ECU’s Ballard to step down | The Daily Reflector

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Jul 022015


By Holly West
July 2, 2015

East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard announced Wednesday that he will step down in July 2016 after 12 years at the university’s helm.

Ballard cited family reasons, including the illness of his son, as the motivation behind the decision.

He plans to take a year off, under the UNC system’s policy of “retreating” after stepping down from a senior administrative position, before returning to ECU’s faculty.

“My passion is leadership and leadership development, especially for undergraduates, so I want to put together some proposals for how we can do more of that,” he said. “I want to make sure every student leaves here with a leadership opportunity.”

Ballard said he is proud of how the staff of the university has grown under his leadership.

“I think showing everybody, especially everybody in the state, that ECU not only can bring those people here, but they can make a huge difference,” he said.

He said ECU has made great strides in academics, especially in the Division of Health Sciences, the School of Engineering and Technology and the Honors College.

“We saw we had an opportunity in academic quality, which is the reason students are successful in all these programs,” he said. “It could be nursing, it could be construction management, it could be teaching. It is that quality that will get them jobs and get more students here.”

Ballard’s dedication to quality is apparent, Steve Jones, acting chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, said.

“It’s just his passion and desire in academics and athletics,” he said. “That kind of filters down into all the different areas. He has got a relentless passion.”

Even though Ballard is preparing to leave his position, he still has big plans for the upcoming year.

“Every one of my vice chancellors this morning was told that they had to submit their goals for the year, and we want to be serious about them,” Ballard said. “We want to finish strong.”

Meanwhile, ECU’s Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina president’s office will be searching for a new chancellor. The board is in a transition period, with its newly appointed members not having met for the first time, Jones said. Once the group meets in mid-July to choose a chairman, the process for finding Ballard’s replacement will take shape.

“We’re still trying to put together what that will look like,” he said. “But we have a year, we’ve got a little bit of time to get all of our ducks in a row.”

UNC Board of Governors member Henry Hinton said the trustees need to find someone who can balance all the different responsibilities that come with being a chancellor.

“We need a person who sees himself as much of an external person as an internal person,” he said. “The higher education system these days requires that chancellors really become engaged at the highest level of fundraising. And then, of course, you need someone who can earn the respect of the faculty, which is always a challenge, and someone who can kind of grasp the vision for East Carolina University as a regional economic development power.”

Hinton said the person also needs to understand the mission of academia.

As for Ballard, he hopes his successor can appreciate ECU’s impact not only on eastern North Carolina, but the entire state and country.

“I hope the next person has an appreciation and love and understanding of what kind of university we have here,” he said. “So many universities want to follow somebody else’s model. ECU never has to do that. ECU needs to continue to be authentic to its own model, its own mission.”


Young bull sharks find NC sounds inviting | WRAL

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Jul 022015


Posted 7:34 p.m. yesterday

Greenville, N.C. — While seven people have been bitten by sharks off the North Carolina coast in the past month, an expert says people are increasingly likely to encounter a shark in the state’s sounds.

Between 1969 and 2011, only nine juvenile bull sharks were found in Pamlico Sound, but researchers have documented 50 young bull sharks in the sound in the last four years alone.

“The main thing that’s changed is the temperatures gotten hotter,” said Chuck Bangley, a researcher at East Carolina University.

In the last decade, Bangley said, water temperatures in Pamlico Sound have increased about 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers don’t have an explanation for the temperature increase, but they’re seeing the effects.

“If the water gets in the 75-degree or higher range for a lot of May, you’ll begin to see a lot of juvenile bull sharks show up in the area,” he said.

The young sharks will leave in the fall for warmer waters then return again next year, he said.

While people enjoy the sound for the relatively calm waters, young sharks use it as shelter from larger predators, Bangley said.

“Large sharks will come into the sound, but for the most part, what you’re looking at are 5, 4 feet or less,” he said. “They’re also not species that typically eat large prey.”

Bull sharks are blamed for biting more people than any other species of shark. Known for their aggressive nature, their bite is particularly strong.

“Even those accidental bites, because we’re talking about a big, powerful animal, can do a lot of damage,” he said.

Researchers are still collecting data on the number of bull sharks in Pamlico Sound, but Bangley said their presence indicates the shark population, which had been on the decline, is reversing course. It also is a sign of a healthy ecosystem in the sound, he said.

“The fact that bull sharks are pupping in North Carolina suggests the waters are clean, there’s an abundant food source for them and there’s plenty of habitat,” he said.


East Carolina University chancellor to step down in 2016 | The News & Observer

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Jul 022015



East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard says he will step down from his post in 2016.

Ballard announced Wednesday that he will serve as chancellor until July 1, 2016. He said that will allow for a search for the next leader to take place with minimal disruption.

Ballard has been chancellor since 2004. He said there is much to accomplish in the next year as the school builds academic excellence and leads regional transformation in eastern North Carolina. He also said the school hopes to make more progress as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

UNC President Tom Ross said Ballard will leave ECU better and stronger than he found it.


County jobless rate ticks up | The Daily Reflector

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Jul 022015


By Michael Abramowitz
July 2, 2015

Pitt County’s unemployment rate increased seven-tenths of a percent in May from the previous month and lagged eight-tenths of a percent behind the state average.

The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was 6.5 percent, compared to 5.8 percent in April and 6.6 percent during the same month in 2014, according to data released Tuesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Business Research at East Carolina University.

Pitt County dropped in the statewide rankings from 51 in April to 56 among the state’s 100 counties. The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May was 5.7 percent, up from 5.5 percent in April, but lower than the 6.3 percent rate in May 2014, the data indicated.

“The strength still remains in the central part of the state,” ECU economist Jim Kleckley said. “When you start looking at the rural parts of North Carolina, including the Pitt County area, you see a more accentuated slowdown. The rate of improvement has flattened out somewhat locally. That is strongly indicated by the claims data.”

Increases in the number of people looking for jobs contributes to higher unemployment numbers, but also indicates more faith among job seekers in the prospect of finding work, Kleckley said.

“When the signs indicate the unemployment rate dropping over time, you’ll see more people enter the labor force that haven’t been there for a while,” he said. “In many ways, that’s a good thing, but only if we can start putting those people into jobs as well.”

In May, 81,732 people were employed in Pitt County, an increase of 705 over the same month last year, the data showed. There were 5,643 unemployed people in the county in May, 590 more than the previous month but 113 less than last May.

N.C. Commerce Department officials note that employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns, making it advisable to focus on over-the-year changes in the not seasonally adjusted estimates. When compared to the same month last year, not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates decreased in 87 counties, increased in six, and remained unchanged in seven. Fourteen metro areas experienced rate decreases, and one remained unchanged.

The number of workers employed statewide (not seasonally adjusted) increased in May by 20,877 to 4,514,502; those unemployed increased 36,071 to 281,591. Since May 2014, the number of workers employed statewide increased 115,233, and those unemployed decreased 15,159.

North Carolina’s wage gap remains wider than the national average. The hourly average wage was $22.10 in May, $2.86 below the national average.

“If wages aren’t rising, it indicates the labor market is not tight, meaning that employers tend to take the position that they will find someone to take the job if you won’t,” Kleckley said. “When the unemployment rate is lower, employers will find it more difficult to find workers who accept low wages and will tend to pay more.”

A continued flattening of the employment rate during the next several months would be cause for concern, he said.

“We’re still growing here, but not as quickly as last year,” he said. “I think the Medicaid expansion dollars we turned down would have made a big difference in eastern North Carolina. Vidant is a major employer, and hospitals tend to be important job sources throughout the region. If the industry was better financed, there would be both more jobs and better health. That would be a win-win.”

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for May in selected regional counties include: Beaufort at 6.9 percent, up from 6.4 in April; Craven at 6.5, up from 6.0; Duplin at 6.2, up from 5.6; Edgecombe at 10.3, up from 9.7; Greene at 5.9, up from 5.4; Lenoir at 6.9, up from 6.5; Martin at 7.9, up from 7.6; Nash at 7.8, up from 7.4; Wayne at 6.4, up from 5.9; and Wilson at 9.6 percent, up from 9.4 in April.


Student loan interest rates set to drop | WNCT

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Jul 022015


By Josh Birch Published: July 1, 2015

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE N.C. (WNCT) – Student loan interest rates for the upcoming year will drop from 4.66 to 4.29.

The changes will only apply to loans taken out this year, not previous loans. ECU Financial Aid Director Julie Poorman said students shouldn’t expect to see a big difference in the short term, but the change could help them save more than $400 over the span of a 10 year loan repayment.

She said having student debt isn’t a bad debt to have.

“It’s an investment in the student’s future so we believe that student loans are not dangerous if you don’t have too many,” Poorman said.

She said students should always keep in mind how many loans they are taking, and the interest rates on those loans.

Sen. Richard Burr (NC) released a statement following the announcement.

“I’m thrilled that students across the country have seen the interest rates on their student loans drop for the next year, in addition to over $8 billion in savings from the past year. When I introduced the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, I knew this law would benefit 100% of students in the US, and with today’s news, our students and parents continue to reap the benefits. The facts now show that more controversial legislation would not have served students’ best interests. My bill was the right solution at the right time,” Burr said.


Witnesses describe latest North Carolina shark attack scene | CBS News

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Jul 022015


Shark bite victim is surrounded on North Carolina beach on July 1, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. — A shark bit a 68-year-old man several times Wednesday in waist-deep water off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, officials said, the seventh in a record-breaking year of shark attacks for the state’s coastal waters.

A spokeswoman at the Greenville, North Carolina, hospital where he was taken said Wednesday night that the man, Andrew Costello, was in fair condition.

He suffered wounds to his ribcage, lower leg, hip and both hands as he tried to fight off the animal, said Justin Gibbs, the director of emergency services in Hyde County. The attack happened around noon on a beach on Ocracoke Island, right in front of a lifeguard tower, he said.

“He was pulled under by the shark,” said Gibbs.

He was swimming in waist-deep water with his adult son about 30 feet offshore, the National Park Service said in a news release. There were no other swimmers injured.

Costello is a former editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald, the newspaper reported early Thursday.

Costello’s niece, Freya Solray, told the newspaper Costello’s wife and sons were with him at the hospital, where he was “doing well.”

The victim was able to swim closer to shore, where lifeguards helped him out of the water. The shark was grey and about six to seven feet long, officials told CBS Raleigh affiliate WRAL-TV.

Costello is the seventh person attacked along the North Carolina coast in three weeks, the most in one year in the 80 years for which the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File keeps records. The highest previous total was five attacks in 2010. Three of the 52 confirmed shark attacks between 1935 and 2014 were deadly, according to the database.

Most of this year’s attacks happened in shallow water. The injuries ranged widely: An 8-year-old boy had only minor wounds to his heel and ankle, while at least two others have required amputation. Another person attacked Saturday had initially been considered at critical risk of dying.

Shark experts say the recent spate of attacks along on the coast of the Carolinas may simply be due to so many more people getting in the water. Americans made 2.2 billion visits to beaches in 2010, up from 2 billion in 2001, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate.

Shark attacks off North Carolina are rare — they typically see less than 1 incident per year — so the 7 over the last few weeks have experts worried, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

Sam Gruber is the founder and director of the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas.

“When I first heard of the shark attacks, I was fairly surprised, because I know the Carolinas are not a hot spot for shark attacks,” he told CBS News. ” … I think something strange is going on, because the trend is normally a zero or one attacks in that area in any one year. Maybe you get two. … By strange, I mean its way out of proportion to the average.”

The record-breaking numbers of shark bites might be related to an unseasonably hot June that rapidly raised ocean temperatures off North Carolina and prompted fish to migrate north earlier than usual, said Chuck Bangley, a shark researcher at East Carolina University.

“So when you have more marine life in general in the water and then more people heading to the beach than usual, then you’ve got a potential recipe for accidents to happen,” Bangley said.

Roger Rulifson, a distinguished professor of biology and senior scientist at East Carolina University, said recently that there have been reports of small bait fish coming closer to shore this summer, which attracts sharks. There have also been reports of larger numbers of sea turtles along the coast, which sharks also like to eat, he said.

Sarah Cline told WRAL she was in the water when she saw the victim.

“When I got over there, he told me to get out of the water,” said Cline, who lives in Chapel Hill. “Like, his swimming trunks were missing.”

Cline also noticed that skin was missing from the man’s leg. She got out of the water and ran down the beach, yelling for everyone to get out of the water.

“There were kids in the water, and they had boogie boards, and they were at risk too,” she said.

Cline then returned to the man, who by then was surrounded by lifeguards and other beachgoers. She held the man’s hand.

“We’re just very grateful to him, and I felt like the least I could do was to sit and hold his hand,” she said.

“This guy’s incredible,” Cline told the station. “He was talking with me. He was joking with me. And I can’t imagine how much pain he must have been in.”

Lynette Holman, 44, of Boone, said she was on the beach with her husband and 10-year-old son when she noticed a commotion about 50 yards down the beach. She saw a man walking through knee-deep water and then people rushing to help him out of the surf. There was no panic or screaming, and the nearest lifeguard on duty told her she thought the man might have been having heart trouble. Then Holman saw a gash above his knee.

“The skin was pulled away. It was an open-wound gash,” said Holman, a journalism professor at Appalachian State University.

Laura Irish Hefty of New Hope, Pennsylvania, said she was about 100 yards away when she saw a crowd gathering. She said her husband, David, saw blood on both of the man’s legs.

Costello was treated on the beach for about 20 minutes until he was stabilized and carried off the sand and beyond the dunes to a road, Hefty said. A helicopter flew him to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, about 85 miles away.

Swimmers were back in the water within a couple of hours, Hefty said.

“Nobody seems to be that scared,” she said.


Editorial – Challenges, opportunities abound for new chancellor | Star News Online

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Jul 022015


By the StarNews Editorial Board
Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

Fifty years ago, what then was called Wilmington College marked one of the most important dates in its history as it awarded its first four-year degrees. After making the transition from a junior college, it would be only a few more years before the school would become the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

UNCW marks another important milestone today when Dr. Jose V. “Zito” Sartarelli becomes the school’s eighth leader. Beyond those early days when the school was literally being formed, we can’t think of a more important time in UNCW’s history.

As technology has advanced and the need for a highly educated workforce has grown, UNCW has before it many opportunities. That same technology and the penchant for some state leaders to view our universities simply as training grounds for job-seekers mean the school also has before it many challenges. Not the least of those is maintaining the funding the university needs to carry out its mission and stay affordable, as the state’s constitution mandates.

Dr. Sartarelli faces not only those challenges but also is filling a leadership gap and, frankly, is taking over at a time of instability for UNCW. We still are not sure why former Chancellor Gary Miller made such a quick exit. The school also has faced shake-ups in its athletic department, was successfully sued by a professor, and saw the departure of several key leaders.

We hope that those distractions are a thing of the past and that the new chancellor will be able to spend most of his time and energy looking toward the future.

We like the fact that Sartarelli brings a diverse background to his new role as chancellor. He has solid academic credentials, and also spent three decades in the international business world before returning to a university setting.

While we maintain that universities serve a larger purpose than job training, the reality is that the academic landscape is changing. UNCW will need to keep its focus on graduating confident and critical thinkers, but also ensure students are well qualified for jobs in an increasingly global marketplace.

Excellence in teaching must remain at the heart of the university.

Budget pressures are not likely going away anytime soon, and it will be up to UNCW’s leaders to ensure that the precious dollars they do receive support the university’s primary goal as stated in the first sentence of its mission statement: “The University of North Carolina Wilmington, the state’s coastal university, is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service.”

We know that running a large university takes multiple levels of managers. However, we challenge Chancellor Sartarelli and his leadership team to look critically at how much money and personnel resources are spent on operations.

The so-called “administrative bloat” has been a sore point with critics of the UNC system. And some of those critics are among the legislators and UNC system board members who control purse strings. Even if such “bloat” doesn’t exist at UNCW, we encourage the school to be proactive in honing its administrative and operational staff and embark on an active strategy to protect classroom funding.

Make no mistake – these are challenging times for UNCW and all the schools in the UNC system. But as we also said, there are many opportunities to make UNCW better than ever.

We feel confident that Chancellor Sartarelli has the academic credentials, business background, energy and vision to lead the school at this particular time.

Support UNCW. Support our new chancellor. Send him a note of welcome so he will know how important the school is to our region.

And let him know we are looking for great things from that once-little school that handed out those 50 bachelor’s degrees 50 years ago. UNCW has come a long way since then, and we think there are even better days ahead.

Finally, Zito and Kathy Sartarelli, we offer you a hearty welcome to Southeastern North Carolina. The people of Lower Cape Fear look forward to getting to know you. Call on us for support and service, and just as we will ask much of you, challenge us, also, to do great things.


Official: Subsidies ensure access | The Daily Reflector

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Jul 012015


By Michael Abramowitz
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thursday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold nationwide tax subsidies for health insurance means continued access to affordable health care for thousands of eastern North Carolina residents, according to a spokesman for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

The justices’ 6-3 ruling established that the subsidies that Americans receive for participation in health insurance marketplaces established through the Affordable Care Act do not apply solely in states that were participating in the marketplace exchanges.

“The law’s reference to exchanges ‘established by the states’ was simply a reference to administrative logistics,” Al Delia, director of Brody’s Office of Health Access, said.

Delia was secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services under Gov. Beverly Perdue when Congress enacted the law in 2010.

“When we transitioned to the (Pat) McCrory administration, Gov. Perdue established an interim partnership exchange with the federal government, providing incoming Gov. McCrory the option of setting up his own state exchange, leaving it completely to the federal government or continuing with the partnership arrangement that Gov. Perdue had chosen,” Delia said.

McCrory chose to leave the administration of exchanges to the federal government. There are 14 state-based health insurance marketplaces; three federally supported marketplaces; seven state-partnership marketplaces, and 27 federally facilitated marketplaces, including the one established in North Carolina, according to information compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. That includes 8.7 million people who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay for their insurance premiums.

Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up health insurance exchanges, including about 458,000 in North Carolina.

About 93 percent of marketplace enrollees in North Carolina receive the tax credits. The average tax credit statewide is $316 per month.

In practical terms, the court ruling means nothing has changed for people insured through the marketplace or for the ECU health care providers who have been treating them, Delia said. That is fortunate for the patients and for health care costs in this region and statewide, he said.

“Loss of those benefits would have been devastating for our residents had the court decided the other way,” Delia said.

ECU Physicians is the medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine. Its 330 physician faculty see patients in 24 clinics, ranging from the Family Medicine Center and Monk Geriatric Center to the Emergency Department of Vidant Medical Center. Outpatient visits totalled 650,000 in 2014.

Brody is the “health care safety net” in eastern North Carolina, officials said. For fiscal year 2014-15, officials there estimated that Brody provided $220 million in contractual adjustments, charity care and uncompensated care.

In 2014, nearly half of ECU’s patients were insured through Medicaid, whose reimbursement rate often is less than the cost of providing care. The point of the subsidies is to keep enough people outside of Medicaid in the insured pool to avoid triggering a decline in enrollment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and premium increases by insurers, Delia said.

“The states who chose not to participate in operation of the exchanges are breathing a sigh of relief following the court’s ruling,” Delia said.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion, said limiting the subsidies only to individuals in states with their own exchanges could well push insurance markets in the other states “into a death spiral.”

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts said.

The law prevents insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing health conditions. It requires almost everyone to be insured and provides financial help to consumers who otherwise would spend too much of their paycheck on their premiums.

Justice Antonin Scalia disagreed with the majority opinion.

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he said, referring to the court’s having twice stepped in to save the law from what he considered worthy challenges.


Duke creates task force to investigate sexual assault in Greek life | WRAL

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Jul 012015


Posted 3:57 p.m. yesterday

Durham, N.C. — The Interfraternity Council at Duke University has created a student-led task force that will investigate the role Greek life plays in sexual assault on campus, according to the Chronicle.

According to the article, the task force will be composed of 12 students who will examine the social culture on campus during the upcoming school year. The group will also make recommendations to prevent and address the issue of sexual assault.

The project was spearheaded by outgoing IFC president E.J. Baldridge, who selected the members, along with current IFC president and Duke senior Max Schreiber, the article said. The application process included a statement of interest, along with early morning meetings, according to the article.

The development of the task force comes amid a police investigation after a female student reported being sexually assaulted at a Alpha Delta Phi in January.

According to the article, the new task force is not the first time students have studied sexual assault in Greek life on campus. In 2013, the Greek Culture Initiative, a student-run organization that aimed to effect change in the Greek culture, released a report which stated 38 percent of women involved in Greek life reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact.


Raleigh alumna gives Peace University $1.5M, its largest unrestricted gift | News & Observer

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Jul 012015


June 30, 2015


A Raleigh woman who graduated from Peace high school more than 60 years ago has given William Peace University its largest ever unrestricted gift.

Elizabeth Moore “Betsy” Ruffin gave the university $1.5 million upon her death in January at the age of 83, Peace announced Tuesday.

“Our students deserve the very best in education and facilities, and through Betsy’s generosity, we will continue to provide that,” Julie E. Ricciardi, vice president for the Office of Engagement at Peace University, said in a press release Tuesday.

Peace University, in downtown Raleigh, was founded in 1872 as Peace Institute and by 1940 offered an academic program for women that covered the last two years of high school and the first two years of college. It awarded its first four-year degree in 1996 and in 2011 voted to become co-educational.

Ruffin graduated from Peace high school in 1953. She joined an alumnae association in 1994 and was active in the university community, visiting with students, staff, and university presidents. On one unplanned visit to Ruffin’s home, Peace staff members saved her life when they found her suffering from triple pneumonia and helped her get medical attention.

Ruffin had previously made annual gifts and donated to a library renovation project. Officials announced Tuesday that the university will name its newest building, which will house the campus bookstore, after Ruffin in honor of her most recent gift and past philanthropy.


Colleges Brace for Supreme Court Review of Race-Based Admissions | The New York Times

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Jul 012015


JUNE 30, 2015

The Supreme Court’s decision to reconsider a challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin has universities around the country fearing that they will be forced to abandon what remains of race-based admission preferences and resort to more difficult and expensive methods if they want to achieve student diversity.

“A broad general statement by the Supreme Court that it’s unconstitutional to consider race at all will have domino effects across the whole country, and will sweep across private universities as well as public ones,” said Tom Sullivan, the president of the University of Vermont.

He predicted that colleges would have to turn their attention to sustained, intensive recruitment to maintain diverse student bodies.

“We would have to reorient our approach, and spend a lot more time and effort, which would be very costly, in schools that have a high percent of minority students, not just recruiting but helping them prepare for college-level work, starting way back in middle school,” he said.

Some milestone affirmative action decisions by the Supreme Court that govern university admissions.

Many lawyers and higher education experts said the court’s decision Monday to take a second look at the challenge to the University of Texas’ admissions decisions seemed to signal a readiness to strike down the policy, in which a quarter of the class is admitted through what is known as a holistic process, in which race may be considered as one of many factors.

Over the last three decades, the court has issued several decisions on affirmative action in higher education, and most have limited considerations of race. In 2003, the Supreme Court held that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity.

Eight states now ban race-based affirmative action, and their top public universities have different approaches to ensure racial and economic diversity.

Some give preference to working-class students, those from troubled high schools and those whose parents did not attend college. Others have increased financial aid.

The flagship public universities in Texas and Florida — and other states, to a lesser extent — began offering admission based primarily on how high students ranked within their own high schools, rather than statewide, which often meant that poor and minority students competed with others from similar backgrounds.

The University of California system greatly increased the number of transfer students it accepted from community colleges.

California and Texas dropped the use of legacy preferences that disproportionately benefit white and affluent students. At the University of Texas at Austin, substantial diversity is guaranteed by what is known as the Top 10 Percent plan, under which three-quarters of the incoming class is admitted automatically, based on the students’ position in their high school class. (The actual cutoff varies from year to year and is 7 percent this year.) The rest of the class is admitted after review of academic achievement and other factors including race.

A Century Foundation study, conducted in 2012, found that in most states where affirmative action was outlawed, Hispanic and black enrollment at flagship public universities rebounded after an initial drop, exceeding the levels before the ban. But the study also showed that in most of those cases, those increases did not keep up with the growing pool of Hispanic and black high school graduates.

Many supporters of affirmative action were girding for the worst.

“This is a very ominous sign that the court is about to destroy one of the most important avenues of equal opportunity in our society,” said Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “If they strike that, what they’re telling us is that all kinds of preferential admissions of legacies, athletes and celebrities are fine, but heaven help you if you’re trying to reflect the diversity of American society.”

There is no certainty that the court will issue a broad ban on any consideration of race. The justices could issue a narrow ruling, or even one that applies only to Texas.

The Texas process under scrutiny by the court involves only a quarter of any class and did not affect the majority of those students admitted for being at the top of their high school classes. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. When the court last considered Ms. Fisher’s case in 2013, it sent it back to the federal appeals court in New Orleans, saying the lower court had been insufficiently skeptical of the Texas program. The appeals court endorsed the program a second time.

“Like most Americans, I hope this case presents the court the opportunity to end racial classifications in higher education, in total,” said Edward Blum, the president of the Project on Fair Representation, which provided counsel to Ms. Fisher, who has since graduated from Louisiana State University. “But if the court just continues to narrow the use of race, we would see that as a great victory, too.”

Gregory L. Fenves, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, said he continued to believe that the Texas plan was lawful, and some others, too, say they do not expect the court to overturn it.

“U.T. didn’t draw this up on the back of a dinner napkin,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “It’s an appropriate and carefully designed program.” He added, “It’s the suddenness with which the court is going back into this that has led many people to be very concerned.”

If the court broadly turns against consideration of race, many university administrators say, maintaining a diverse student body will require expensive outreach programs. Many universities, in states that still use race as a factor and those that do not, have established partnerships with disadvantaged high schools, to help students jump through the hoops of college admission. College administrators say they are painfully aware of research showing that most high-achieving, low-income high school students never apply to highly selective colleges.

Despite the Top 10 Percent plan, not all the students who qualify apply; some are scared away by costs. The university has started a successful program at 101 high schools that serve low-income students, to raise awareness during senior year of the financial aid that is available.

Many university presidents said that, absent race, such programs could become their most important tool to ensure diversity.

“I do think that ultimately outreach is going to be what is most important for all of us,” said Teresa A. Sullivan, the president of the University of Virginia. “We’ve identified 80 high schools in Virginia that we’re paying particular attention to.”

Anthony P. Carnevale, the director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown, said most race-neutral diversity efforts were difficult and expensive.

“The fact is, a lot of universities couldn’t afford to do a lot more,” he said. Ultimately, each university will have to decide where to put its energies and its dollars.

“It’s very difficult to predict how universities would respond, in terms of what policies they would adopt,” said Donald E. Heller, the dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. “I suspect it would be all over the place.”

The state bans on considering race have struck hard at elite public universities seeking to maintain a pool of minority students. The three most selective institutions in the states with bans — the University of Michigan; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of California, Berkeley — have all lost ground in diversity since their state bans went into effect.

“Those three compete on a national level with universities like Stanford and Harvard,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, the author of the Century Foundation report. “They’re in an impossible situation, since they have to play by one set of rules and the private universities have a different set of rules.”

Many experts said one question was whether the future Supreme Court ruling will be broad enough to apply not just to public universities that have been the battleground for affirmative action litigation, but to private universities as well, as would be the case if consideration of race was deemed unconstitutional.


Sweet Briar gets $5 million from supporters, double the amount promised | The Washington Post

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Jul 012015


By Susan Svrluga June 30 at 6:07 PM

Supporters of Sweet Briar College, in an action both concrete and symbolic, gave $5 million to the school Tuesday.

It was two days early, and twice as much as Saving Sweet Briar had committed to pay in a court settlement to keep the private women’s college open this year.

After the school’s president abruptly announced in March that the 114-year-old college would shutter this summer for financial reasons, alumnae and others banded together to fight the board’s decision. A settlement deal initiated by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) brokered a compromise earlier this month that resolved three lawsuits fighting school officials.

The deal overturned the college’s leadership, ended the litigation, and ensured an infusion of cash to keep the school open this coming academic year. Under the terms of the settlement, approved by a judge last week, the attorney general would allow $16 million from the school’s endowment to be used for operating expenses, and Saving Sweet Briar would donate $12 million.

The first payment of $2.5 million was due Thursday, when the current board will resign and new board members will take control; they are expected to appoint Phillip Stone, a lawyer and former college president, to lead the school.

Even as students and faculty cheered the settlement, many have still been watching anxiously to see whether the terms of the deal were sealed, with some prospective students waiting before making a final commitment, for example.

Rising senior Katie Craig said after the settlement that she was very excited to return but, “honestly no one can make their decisions at all or cancel plans somewhere else ’til we have information about financial aid, scholarships, what classes are being offered, what majors are being offered. Most people I’ve talked to, obviously the first choice is to go back, if we can get the aid we need to go back, and the classes we need for our degrees.

“They’re going to make it work,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be back there!”

So the early delivery of twice the amount owed in the first schedule payment sent a message: This is really going to happen.

Still, Sarah Clement, chair of Saving Sweet Briar, urged supporters to convert their pledged donations into real money: The group must pay another $3.5 million by Aug. 2, and the final $3.5 million by September 2nd.

Even before taking over, Stone has been working behind the scenes to reassure students and staff that the college will, indeed, endure. Faculty can return to their jobs, if they wish, and the school will honor the financial-aid packages that students had before the closure announcement.

“I recognize that financial aid concerns are a major factor for former students deciding whether to return and incoming freshmen deciding whether to reconsider attending other schools,” Stone said in a statement. “By committing to honor past financial aid awards and expediting the review of financial aid applications for freshmen that had committed to attending Sweet Briar, I hope we can provide the assurance our students need to come home to Sweet Briar.”

“I will be ready to hit the ground running after Thursday’s formal vote by the new Board of Directors,” he said. “I am humbled by the confidence shown in me to help rebuild Sweet Briar College and very much look forward to pouring my heart and soul into the work that lies ahead. I remain confident that Sweet Briar’s best days are ahead of us.”


Shark Attacks on Rise on North Carolina Coast | NBC

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Jun 302015

North Carolina typically sees a handful of shark attacks per year. But in a single month this vacation season — June — this popular beach destination has already counted six.

Earlier this month, two teenagers required arm amputations after separate attacks on Oak Island. On Friday, on the Outer Banks, fishermen reeled in a seven-foot shark — the same day a 47-year-old man was bitten an hour away.

On Saturday, another attack on the Outer Banks left an 18-year-old man critically wounded, though his condition has since upgraded to serious.

“It’s unusual — the water has been warm this year,” Gage Fichter, a first responder who helped save the man after the latest attack, told NBC News. “The sharks I think are heading north.”

“We were just playing around in the waves, and I felt a hit on my left calf,” Treschl said in a videotaped interview released Tuesday night by the hospital where he is being treated. AP

With droves of tourists heading to the beach “these instances will happen,” said Joel Fodrie, a fish ecologist at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences,

But Roger Rulifson, a distinguished professor of biology and senior scientist at East Carolina University, told the Associated Press that a combination of small bait fish swimming closer to shore and high number of sea turtles in the area—both favorites in the shark diet—might also be behind the spike.

A graduate student of Rulifson’s has also found that one of the more aggressive varieties of local shark—the bull shark—has created nurseries on the Outer Banks every year since 2011.

“This is the time of year when a number of these sharks to come in to pup, or spawn, so it’s very possible that’s one reason they might be close to shore,” Rulifson said.

Image: Aftermath of N.C. shark attack
Emergency responders assist a teenage girl after a shark attack on June 14, 2015, at Oak Island, North Carolina. Steve Bouser / AP

Still, the number of attacks that North Carolina has counted this year is just a fraction of what Florida experiences annually. In 2014, there were 28 recorded bites, and this year, there have been eight.

“Those eight attacks have not generated much more than passing interest here in Florida,” George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told the Associated Press.

So far, there are no plans to close any beaches in North Carolina, and on a recent afternoon, beachgoers offered a mixed response to the jump in attacks.

On the beach in the Tar Heel state, Mike Gleeson, a surfer from New Jersey, told NBC News that he had a better chance of winning the lottery than getting bitten by a shark. But Sarah Miller, who was with her young daughter, opted to stay closer to the shore. “I don’t think I’d take her out very far,” she said.


Recent spike in shark attacks reported off Carolinas coast | Associated Press

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Jun 302015


By Brock Vergakis
Monday, June 29, 2015

Shark experts have a not-so-reassuring explanation for a recent spate of attacks along on the coast of the Carolinas: It’s mainly because so many people are getting in the water.

Six shark attacks were recorded in June in North Carolina waters, and the two most recent victims had to be flown to a hospital in Virginia for treatment. That’s more than North Carolina has recorded in any single year dating to 2000. But it’s all a matter of perspective, said George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research.

There were 28 attacks reported in Florida in 2014. So far this year, there have been 11 shark attacks there, with eight of those in neighboring Brevard and Volusia counties. Volusia is home to Daytona Beach, which is often packed with tourists.

“Obviously that’s a much smaller area than the area of North Carolina that’s been affected, from the southern border up to Cape Hatteras,” Burgess said. “… Those eight attacks have not generated much more than passing interest here in Florida.”

Americans made 2.2 billion visits to beaches in 2010, up from 2 billion in 2001, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate.

“We’re basically flooding them out of their own home. It’s a function of how many people we’ve got,” Burgess said. “You get this unholy mix of bait fish, sharks and humans together. When you have that, you’re going to have some bites.”

Other reasons vary. For one, people may be more likely to report minor attacks given the widespread use of cellphones and social media.

Roger Rulifson, a distinguished professor of biology and senior scientist at East Carolina University, said that there have been reports of small bait fish coming closer to shore this summer, which attracts sharks. There have also been reports of larger numbers of sea turtles along the coast, which sharks also like to eat, he said.

Rulifson said he recently vacationed at Ocean Isle Beach, where there’s already been one reported shark bite, and was unintentionally catching small black tip sharks with minnows on an inlet on the island’s west end.

“This is the time of year when a number of these sharks to come in to pup, or spawn, so it’s very possible that’s one reason they might be close to shore,” he said.

Rulifson said one of his graduate students has also done research showing that bull sharks, which can be one of the more aggressive shark breeds found off the Carolinas, have been able to create a nursery in the Pamlico Sound off the Outer Banks each year since 2011.

Each attack is also unique, and it’s highly unlikely there’s any one dangerous shark roaming the coast, especially given the extensive geographic area in which they’ve occurred, said Fred Scharf, professor of fisheries biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“There’s just more food in the water for sharks to feed on this time of year in the near-shore ocean,” Scharf said.

Despite the attention the attacks have brought, tourists aren’t expected to cancel trips en masse, said Lee Nettles, executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau in North Carolina. After all, a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than be attacked by a shark: from 1959 to 2010, there were 193 people killed by lightning strikes, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. By comparison, there were 39 shark attacks in North Carolina during the same period. Only one was deadly.

“I think that it’s been a topic mostly because it’s just extraordinary,” Nettles said. “You understand the incredible odds that are involved with this.”


World running out of water? A local expert weighs in | WNCT

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Jun 302015


By Pierce Legeion
Published: June 29, 2015, 6:11 pm Updated: June 29, 2015, 6:53 pm

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A new study, just released by NASA, finds that 21 of the 37 largest aquifers in the world are in danger of running dry. Aquifers are large underground reservoirs that store groundwater. It’s estimated that about a third of the world’s water supply comes from these reserves. Eban Bean, an assistant professor with ECU’s Deptartment of Engineering, said this:

“Water is one of our most critical elements for sustaining our life and our society.”

Here in the U.S, aquifers in California and the Southeast are in the danger zone. But work is already being done to raise water levels. One solution to the problem: pumping treated water back into those aquifers like Greenville Utilities is doing at several well sites.

More than a decade ago…the Central Coastal Plain Capacity Use Area was created to cut back on the use of groundwater after local aquifers ran dangerously low.

“A lot of municipalities especially here in eastern North Carolina now are pulling water from rivers, reservoirs where we have a dam on a river that backs up the water and we can pull from that as a water supply” said Bean.

And this is just one solution to our water woes. Many areas in the Outer Banks now use reverse osmosis to purify salt water into drinking water. In the future, Bean expects to see more reuse of water for other purposes.

“We can partially treat it and it can still have value to go back into our system , maybe not as drinking water, but for irrigation and other uses that don’t need as high a quality of water” said Bean.