taking an American flag from demonstrators who were walking on it in protest last week.

Apr 242015


By Minnesota Public Radio News
Apr 23, 2015 at 7:45 p.m.

The story of Dan Markingson has become a case study in some college courses, and appears to bolster faculty and alumni concerns that the scandal has stained the university’s reputation.

“I don’t share my experience at the University of Minnesota with the kind of pride that I’d like to be able to,” said Matt Lamkin, a U of M alumnus and University of Tulsa law professor who teaches the case in his classes.

The university has received scorching criticism in recent weeks after two recent reports blasted it for the way it has treated vulnerable human research subjects, including Markingson.

Markingson killed himself while participating in a corporate-sponsored clinical drug trial at the university in 2004. Last month, a legislative audit said the conditions under which Markingson participated were potentially coercive.

The legislative auditor found multiple conflicts of interest in the case, and said university leaders had blown off the concerns of Markingson’s mother that he might hurt himself.

The audit also criticized the university for thwarting attempts to look into the case further. It said university leaders misled the public about the thoroughness of past inquiries, dismissed calls for a full investigation, and otherwise “ignored serious ethical issues.

Especially concerning to the investigators was that some of the very problems that plagued the Markingson case still haunt the university today, as shown in an external review released in February. “A primary problem … is past and current university leadership that is defensive, insular, and unwilling to accept criticism,” Legislative Auditor James Nobles wrote.

That’s not exactly news to at least 175 scholars around the world who’ve had the Markingson case on their radar since at least since 2013. That’s when University of Toronto health law professor Trudo Lemmens sent a letter to President Eric Kaler expressing concern over the U’s handling of the situation.

Those 175 scholars who signed it — many of whom specialize in medicine, bioethics and law — come from U.S. colleges and universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, and the universities of California, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan. The letter also contained signatures from academics in 18 foreign countries, including 10 in Europe.

Some of those academics have either discussed the case or assigned it as reading material in at least 18 universities in the United States and other parts of the world, according to interviews, emails and copies of course syllabi.

“There’s a lot of uproar, and there’s certainly a lot of attention in the academic community about what’s happening at the University of Minnesota,” Lemmens said.

Scholars who spoke to MPR News said the case stands out for a few reasons.

First is its comprehensiveness.

Kenneth DeVille, chief institutional integrity officer in East Carolina University’s division of health sciences, says the case contains many ethical concerns — such as patient coercion, safety of the study’s design, and the U’s response to concerns over Markingson’s safety — that his students could easily understand.

The issues “really run the gamut,” he said.

The case is also quite uncommon. Professors said only a handful of publicized contemporary cases rose to the level of Markingson’s.

Chief among them are the 1999 death of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger during a University of Pennsylvania gene therapy experiment, and the 2001 death of 24-year-old Ellen Roche during a Johns Hopkins University asthma drug study. In both cases, federal investigators discovered multiple problems in the ways the universities handled the experiments.

Scholars say the Markingson case is also one of the few to have a wealth of information behind it, including original documentation online, and in scholarly journals, and major national publications.

The publicity has only increased with the university’s refusal to come clean in the case, they said.

“Had the U not behaved the way it behaved, we might not be talking about this at all,” said Misha Angrist, a Duke University professor who has taught the case to students of public policy. “You can’t ignore the institutional response to what happened, and a large part of what makes this case so outrageous was the U’s stonewalling.”

Lecturers say their students react to the case with disbelief.

“The impact is profound,” University of Sydney (Australia) bioethics professor Ian Kerridge wrote in an email. “They are stunned.”

Law professor Lamkin said some of his students are outraged, and don’t understand how such a case could happen.

“I’ve had multiple people ask why there have been no criminal charges,” he said.

Students aren’t the only ones who shake their heads.

Harvard psychiatry professor Alexander Tsai said when he talks to colleagues about the Markingson case, remarks about the university’s handling of it are often “derisive in tone.”

Tsai noted Kaler’s recent statement that the U’s declarations about previous investigations weren’t false but “imprecise.”

“You can’t help but snicker when you hear something like that,” Tsai said.

Yet Tsai and other scholars said that barring further revelations, the overall stain on the university’s reputation will probably be short-lived. Most doubted the case would have much of an effect on the U of M’s ability to recruit faculty and students or win grants.

U of M philosophy professor Naomi Scheman, who warned two years ago that the U had a cloud over its reputation, said she suspects there might be some problems in the Markingson case that aren’t unique to the University of Minnesota.

“I would hope that … [the case] is being used to point out problems that are endemic to most pharmaceutical company funded research at universities,” she said. “I would be somewhat dismayed if it was being used in a way that allowed other institutions to pat themselves on the back and say, ‘Look how horrible things are at the University of Minnesota. Aren’t we by comparison wonderful?”

Apr 242015


By Susan Svrluga April 23 at 1:46 PM

A freshman girl stumbles glassy-eyed at a crowded party, and a guy steps in, leading her upstairs to his room. Maybe a couple of people notice, and wonder: “Shouldn’t her friends, whoever they are, walk her home?” then turn back to their conversations.

Soon, some students at Carnegie Mellon hope, bystanders will have an easy, anonymous way to ask her friends if everything is okay, and head off some bad situations.

There’s national concern about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and lots of people trying to prevent it – there are efforts to teach students to be aware of the risks, to be careful, to ensure that they understand how important it is that both people say “yes.”

The students at Carnegie Mellon took a completely different approach. They looked at date rape as a market challenge, an unmet need waiting for a product to combat it, according to Donna Sturgess, the Integrated Innovation Institute’s executive in residence. So instead of trying to educate the people involved, the institute’s students invented ways for people nearby to step in if something looks troubling, with mobile apps that let people anonymously send an alert.

It’s part of an ongoing effort, “Innovate Against Rape,” the slogan institute leaders are promoting to spur new ideas.

The two teams of graduate students with business, engineering and design backgrounds could see obvious challenges: How do you get someone to carry an alert system for a problem almost no one expects to have? Since they were looking mostly at cases of unwanted sex between people who were dating or acquaintances, they knew people weren’t walking into what they thought was a risky situation.

There was also the drunk thing.

“Both teams felt the victim is compromised in these situations,” said Peter Boatwright, a co-director of the institute and a professor there, “because the percentage of alcohol-related circumstances are extraordinarily high. The line on someone who isn’t capable of making good judgments [at that moment] seems like a risky tactic.”

But they also knew that people at a party or bar or dorm are unlikely to call for help or step in. Maybe they hesitate because there’s underage drinking or drug use going on. Maybe they just aren’t sure enough of the circumstances, all the complexities of relationship and intentions, to feel that they should make a call. So both teams wanted bystanders to be able to signal an alert anonymously, with less drama than a 911 call.

And they needed something students would have with them already – they knew asking people to carry another device would never work. Cellphones were the obvious answer.

One group designed an app called SPOT(A Problem), which would allow people at a fraternity party to send an alert to the brothers designated to monitor guests for problems (it would also work at bars, clubs, concerts, anywhere with people assigned to look for trouble.)

The other team wanted an app that students would want to actively use that would include a warning system. Their solution, NightOwl, creates a mobile, location-based social-sharing scene; everyone at a party could see who else was there, share photos which erase quickly, choose music playlists, trade messages.

“And then, oh, by the way, there’s this other feature that’s really easy to get to,” Boatwright said.

With NightOwl, friends at the party would get a message that designers hope would prompt them to check on the situation. Maybe it was her boyfriend, making sure she got home safely.

Or maybe they find they they need to do that.

Apr 242015


By Sarah Kaplan April 24 at 2:17 AM

Last fall, Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz began carrying a mattress around campus — a protest, she said, of how the school handled her sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. She didn’t name her alleged assailant, but as Sulkowicz’s story and the image of her mattress went viral, his identity soon became obvious. By the end of term, Paul Nungesser had been denounced on fliers and at rallies and former friends crossed the street to avoid talking to him.

Now Nungesser is suing his school, its board of trustees, its president and one of its professors, saying that Columbia failed to protect him from a “harassment campaign” by Sulkowicz even after a school disciplinary panel cleared him of responsibility in the case.

“Columbia University’s effective sponsorship of the gender-based harassment and defamation of Paul resulted in an intimidating, hostile, demeaning … learning and living environment,” reads the federal discrimination lawsuit filed Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit alleges that Nungesser’s rights were violated by Columbia and its officials for supporting Sulkowicz, and by professor Jon Kessler for approving the mattress-carrying piece as her senior thesis. Nungesser is a senior and German national, and his reputation and job prospects in the U.S. “are suffering immensely” because of the project, according to the lawsuit.

It’s true that Sulkowicz’s performance piece, dubbed “Carry that Weight,” has become something of a national phenomenon in the months since she launched the project. Images of Sulkowicz toting a 50-pound mattress into classrooms and up and down stairs went viral last September. Later in the fall, anti-sexual assault groups at more than 130 schools organized a “Day of Action” inspired by the project — with students at each school carrying their own mattresses around campus. She has been profiled in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Time and elsewhere, and in January she attended the State of the Union as a guest of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Nearly everyone knows Sulkowicz’s mattress, if not her name, and many see her as a victim of everything that’s wrong with college campus culture when it comes to rape.

Which would make Nungesser the villain — a characterization he vehemently denies in this lawsuit and elsewhere. He said that Sulkowicz’s project is designed to bully him, and that Columbia and its faculty have effectively endorsed that bullying by giving her course credit for it.

The lawsuit added that a Columbia-owned website portrayed Sulkowicz’s version of the story — that Nungesser, a former friend, sexually assaulted her in 2012 — as fact, according to the Associated Press. It said that the university allowed Sulkowicz to carry her mattress into classes, the library and on campus-provided transportation, and that Sulkowicz’s pledge to carry her mattress at graduation may prevent Nungesser’s parents from participating in the ceremony.

In addition, Nungesser “has been subjected to severe, pervasive … and threatening behavior by other Columbia students, believing that Paul is a ‘serial rapist,’ whenever Paul has appeared at university activities,” the lawsuit said. (Two other Columbia students filed sexual assault complaints against Nungesser, though he was not found responsible in both of those cases.)

The lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, seeks damages in amount to be determined at trial for the harm it says was done to Nungesser’s reputation, his school opportunities and his job prospects.

It comes just days after a judge dismissed another lawsuit against Columbia by an unnamed male student. In that suit, the student alleged that the school violated his Title IX rights — treating him too harshly in a sexual assault hearing against him to counter perceptions that the school wasn’t doing enough to tackle campus rape.

Sulkowicz is not named as a defendant in the suit, which focuses instead on how Columbia has responded to her project.

“By refusing to protect Paul Nungesser,” the lawsuit reads, “Columbia University first became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it,”

Roger Hornsby, a Columbia spokesman, told the AP that the school had no comment. In the past, Columbia President Lee Bollinger has also declined to comment on the issue, though he told the New York Times in December “The law and principles of academic freedom allow students to express themselves on issues of public debate; at the same time, our legal and ethical responsibility is to be fair and impartial in protecting the rights and accommodating the concerns of all students in these matters.”

Sulkowicz found Nungesser’s suit “ridiculous,” she wrote in an email to the AP.

“I think it’s ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece,” she wrote. “It’s ridiculous that he would read it as a ‘bullying strategy,’ especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it’s just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?”

Apr 242015


By Jeffrey J. Selingo April 24 at 8:00 AM

Much of the recent discussion about income inequality in the U.S. has focused on the decline of the American middle class. What’s true in the overall economy seems to be the reality in higher education as well: The wealthiest colleges, both public and private, are pulling away from the rest of the herd financially.

In doing so, Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State — among a handful of others — are leaving behind hundreds of financially struggling colleges. There are also now fewer schools in the middle tier with even the slimmest hope of ever joining the top ranks money-wise.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a study that recommended an excise tax on private colleges’ endowments of more than $500 million to pay for federal financial aid. That study seems to have actually underestimated the real wealth of the nation’s most elite universities.

An analysis by Moody’s Investors Service released last week shows just how much the divide between rich and poor schools has grown in recent years. The wealthiest 40 universities tracked by the ratings agency increased their overall assets by 50 percent in just the past five years, while the bottom group of Moody’s schools grew by only 22 percent.

Moody’s tends to only rate colleges that are financially strong enough to borrow in the public markets, so there are hundreds of schools not even on its radar and even further behind those at the top.

“This growing gap will pose increasing competitive challenges for institutions that do not have the resources to invest in facilities, financial aid, and other strategic initiatives at the same level as their wealthier counterparts,” Moody’s said in its report.

The numbers in the Moody’s report are staggering. Median cash and investments of the wealthiest universities was $6.3 billion compared to $273 million for everyone else in 2014. Of the more than 500 colleges rated by Moody’s, the 40 financial leaders account for some two-thirds of total wealth. The top 10 hold nearly one-third of the overall wealth.

What’s more, the schools at the top are just getting richer by the day. Six of every 10 dollars in private donations goes to schools in the top 40 as rated by Moody’s. Such dollars, Moody’s noted, “contribute to their ongoing performance as they use these funds to invest in academic programs, research, facilities, further widening their competitive advantages.”

Even if you didn’t go to one of these top-ranked schools or have children interested in attending one, what happens at these universities still matters to many of us.

For one, these top schools tend to set the agenda for everyone else. Unfortunately, too many colleges are trying to keep up with the Jones’ and spend money to look more like top-ranked schools — particularly when it comes to the campus amenities offered to students, such as recreation centers, fancy dining halls, and a bevy of advisers to help them through school. Even if the colleges can’t afford to participate in this arms race, students end up paying in the end with higher tuition.

Perhaps even more important is that as these wealthy schools eat up more of the financial resources flowing to higher education, there is less for the scores of schools that educate the bulk of American students. And it’s more difficult than ever to actually get accepted to one of these top 40 schools: Nearly all of them have maintained the size of their student bodies even as they encouraged more applications from around the world.

That still leaves students with plenty of options for college, of course, but few of the remaining schools have the means to offer generous financial aid packages for everyone who needs them. The wealthy schools have that ability, but many of them enroll very few low-income students.

Wealthy students outnumber poor students at the most-selective four-year colleges by a factor of 14 to 1, according to the Century Foundation. Rather than college being the ladder for social mobility, increasingly higher education, and the economy at large, are mirroring each other in their inequity.

Apr 232015


Posted: Apr 22, 2015
By Josh Birch, Digital Journalist

GREENVILLE, N.C. – People got to see firsthand how the way future medical professionals could change in the future Wednesday at the Brody School of Medicine.

It was part of the Brody School of Medicine’s first Medical Education Day. The event serves as a showcase of work faculty are working on create new curriculum and teaching methods.

Brody was one of 11 medical schools in the country tasked with coming up with new methods of training future medical professionals. The event featured the faculty at Brody who had already completed the new training.

The teachers of quality academy is an advanced training course to help the school put in place the new core curriculum.

“They learned about quality improvement, patient safety and did a quality improvement project, but they also took course in the ECU School of Education about the particulars of how to educate in today’s world,” said Dr. Herb Garrison.

Education Day is part of a one-million dollar grant the medical school received to help develop changes for medical training.

Apr 232015


By Abbie Bennett
April 23, 2015

North Carolina does not require its communities to treat stormwater but local efforts have begun to filter the water before it enters the river.

Through grants and partnership with East Carolina University, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation — now known as Sound Rivers after merging with the Neuse River Foundation — is working on several stormwater retention strategies on campus.
Story continues below advertisement

The goal is to stop the flow of any trash, oil or other pollutants when it rains on roads and other areas so that they do not go into storm drains and creeks that lead to the Tar River.

Bioretention cells, which sound more complicated than they might be in reality, help with that goal. The cells are depressions in the ground in proximity to a storm drain. Those depressions catch rainwater and runoff and retain it until it can drain into the ground — not flow into the storm drain and into the river.

A cell is being built near the Carol Belk Building on campus, and eventually a larger man-made wetland will be made in the area.

The cell, just a depression in a grassy area near Belk, will be lined with mulch and plants that thrive in wet environments. The cell’s retention of water will help potential pollutants filter out rather than run into the river.

Another cell sits behind Mendenhall Student Center and is grass-lined. A new swamp-cedar or other water-loving tree is expected to be planted in the cell since a tree was removed to excavate it, according to Matt Butler, environmental projects manager for Sound Rivers.

Rain gardens are another stormwater retention strategy that could be used in the area, creating sections of water plants to divert stormwater and gutters into a sloped rain garden.

“There’s not really a tried and true way that it has to be, as long as it catches the water and keeps it from running off into the river,” Butler said. “The idea is to just let it infiltrate on its own, which takes about 24 hours.”

Bigger storms that drop more rain may take longer to absorb, Butler said, but average rainfall collection takes about a day.

While municipalities have ordinances for new construction to include stormwater retention strategies such as the bioretention cells, existing construction often doesn’t include such facilities.

Butler said ECU has used other strategies like permeable pavement and cisterns in parking lots to combat runoff and flooding.

“We were able to partner with ECU to get a grant to do this,” Butler said.

The bioretention cell being built near Belk costs a few thousand dollars.

Sound Rivers has another similar project at Edgecombe Community College, where Sound Rivers got about $200,000 in grants to do three wetlands, a bioretention cell and rain garden.

Butler said the bioretention cells are not really a new strategy.

“Back 40-50 years ago, people didn’t think very much about stormwater,” he said. “They just put in parking lots and moved on. Now we’re realizing we can fix things that were done before. We call it stormwater remediation.”

Apr 232015


By Ronnie Woodward
April 22, 2015

East Carolina athletics director Jeff Compher said last week that the Pirates were in uncharted territory when they became the first American Athletic Conference school to plan to cover student-athletes’ full cost of attendance, a decision that softened the blow from the nation’s five most lucrative conferences announcing in June their plans to benefit student-athletes in addition to traditional scholarships.

ECU hopes to have all of its 19 teams funded under its plan by the 2016 sports calendar, but the process begins with the Pirates’ football and men’s and women’s basketball players on Aug 1.

The timing is perfect for ECU women’s hoops head coach Heather Macy and her staff, who are hot on the recruiting trail during the spring and summer months and already using the cost-of-attendance announcement to their advantage.

“I think kids are narrowing their lists on the have and the have-nots and who is doing it and who is not at this point,” Macy said. “So we’re automatically staying on lists and I think that makes a big difference.”

Macy said that recruiting is likely to see an immediate impact from the decision.

When players to get to campus, she said the extra money could be especially valuable for out-of-state students. ECU’s players on full scholarship will get an extra $4,025 annually distributed to them in 10 installments — five each semester with none in the summer.

The basketball schedule runs through Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it difficult for some players to spend an ample amount of time with their families during those holidays.

“It just kind of takes away some of the stress about figuring out how to get home for Christmas,” Macy said. “A lot of times we maybe have 36 hours off (from basketball) and they’re booking their flights to get home and flights around that time can be very expensive. So we’ve had a lot of kids who haven’t been able to go home for Christmas and they’ll stay here, so just that ability to see their family for those hours I think makes a huge difference.”

Macy met with her players to discuss details about cost of attendance and gave them the opportunity to ask questions.

The Pirates have achieved unprecedented success under Macy, highlighted by 22 wins and WNIT appearances in each of the last three seasons. The team was in the NCAA tournament discussion at different times during the last two years, but is still searching for its first NCAA bid since 2007.

With her program and others squarely focused on continuing to gain national prominence, Macy said last week’s announcement was a show a commitment to the future.

“The women’s basketball team continues to grow and get better and you look at the practice facility that was built (in 2013) with new film rooms and locker rooms and upgrades in all those areas,” Macy said. “Then we moved to a new league that’s an exciting league and there was a ton of exposure. Now nationally there’s cost of attendance and we’ve stepped up and met that challenge, so I think the direction of the athletic department is at an all-time high and just so strong.”

Apr 232015


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

East Carolina University head football coach Ruffin McNeill read with children in the Family Resource Center of the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center on Wednesday.

042315RuffinReading3 A former educator, McNeill donated 20 copies of his book, “A Little Pirate’s ABCs,” which introduces life lessons to young readers and aims to increase literacy and inject messages about making good choices.

McNeill, a former defensive back at ECU, returned to his alma mater in 2010 as head coach and is entering his sixth season.

His book, promoted as the first in a series, was illustrated by AnnaMarie Lewis and published by Taylor Made Publishing.