Local events mark World AIDS Day | The Daily Reflector

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Dec 012015


By Michael Abramowitz
Monday, November 30, 2015

Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, there is a solution for ignorance about the virus and its related disease. Organizations in Greenville and Pitt County will join others nationally and worldwide today — World AIDS Day — to raise awareness about the disease and what can be done to reduce its presence.

“World AIDS Day is a very important day to us,” Aaron Lucier, treasurer and board member of the Pitt County AIDS Service Organization (PiCASO), said. “This is a day the entire world looks at the continuing HIV/AIDS crisis, a concern still for us today.”

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Unlike some viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV, according to scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although no safe and effective cure for HIV exists, scientists are working to find one, and remain hopeful, CDC officials said.

PiCASO and other Pitt County-based groups, including several at East Carolina University, Miller-Motte College and Delta Sigma Theta sorority, will focus their activities around this year’s theme: “Zero HIV.”

“There are two important actions we want all people to focus on,” Lucier said. “First, know your HIV status and get tested if you have high-risk behavior. I think some people still are a little afraid of the unknown and the stigma attached to HIV.

“The second focus is to get in care and stay in care if you test positive. Combined with today’s medical breakthroughs and safe-sex practices, it is very unlikely you will pass the infection on, and you will stay healthy and live longer with the infection.”

In 2013, North Carolina ranked eighth in the nation for HIV diagnosis rates and 10th for AIDS diagnosis rates. In 2014, ECU provided HIV care to approximately 1,550 patients.

To complement its ongoing work in the scientific battle against HIV, ECU has been hosting several events to show support for people living with HIV and to remember people who have died from AIDS. Eight 12-by-12 panels of the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt are on display on both campuses through Wednesday. More than half of the quilt panels have connections to the university and eastern North Carolina, including a tribute to the late Jerome Jenkins, who was an instructor and choreographer in the ECU School of Theatre and Dance from 1983-85.

The panels are on display at the following locations: Brody School of Medicine, College of Allied Health Sciences, Gateway West Residence Hall, Jenkins Fine Arts Building, Joyner Library, Mendenhall Student Center and McGinnis Theatre lobby.

The Brody School of Medicine has long served as a model in North Carolina and beyond, Mark Rasdorf, associate director of ECU’s LGBT Resource Office, said.

Also part of ECU’s plans today, at 7 p.m. in Hendrix Theater, at a program called, “A Promise To Remember,” speakers will share experiences of the effect of HIV/AIDS on their lives, and there will be a reading of the names of those honored in the campus display.

PICASO will host a rally at noon on the Pitt County Courthouse steps to support those living with HIV/AIDS, then from 2-4 p.m., Delta Sigma Theta will host an HIV/AIDS awareness fair at Miller-Motte College, 1021 W.H. Smith Blvd. The fair will resume from 5-7 p.m. at the same location.

“Hopefully, we’re reaching more people everyday with the message,” Rasdorf said.


Margaret Spellings visits NC, plans for first weeks as UNC president | The News and Observer

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By Jane Stancill
November 30, 2015

UNC system President-elect Margaret Spellings was in town this week, meeting with people about the big job ahead – leading the state’s 222,000-student public university system.

She dined Sunday with UNC President Tom Ross, who will step down in January, and she met with chancellors of the 17-campus system Monday. Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush, is mapping out a plan for her start as system president in March.

The UNC system’s Board of Governors is likely to appoint an interim president to serve for about two months. Spellings will arrive just two weeks shy of a bond referendum in which North Carolina voters will be asked to approve $2 billion in borrowing – about half of which would go to university construction. Spellings joked in an interview Monday that she would “show up at the victory party, God willing.”

In the initial weeks on the job, she said, she’ll travel the state, visiting every campus and meeting faculty, students, trustees, legislators and others. “I’m calling it my world tour,” she said.

The first order of business is a bit of healing among the UNC system governing board, which has been marked by infighting in recent months. Dominated by Republicans, the board was recently called to the legislature to account for a closed-door meeting where, in a split vote, it gave 12 chancellors significant raises.

“Before we can get going on the big priorities, there’s a need to help build some collegiality and common cause in the board and with other stakeholders. This is not like a big secret, right?” she said. “I think I can help do that. I hope I can, because we’ll be distracted from working on the things that we all care so deeply about if we don’t do that first. I would start with that. I think that’s a lot of relationship building and listening.”

Before she has packed the first box for her move from Texas to North Carolina, Spellings already faces political storm clouds.

Last month, student protesters at a forum on diversity at UNC-Chapel Hill called for her dismissal. Last week, the Campus Y, a progressive student organization at UNC, posted a statement on its Facebook page, urging the removal of Spellings, whom they called “a troubling administrator.”

They cited an incident a decade ago when, as education secretary, she threatened to strip funding from a PBS children’s show that depicted gay characters. The group also criticized her service on the board of the Apollo Group, parent company of the for-profit University of Phoenix, which has been investigated for its recruiting practices.

Spellings said she read the demands from the protesters, which called in part for disaggregated data on college students’ completion rates by race and income. “My gosh, it sounds like something I could have written,” she said.

Facing uphill charge

The idea mirrors Spellings’ major initiative, the No Child Left Behind law, which aimed to hold schools more accountable for minority achievement.

When asked how to confront that kind of opposition, Spellings has a simple approach: “Meet with them. Listen. Get to know them. Understand their frustration and the righteousness of a lot of what they’re saying.”

It may be an uphill charge in a state where the Republican-led legislature and governing board have been at odds with faculty and students on issues such as financial aid and academic freedom, but Spellings said she aims to be a bridge between the two worlds.

“This is a time of change. People know it,” she said. “There’s a lot of anxiety about it, and we have to be responsive to that.”

Spellings believes her experience in Washington can help her work across the aisle. “It has to be about the ideas and the ideals,” she said, “as opposed to party.”

So for now, she is on the phone constantly with people from North Carolina. She has watched speeches of the late, revered UNC president, Bill Friday, who led the system for 30 years. She can even quote him.

She has also sought the advice of modern university leaders with political backgrounds, such as Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, and Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system. Daniels, a Republican, is the former governor of Indiana. Napolitano served as secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama.

“People know in their gut, and particularly in this state – irrespective of where you are on the political spectrum – everyone understands the value of this institution to the success of this state,” she said.

“It has been the differentiator in why North Carolina is North Carolina and others are not,” she added. “It’s not an accident that you’re growing at 9 percent a year and thriving.”

As for the naysayers, Spellings said she hoped everyone would give her a chance.

“They have no interest in me being a flop, I would hope,” she said. “I certainly don’t.”


Protesters oppose corporate ownership of UNC bookstore | The News and Observer

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By Jane Stancill
November 30, 2015

UNC-Chapel Hill’s move to privatize its 100-year-old campus bookstore drew students, professors, retirees, state workers and one lawmaker to protest in a cold drizzle Monday.

Inside, the store bustled on “Mammoth Monday,” the biggest sale of the year. Outside, protesters held red signs that said, “Save Student Stores” and “Protect UNC Jobs.” The rally, organized by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, was attended by nearly 100 people.

Protesters said UNC’s move to seek bids from large bookstore chains is a solution in search of a problem. The UNC Student Stores is a self-sustaining operation that employs 200 students and last year generated $400,000 in scholarship funds for the university. The store has 49 permanent employees, including some with decades of experience whose state benefits could disappear.

Ardis Watkins, legislative affairs director for SEANC and a UNC alumna, called the store a valuable institution. “It puts money back into scholarships. It gives money back to the university,” she said. “It is a winner.”

Then she added: “What’s next? Are we going to build a Starbucks around the Old Well? Where does it end?”

UNC officials say they want to listen to what private companies can offer. The university is putting out a request for proposals, and expects bids from Follett and Barnes & Noble. Follett, which owns several college bookstores at North Carolina campuses, sent UNC a letter last summer suggesting it could generate an annual commission of at least $3 million for the university annually.

No bids have been received yet, said Matt Fajack, vice chancellor for finance and administration, who stood in the crowd at the rally.

“They don’t have all the facts,” he said of the protesters. “They misrepresent a few things. But overall, I appreciated what they had to say and I understand it. I have a lot of concerns for the employees, too, and we’ll take that into consideration when we look at the bids.”

McKay Coble, a professor of dramatic art, said her husband, Frank, had worked as the store’s buyer for textbooks for years and now could lose his job. The couple will be OK financially, she said, but said others won’t.

The only way for the private company to generate more funds for the university is to lay off staff or pay them much less, Coble said. She predicted long lines, less stock and fewer services for students.

“The overarching question is to UNC: Why do this?” Coble sasked. “Where’s the evidence of a better store if you privatize it? How much trouble is an already self-contained, money-making, service-providing entity to you?”

Opponents of privatization handed out spreadsheets comparing prices of 100 new and used textbooks at UNC to the same titles in corporate bookstores at other UNC system campuses. The cost was roughly $1,000 more for the 100 books at the privatized stores.

House Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said there’s evidence of higher costs at private stores, especially at historically black universities where many students receive federal grants.

“They come in here to make a bid because they know that they can make money,” she said of the private companies.

Efforts to reach a Follett spokesman were unsuccessful Monday. In its letter to UNC earlier this year, the company estimated that “we could save your students several million dollars a year on course material.”

Don Nonini, professor of anthropology, said the bookstore staff had nurtured relationships with students and faculty for many years.

“These professionals deserve our gratitude,” he said, “not a pink slip.”


Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back | The Washington Post

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Dec 012015


By Will Hobson and Steven Rich
November 30, 2015

At Texas A&M University, the president’s proposal to charge all 50,000 students $72 a year to help pay for a $450 million football stadium renovation brought protests.

At Clemson University, the athletic director’s idea to charge all 17,000 students $350 a year to help him keep up with competition brought pushback from student government.

At the University of Kansas, a walk-on golfer’s push to eliminate a $50 fee all 17,000 students paid the increasingly wealthy athletic department brought a strong — and to some students, vindictive — response from administrators.

And at many of America’s largest public universities, athletic departments making millions more every year from surging television contracts, luxury suite sales and endorsements continue to take money from tens of thousands of students who will never set foot in stadiums or arenas.

Mandatory student fees for college athletic departments are common across the country. Often small line items of a couple hundred dollars on long, complex tuition bills, these fees make millions for athletic departments at larger colleges.

In 2014, students at 32 schools paid a combined $125.5 million in athletic fees, according to a Washington Post examination of financial records at 52 public universities in the “Power Five,” the five wealthiest conferences in college sports.

To rich athletic departments, these fees represent guaranteed revenue streams that, unlike ticket sales or booster donations, are unaffected by on-field success. To less flush departments, increasing student fees is one way to keep up.

Athletic directors defend fees as well worth what their programs give back to schools.

“Athletics is a common good, bringing people together, developing relationships, unifying the institution, bringing fantastic exposure,” said Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, whose department charges undergraduates $657 annually.

To advocates fighting to keep college affordable, however, athletic departments that continue to charge mandatory student fees as their income rises are making America’s student debt problem worse.

“These students are being forced to pay for something that they may or may not take advantage of, and then they have to bundle this into student loans they’ll be re-paying for 10 or 20 years,” said Natalia Abrams, executive director of the nonprofit Student Debt Crisis.

“It’s a huge problem in higher education,” said David Catt, the former Kansas golfer. “You think you’re paying for a degree and you wind up as a piggy bank for a semi-professional sports team.”

‘They do it because they can’

For the roughly 20 million college students in America, the money they — or their lenders — pay schools every semester covers much more than professor salaries and dorm upkeep. Many colleges tack on fees to tuition bills to fund complementary aspects of college life such as libraries, computer labs and campus buses.

For hundreds of thousands of students who attend Power Five schools, one of those departments that can charge a fee is making a lot more money from other sources than it used to: athletics.

From 2004 to 2014, the combined income of 48 athletic departments in the Power Five rose from $2.67 billion to $4.49 billion. The median department saw earnings rise from $52.9 million to $93.1 million.

As more money has come in, a few schools have gotten rid of student athletic fees, including both powerhouse Alabama ($147.2 million in 2014 athletics earnings) and middle-of-the-pack Missouri ($82.2 million).

“We take pride in the fact that we carry our own weight and pay our own way,” said Tim Hickman, Missouri athletics chief financial officer.

This fall, Kansas State athletics announced it would phase out its student fee by 2020. In 2014, Kansas State athletics made $72.4 million and charged $500,695 in student fees.

“If you look at the financial pressure on students, the increased cost of tuition . . . it was time to have those dollars be available for other things,” Kansas State Athletic Director John Currie said.

While all Power Five schools are making more from television rights contracts — which are paid primarily to conferences, who then split up the money among member schools — only some athletic departments, usually ones with strong football teams, also have been able to get ticket sales, endorsements and royalties to surge.

At Florida State athletics — which made $96.8 million in 2014 — officials justify a $237 fee that generates $8 million by pointing out students get free admittance to Seminoles football games. This is a benefit for the 16,000 students who snag student seats at Doak Campbell Stadium. There are more than 32,000 undergraduates at Florida State, though.

At some departments, athletic directors are increasingly dependent on student fees to help them keep up with big-spending rivals. At the University of Virginia, student fees for athletics generate $13.2 million per year that Littlepage said he needs to cover his budget.

From 2004 to 2014, under Littlepage’s watch, Virginia athletics spending rose from $50.3 million to $87.4 million, including significant increases in coaches pay (from $8.6 million to $18.1 million), and debt and maintenance costs on facilities (from $2.5 million to $15.2 million).

Littlepage has been unable to get earnings to rise enough to keep up. In 2014, Virginia athletics made $70.5 million, $17 million less than it spent. In a decade, Virginia has increased its student fee from $388 to $657.

“We’re all facing a lot of the same economic pressures, but it’s not an entirely level playing field,” Littlepage said.

For Paige Taul, a 19-year-old Virginia student who earns $8.25 per hour as a cashier at the campus bookstore, this means she works about 80 hours just to pay off her debt to athletics.

“Wow. That doesn’t seem fair,” said Taul, who expects to graduate with at least $30,000 of debt. Taul doesn’t go to football games, she said. She’s usually working.

At Rutgers, students pay about $326 each, generating $10.3 million.

“It’s crazy. It’s a struggle for me, every semester, to get the money together,” said Rutgers sophomore Eric Dillenberger, 20, who works summers as a short-order cook at a pizza shop. He expects to graduate with at least $25,000 in debt.

“It should be an option, whether you want to buy tickets or not,” Dillenberger said.

At many schools, fees aren’t controversial. At Auburn, administrators raised the student fee more than 400 percent in 2006, from $36 to $192 per year, and Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said students never complained.

Auburn students also have to pay for football tickets, but an athletics spokeswoman said the fee, which generates $4.4 million, allows Auburn to discount student tickets.

Outside the Power Five, athletic departments lacking annual windfalls from television networks are even more reliant on student fees.

Jeff Smith, a business professor at the University of South Carolina-Upstate who has studied financial records from hundreds of schools, estimates students across the country borrow nearly $4 billion per year to pay off athletic fees.

Some smaller schools charge more than $2,000 per year in athletic fees, Smith found.

“They do it because they can. Most schools, it goes through the student government . . . and you’re always going to have kids who like sports and don’t understand the big financial picture,” Smith said. “When you have a president or a dean saying ‘This is good,’ most students will just go along with it.”

Sometimes, students don’t. In the last few years, students in Texas, South Carolina and Kansas have looked at their tuition bills and the surging amount of money flowing into athletics departments and asked administrators variations of the same question: Why do you need my money?

Normal doesn’t apply

With a devoted fan base and deep-pocketed donors, Texas A&M athletics had gotten by for years without a student fee.

But as A&M planned an ambitious $450 million stadium renovation — which included a new 7,700-square-foot high-definition video board and a luxury suite section featuring a baby grand piano and crystal chandeliers — former university president R. Bowen Loftin decided it was time to change that.

In late 2012, Loftin’s administration put together a financing plan that called for $75 million from students over 30 years, through increased ticket prices and a new $72 fee.

Spread across all students at Texas’s largest public college, the fee would generate about $3.6 million per year.

It’s difficult to overstate the popularity of football at Texas A&M, where many traditions center around Aggies football, including midnight “yell practice” before games. But when the administration approached students about a fee to support their beloved Aggies, the students balked. A poll found 65 percent of students opposed.

Kyle Field’s expanded student section would hold 30,000. A&M had 50,000 students. Some conservative students began condemning the fee as a tax.

“It’s unfair to make people who will never use that stadium pay to make my football game experience better,” said Scott Bowen, 25, a former member of A&M’s student senate.

Cary Cheshire, 23, another former student senator and conservative activist, agreed.

“College administrations need to view students as students, rather than walking checkbooks,” Cheshire said.

When Loftin took the proposal to A&M’s board of regents in May 2013, a few students protested, some holdings signs that read “$TOP WASTING MY MONEY” and “REPEAL LOFTIN’S $LU$H FUND.”

The board approved the fee. But in two years since, A&M has not added it to tuition bills.

“As we predicted, the university had no trouble at all funding [the stadium] out of the money they already collect,” said Bowen, now a chemical engineer in Houston.

Loftin, who left and took over as chancellor at the University of Missouri before resigning that post earlier this month, did not respond to multiple requests to comment.

In an interview, A&M spokesman Shane Hinckley said while the university has not needed the new fee yet, that doesn’t mean it never will.

“We have not needed to impose it at this time, but that doesn’t mean we won’t need to impose it down the road,” Hinckley said.

About 1,000 miles away in South Carolina, Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich ran into trouble when he started pushing for a new $350 student fee last year.

In a series of meetings with the Clemson student government, Radakovich failed to win over then-student president Maddy Thompson. In a telephone interview, Thompson said Clemson athletics officials were vague about why their department — which generated $70.4 million in 2014 revenues, up from $49 million a decade before — needed another $6 million from students, who get into football games for free.

“All they would say was their costs had gone up,” said Thompson, now a law school student at the University of North Carolina. “We just didn’t think it made sense. . . . Do we really want all students paying so they can recruit better athletes?”

In an interview, athletics department spokesman Joe Galbraith noted that Clemson is the only public school in the Atlantic Coast Conference or Southeastern Conference that does not charge a student fee and also doesn’t charge for student tickets.

A few months after the last meeting between student government and athletics, Radakovich appeared before the South Carolina legislature. He needed approval to buy a new private jet for Clemson athletics. Radakovich promised legislators he wouldn’t need student fees to pay for the $4.5 million Cessna Citation CJ2, and lawmakers approved the purchase.

About 1,000 miles to the west in Lawrence, a battle to eliminate a student fee at the University of Kansas ended differently.

In two years as a walk-on golfer, Catt got an inside view of Kansas athletics and began to wonder why the department needed $50 from each student every year in addition to ticket payments.

In two years, Kansas athletics spent $9 million in severance on fired football coaches Mark Mangino and Turner Gill. When Catt did not notice any corresponding layoffs or cutbacks, he decided to do some research.

Catt reviewed financial statements that showed Kansas athletics income rose from $50.8 million in 2005 to $93.6 million in 2013. In early 2014, Catt sent a 35-page report to the student senate, arguing that the fee, which produced about $1.1 million for athletics, should be eliminated.

“Students were seeing a rise in tuition, more student debt . . . and the athletics department was making more and more money every year. It just didn’t seem like they needed it,” Catt said in an interview.

Catt’s report was persuasive. Students voted to kill the fee. Athletics administrators fought back, though, and eventually won a compromise from the chancellor that kept a reduced $12 fee. Ultimately, the change cost Kansas athletics about $350,000.

Kansas athletics administrators weren’t satisfied. A few months later, they eliminated one of the best student sections at men’s basketball games — 120 seats right behind the Jayhawks’ bench — and gave the seats to donors who contributed at least $25,000 per year.

“When the student government proposed [eliminating the fee] . . . it made it very clear that it wanted the athletic department to find other ways to raise revenue,” Kansas athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony told a local newspaper. “That’s what we did.”

When Catt talks about the experience today, one comment from a deputy athletics director sticks out in his mind.

“He told me, ‘We’re in the business of being great, and it costs money to be great,’ ” Catt recalled.

A few months later, Kansas fired football coach Charlie Weis, who won just six of 28 games at the school, taking on another $5 million in severance.

“It became clear in our meetings,” Catt said, “that normal economics don’t apply to anyone in Kansas athletics.”


East Carolina University to host first forum for Chancellor search | WCTI

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Nov 302015


By Jason O. Boyd
November 25, 2015

East Carolina University will hold eight separate public forums to get input in its search for a new chancellor.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members are encouraged to attend one of the forums, which will provide information and discuss the characteristics and qualifications they would like to see in the university’s next leader.

One forum each will be held in the eastern part of the state, the Triangle and the western part of the state. There will also be two student forums, two for faculty and staff and a Greenville/Pitt County session.

“Getting input from the East Carolina community is a critical part of our search process,” Steve Jones, chair of the Chancellor Search Committee and of the ECU Board of Trustees, said in a press release.

“We want to hear from all university constituencies about the qualities they’d like to see in the next chancellor. By hosting forums in all three regions of North Carolina, we’re hoping to make these opportunities more accessible for our friends and alumni statewide.”

Chancellor Steve Ballard announced this summer his plans to step down effective July 1. He has served as chancellor since 2004.

Listed below are the dates and times:

Public forums

— Nov. 30, 5 – 6:30 p.m., Craven Community College Naumann Community Room Student Center, Room 115

— Dec. 7, 5:30 – 7 p.m., N.C. State Alumni Center / Centennial Park

— Dec. 8, 5:30 – 7 p.m., UNC Charlotte City Center

Student forums

— Dec. 1, 5 – 6 p.m., Science Tech C209, East Carolina University

— Dec. 2, 6 – 7 p.m., Brody Blue Auditorium, East Carolina University

Faculty/staff forums

— Dec. 1, 4 – 5:30 p.m., Mendenhall Great Rooms, East Carolina University

— Dec. 2, 4 – 5:30 p.m., ECHI Auditorium, East Carolina University

Greenville/Pitt County forum

— Dec. 8, 5 – 6:30 p.m., ECHI Conference Room A, East Carolina University


ECU chancellor forum held in New Bern | The Sun Journal

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Nov 302015


By Sun Journal Staff

November 26, 2015

Craven County and New Bern will have an opportunity Monday to help lay the groundwork used to select a new East Carolina University chancellor.

A forum is scheduled from 5-6:30 p.m. at Craven Community College Naumann Community Room (Student Center, Room 115).

ECU’s 10th Chancellor, Steve Ballard, is stepping down from the university July 1, 2016. Ballard joined ECU in the spring of 2004 and is the longest serving chancellor in the University of North Carolina System.

The purpose of the forums is to gather views of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members on the essential qualifications and characteristics of the next chancellor so that these views can inform the writing of the “leadership profile.”

Sabrina Bengel, a member of ECU’s Board of Visitors, former chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and member of the Chancellor Search Leadership Working Group, said New Bern will be one of the locations for Eastern North Carolina. Other listening forums will be held in Greenville, Raleigh and Charlotte, she said.

“I am excited that New Bern has been chosen as a location where alumni and interested community supporters can give input to the Search Committee regarding the next chancellor,” Bengel said in an email.

Participants at the forum will have the opportunity to speak their mind and/or hear what others are saying about the qualities needed for the next chancellor of East Carolina University. At the forums, four questions will guide the discussions:

1. What are East Carolina University’s greatest strengths? What will a new chancellor have to do to maintain ECU’s strengths?

2. What are some of ECU’s challenges/opportunities? What skills/abilities/resources will the new chancellor need to address these?

3. What are the most important characteristics for the next chancellor of ECU?

4. What type of experiences would you like to see in the next chancellor?


Gastric bypass surgery helping with diabetes | WITN

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Nov 302015


November 25, 2015
By: Dave Jordan/Mackenzie Roberts Email

To view the news video on WITN, click here.

When people undergo gastric bypass surgery it’s usually because they are obese and want to lose weight. But doctors at ECU Physicians in Greenville are seeing another benefit.

The ECU Physicians building is where the ECU Bariatric Surgery Center is located.

Doctors say the observation that diabetes can be controlled, or even go away after a weight loss surgery, like a gastric bypass, was first made right here at East Carolina University.

Gregory Bethea says he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. In 2013 he had gastric bypass surgery. Now he’s 115 pounds lighter and no longer considered a diabetic.

Besides losing weight, Bethea says the surgery helped with his vision and lowered his high blood sugar levels.

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas says a diabetic patient with a BMI, or body mass index over 35, anything over 30 is considered obese, is qualified for the surgery that he says can also decrease chances of heart attack or stroke.

He says the surgery lasts between one and three hours and then recovery is two to four weeks.

Dr. Spaniolas says 80% of diabetic patients who end up getting gastric bypass surgery are no longer diabetic after surgery.

Dr. Spaniolas also says that a lifestyle change is required for success after this procedure and that’s something Bethea has taken very seriously. At 63-years-old he says he now walks six-miles every day and pays close attention to his health.


Editorial: ECU supports bond | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 302015


Sunday, November 29, 2015

East Carolina and other UNC system schools often appear at odds with the Republican-controlled state government. But ECU is understandably supportive of Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $2 billion Connect NC bond.

The university last week announced its board of trustees supports the upcoming bond referendum, which would pump $90 million into ECU’s plans for a 150,000-square-foot Life Science and Biotechnology Building. That investment is in line with growing calls across the state for more college graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathmatics) fields.

According to an ECU news release, the university is among 13 in the state, along with the North Carolina School of Science and Math and all 58 community colleges, slated to receive funding through the bond. The proposed investments in education could stand alone as convincing reasons why voters should approve the bond. Adding the overdue parks and agriculture maintenance needs across the state that also would be funded through the bond further strengthens the governor’s campaign to win approval.

The case might be stronger if McCrory’s original proposal to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of bond revenue into the state’s crumbling highways and other transportation infrastructure had survived the legislative process. What is left, however, is worth keeping.

According to the Connect NC website, UNC System schools would benefit most from the bond, receiving 49 percent. Community colleges are next at 17 percent. Water/sewer and local parks get 16 percent, agriculture 9 percent, parks and the state zoo 5 percent, and the National Guard and Public Safety 4 percent.

The bond proposal is the first in 15 years to upgrade the state’s infrastructure, and the Connect NC campaign emphasizes that North Carolina has increased its population by 2 million people during the period. The list of improvements under the bond slated for eastern North Carolina includes several state parks that are critical tourism destinations and key economic contributors. That is in addition to the universities and community colleges in line for improvements.

The endorsement by ECU illustrates how the campaign for approval will be heating up between now and the March 15 referendum. Voters should study closely the bond and the ways it can benefit the economy and quality of life for North Carolina.

No tax increase will be need to fund the bond and voters should recognize it as an overdue investment whose time has come. “This bond represents a strong investment in the future of North Carolina,” Jim Rose, co-chairman of the Connect NC committee said in ECU’s news release.


Greene educators recognized at East Carolina University | The Free Press

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Nov 302015


By Dustin George
The Free Press

November 27, 2015

Two educators in Greene County were recently inducted in the East Carolina University College of Education Hall of Fame.

Inductees into the hall are sponsored by donors to a special scholarship fund for the College of Education. Money raised by the Hall of Fame is used to give four-year scholarships to incoming freshmen majoring in education.

The hall has raised more than $540,000 in scholarship money since 1999.

Patrick Miller, Greene County Public Schools superintendent, was among the 21 new members to be inducted this year.

Miller has spent 23 years in Greene County schools, first as a teacher at Greene Central High School, and then as an administrator.

“I’ve spent my entire career here in Greene County,” Miller said. “I was certainly flattered and honored that Dr. Sandra Warren (education professor) felt I was worthy enough to be inducted into the hall of fame this year.”

Judith Smith spent her career teaching in Lenoir and Greene counties before going to work at ECU in 2007. She retired earlier this year, and was nominated for the hall by Vivian Covington, director of teacher education at ECU.

Smith said she worked closely with Covington during her time at ECU, and was pleased to be nominated by someone she enjoyed working with.

“I was very pleased and humbled to be included in such a wonderful group of educators,” Smith said.

Both Smith and Miller will have their names engraved and displayed alongside the other members of the Hall of Fame in ECU’s Speight Building.


Colleges, universities seek best ways to handle recent spate of racial incidents on campus | The Associated Press

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Nov 302015


The Associated Press
November 30, 2015

Officials were slow to handle racial incidents at the University of Missouri, and that contributed to protests, a student hunger strike, a threatened boycott by the football team and ultimately, the resignations of two administrators.

At the University of Oklahoma, damage over a racist chant that was caught on video was kept to a minimum when the school president acted quickly to expel the students and condemn the episode.

Swift action is high among the best practices that school leaders can use to help defuse campus tension, experts say.

“There’s no such thing as having a perfect plan, but you have to continually be in the motion of creating a better campus climate,” said Jabar Shumate, Oklahoma’s vice president for the university community.

Benjamin Reese, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, said administrators should not wait for students to demand a meeting. Instead, he said, they can invite students to strategic meetings and join students in protests if it’s over an issue they agree with. Administrators should know what they are going to do before something happens and be willing to speak out immediately, Reese said.

For example, Harvard University President Drew Faust immediately condemned the taping over of portraits of black professors on a wall. “Such acts of hatred are inimical to our most fundamental values and represent an assault on the mutual respect essential to our purposes as a community of learning and inquiry,” Faust said a day after that happened.

“We all absolutely need to prepare and there’s a lot of things that we can do,” said Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark, who joined students at her university at a recent protest.

College leaders cannot create perfect environments, Reese said, “but I better try as hard as I can to work toward that environment.” He plans a national meeting to help colleges come up with strategies.

Campus protests are occurring almost daily.

At Missouri, the perceived slow response to a series of episodes marked by racial slurs and graffiti sparked protests and the resignations. Students are protesting at places such as Yale, where a college administrator upset many students by pushing back against a school committee that asked students to avoid culturally stereotypical Halloween costumes like Native American headpieces.

The Education Department’s civil rights office fielded 53 racial harassment complaints from postsecondary schools in the 2007-2008 budget year, a number similar to previous years going back to 2004. The next year, the number soared to 91 and it has continued to rise almost annually, to a high of 177 before dipping to 146 in the budget year that ended Oct. 1.

To help schools deal with these issues, the department convened students and administrative leaders in Chicago for a private meeting in November, as various schools have taken steps on their own.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the fast response to racial incidents, a campus-wide statement of values to help set a tone for students, and support for student-led initiatives can help episodes from overwhelming campuses.

“There is no constitutional right to perpetuate hostile environments or to engage in threatening speech,” Duncan said. “We can do better in our responses to these incidents and creating more welcoming climates.”

In March, Oklahoma moved swiftly after Sigma Alpha Epsilon members were videotaped singing a racist chant on a charter bus. University President David Boren immediately condemned the video and two students were expelled. Since then, the university has instituted mandatory diversity courses for all freshmen and transfer students.

Officials at Missouri have talked about instituting similar programs at the state’s flagship campus in Columbia, Shumate said.


Opinion: Four tough things universities should do to rein in costs | The Washington Post

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Nov 302015


By Steven Pearlstein
November 25, 2015

Universities in the United States are the best in the world, but the cost of attending them is rising faster than the cost of almost anything else. Professors blame administrative bloat, administrators blame a decline in state funding, politicians blame unproductive faculties who’ve become too set in their ways.

Yet while students are paying more, they are getting less, at least as measured by learning outcomes, intellectual engagement, time with professors and graduation rates. And although students are working more hours at outside jobs and receiving more tuition assistance, student debt now exceeds credit card debt and has become something of a national obsession.

So you would expect universities to have embarked on the fundamental restructuring that nearly every other sector has done to reduce costs and improve quality. They haven’t. Oh, yes, pay and hiring have been frozen, travel budgets cut, secretaries eliminated and class sizes increased, even as cheaper graduate students and adjunct professors have been hired to teach more. Everything has been done that can be done — except changing the traditions, rhythms and prerogatives of academic life.

“There is a cultural aversion to thinking about cost,” explains Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation, who for more than 15 years has run successful pilot projects in course redesign that have significantly cut instructional costs while improving student outcomes at scores of universities.

Among faculty members, there remains a deeply held view that equates spending with quality, considers “accountability” an assault on academic freedom and sees “productivity” as merely code for charlatan anti-intellectualism. For their part, administrators cling to hopes of boosting enrollment and fundraising while waiting for the current budget cycle to pass.

“The American university is a grand political accommodation,” says Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the Center for College Productivity and Affordability. College presidents, he argues, appease faculty members by giving them control over what and how they teach. They appease students and parents with high grades and good facilities. They appease alumni with expensive sports teams. They appease politicians with shiny new research centers. “The idea is to buy off any group that might upset the political equilibrium,” Vedder said.

Nothing I have observed during four years as a professor at George Mason University, seen in the data or heard from higher-education experts is fundamentally at odds with Vedder’s assessment. Even when states have set out to bend the higher-education cost curve, universities have found ways to avoid fundamental change.

What would that change look like? Here are four ideas that seem obvious and reasonable. If a college or university is not moving to embrace them, that’s a pretty good indication that cost-cutting is not a priority.

Cap administrative costs

The best data on college costs comes from the Delta Cost Project, a nonprofit that analyzes data reported to the government. It shows that in the decade prior to 2011, the biggest increase in cost per student at large research universities — the ones that set the competitive norms and that are the focus of this essay — was not in instruction but in administration: student services, institutional support, research and academic support.

While faculty critics have made sport of pointing out the proliferation of assistant provosts or the soaring salaries of college presidents, these don’t represent most new spending. What does is the growth in the number and pay of non-teaching professionals in areas such as academic and psychological counseling, security, information technology, fundraising, accreditation and government compliance.

Administrators cite government regulations, along with increasingly demanding students and parents, as the causes; no doubt those pressures are real. But judging from the amount of time these professionals spend meeting with each other, I’d wager there is plenty of savings to be had by setting priorities and streamlining structure and decision-making. As management consultants from Bain & Co. wrote in a recent report, “In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate — executives would lose their jobs.”

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: A university should spend more on instruction than it spends on anything else, besides research.

Operate year-round, five days a week

What are the three best things about being a college professor? June, July and August. It’s a tired old joke, but it’s true.

In 2002, George Washington University President Stephen Trachtenberg noticed that the school owned roughly $1 billion worth of facilities that sat idle for at least a third of the year. If he could reconfigure the academic calendar for year-round operation, he reasoned, he could enroll thousands more students without having to build new classrooms, labs, dorms or athletic facilities.

Doing so, however, would have required some professors to periodically teach during the summer, which didn’t sit well with the Faculty Senate. Its report on the matter reads like a parody of self-interested whining by coddled academics dressed up as concern for the pedagogical and psychological well-being of their students. The report never acknowledged any potential financial benefit; indeed, it declared such calculations illegitimate when the “academic environment” was at stake. The report also noted the severe hardship that a summer term would impose on professors with school-age children, oblivious to the fact that working parents in every other sector face that challenge.

It’s not just in summers, however, that facilities sit idle. Friday has become the new Saturday on college campuses as many students shun classes, and professors have been all too willing to accommodate them. At Mason, utilization of classroom space during prime daytime hours on Thursdays is 68 percent; on Fridays, it is 38 percent. That’s a bit above the national average, according to estimates from Sightlines, a facilities consulting firm.

A few universities have taken a shot at running on a 12-month calendar or returning Friday to the workweek, but nationally such ideas have gained little traction. Trachtenberg isn’t surprised: “Presidents who spend time fighting with faculty over things like this don’t last long.”

More teaching, less (mediocre) research

Few students or parents realize that tuition doesn’t just pay for faculty members to teach. It also pays for their research.

I’m not talking about research supported by grants. I’m referring to the research by tenure-track faculty members that is made possible because they teach only two courses per semester, rather than the three or more that was once the norm.

Teaching loads at research universities have declined almost 50 percent in the past 30 years, according to data compiled for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. This doesn’t necessarily mean professors aren’t working as hard — surveys show they’re working harder and under more pressure than ever. Rather, says former Mason provost Peter Stearns, it reflects a deliberate shift in focus as universities compete for big-name professors by promising lighter teaching loads and more time for research. In the egalitarian culture of higher education, once some professors won the right to teach less, their colleagues demanded the same. Before long, “two-and-two” teaching loads — two classes in each of two semesters — became the norm.

Today, research is the dominant criterion by which faculty members are evaluated. In deciding which professors get tenure, assessment of teaching tends to be perfunctory (few members of tenure committees ever bother to visit a classroom), and all that is required is competence. It is nearly impossible, however, for a professor to win tenure without publishing at least one book and three or four articles in top academic journals.

Unfortunately, much of that work has little intellectual or social impact.

“The vast majority of the so-called research turned out in the modern university is essentially worthless,” wrote Page Smith, a longtime professor of history at the University of California and an award-winning historian. “It does not result in any measurable benefit to anything or anybody. . . . It is busywork on a vast, almost incomprehensible scale.”

The number of journal articles published has climbed from 13,000 50 years ago to 72,000 today, even as overall readership has declined. In his new book “Higher Education in America,” former Harvard president Derek Bok notes that 98 percent of articles published in the arts and humanities are never cited by another researcher. In social sciences, it is 75 percent. Even in the hard sciences, where 25 percent of articles are never cited, the average number of citations is between one and two.

“For someone just to write a paper that nobody is going to read — we can’t afford that anymore,” says Brit Kirwan, a former chancellor of the University of Maryland.

To accommodate all this research, universities have shifted much more of the teaching load to graduate students with little training or experience in teaching, or to part-time adjuncts who — at $3,000 per course — have become the academic equivalent of day laborers. These strategies have degraded the undergraduate experience and given cost-cutting a bad name.

A better approach would be to offer comparable pay and status to professors who spend most of their time teaching, reserving reduced teaching loads for professors whose research continues to have significance and impact. Some departments at some schools have embraced “differentiated teaching loads,” but most tenured faculty members resist and resent the idea that they need to continually defend the value of their research. And administrators are wary of doing anything that might diminish their universities’ research reputation.

Cheaper, better general education

Roughly a third of the courses undergraduates take fulfill general-education requirements meant to ensure that all students receive a well-rounded education. Universities have gotten more serious about requiring a minimum proficiency in writing and quantitative reasoning, but the rest of general education tends to be an intellectual cop-out. Students are presented with dozens of courses in four or five broad categories and are told to choose two or three from each. Many are large introductory lecture courses (Everything 101) that were designed primarily to provide foundational knowledge for students majoring in that subject, rather than an intellectually stimulating exploration of a discipline. Most of the rest reflect the specific research interests of professors.

This approach to general education, Bok writes, “is more noteworthy for the interests it serves than for the academic purposes it achieves.” According to Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities, it also reflects reluctance on the part of professors to risk offending colleagues by standing up at a faculty meeting and declaring what they think is, and is not, vital for an educated person to know.

A university concerned about cost and quality would restructure general education around a limited number of courses designed specifically for that purpose — classes that tackle big, interesting questions from a variety of disciplines. Harvard, with its Humanities 10 seminars, and the University of Maryland, with its I-Series, have recently taken steps in that direction. But this approach will achieve significant savings only if the courses are designed to use new technology that allows large numbers of students to take them at the same time.

I’m not talking about simply videotaping lectures. I’m talking about combining great talks by one or more professors and outside experts with video clips, animation, quizzes, games and interactive exercises — then supplementing that online material with weekly in-person sessions for discussions, problem solving or other forms of “active learning.” And having “labs” open day and night that use tutors and interactive software to provide individualized instruction in math and writing until the desired competency is achieved.

There is plenty of evidence that using technology in this way boosts course completion rates, improves learning retention and increases student engagement, while reducing per-student costs by an average of 30 to 40 percent, according to Carol Twigg, who has helped design many such pilot courses. Yet despite these successes, Twigg said that almost none of these models have been rolled out campus-wide. At this point, more than three-quarters of students at four-year colleges and universities have never taken an online or hybrid course, the government reports.

Not all college courses are suitable for technologically driven redesign. But to pay for labor-intensive seminars and tutorials, other courses must be made cheaper. The obvious place to start is with general education and foundational classes that offer the best possibility of realizing significant economies of scale.

So why aren’t such cost-cutting ideas on the agenda?

“Institutional isomorphism,” explained Mason President Ángel Cabrera, a former business school dean. That refers to the tendency of any enterprise to affirm its legitimacy by adopting the same structure and culture and output as its peers, even when there may be a competitive advantage to doing things differently.

Jane Wellman, who for many years headed the Delta Cost Project, thinks it’s a governance problem. University presidents and trustees, she said, think about cost in terms of one- or two-year operating budgets, and through that lens, there really isn’t any way to do more with less. Big structural change makes sense only when it’s considered in terms of investment and long-term payoff.

Maryland’s Brit Kirwan thinks the answer may be simpler than that: “Until the public demands it, it won’t happen.” And right now, the public seems to be of two minds about college costs. Parents and students say tuition and student debt are unaffordable. But when push comes to shove, so many are still willing to pay that university trustees and administrators have no incentive to upset the political equilibrium to do something about it.


Dig reveals Grifton’s ancient past | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 302015


By Lucas Simonds
Thursday, November 26, 2015

An archaeological excavation during the summer in Grifton has shown that the area was inhabited much earlier than presumed.

When Paige Ford, a graduate student in archaeology at East Carolina University, went into the field with her colleagues, they expected to find pottery from what is known as the late woodland period, an era that roughly spanned 800-1650.

What they found, however, was that the majority of the pottery came from an earlier period — 300 B.C. to A.D. 800 — along with a large number of artifacts related to stone tool making dating back at least 4,000 years.

Ford was part of a team with ECU professor Tony Boudreaux, graduate student Amy Dubis and a group of high school students from the Summer Ventures program. The team investigated a site along Contentnea Creek on the eastern end of Main and Queen streets known as Koon’s Landing.

“We were expecting to find Cashie pottery, which is associated with the Tuscarora populations in the late woodland and historic periods. And instead, we ended up finding earlier ceramic types,” said Ford, who made a presentation about the dig during the John Lawson Legacy Days in Grifton late last month.

“We also started finding high concentrations of lithic debitage, this stone tool debris, and that kind of indicated the site might be older.”

The results were surprising because the area already had been looked at by researchers from the university in the 1990s. Those researchers found Cashie pottery, and the site was chosen for last summer’s project in the hope it could help Dubis, who is studying that period in history for her thesis, Ford said.

“It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, which was unfortunate for Amy, but still cool,” she said. “It’s always cool to find something you’re not expecting. There was obviously some sort of occupation as early as the late archaic period (5,000 to 3,000 years ago). It’s kind of uncertain, but there was at least some sort of people there. Whether they were just coming there to hunt or making base camps is kind of unclear still.”

Although they cannot say exactly what people were doing in Grifton so many years ago, the idea that the area’s history stretches back that far still is exciting, Ford said.

“When you’re in a place, you don’t think about how early people got there, and it’s cool to know that people have been there for a really long time,” Ford said.

Because they were working with high school students, the first day of the four-week project served as a crash course in archaeology, and the students also got their first look at the site. From there, they went straight into digging shovel test pits — 60 in all across the site, according to Ford.

“Shovel test pits are an easy way to survey a large area in a relatively small amount of time so you can figure out where a site is,” Ford said.

The process consists of laying out a grid and digging small holes at set intervals. The team then looked at what was found in the test pits to decide where to dig larger units, Ford said.

Based on the artifacts from the test pits, the team set up and dug in three one-square-meter units. Although they expected to only dig down 30 to 40 centimeters, they ended up digging down more than a meter in each unit when they continued to find artifacts, Ford said.

“Since we went so deep, the pottery kind of stops around 60 to 70 centimeters down, and then you keep finding that lithic debitage, and in that period you don’t find pottery, you would expect to find lots of stone tools” Ford said. “That’s what we found in every unit, and it would be weird if you only found it in one. It was good that the site was kind of uniform like that.”

Because of the sandy soil near the creek it was somewhat difficult to tell the difference between layers, so the team had to mark off 10 centimeter increments to get an idea of which artifacts belonged in which time, Ford said.

“That was how we were kind of able to see the stratigraphy and see the separation between when the pottery drops off, and then there’s kind of an intermediate period where there are a few artifacts, but not that many, and then the lithic debitage comes in more and more the deeper you go,” Ford said.

Apart from the sandy soil, the group did not encounter many problems other than biting ants and the heat, Ford said, adding that she was impressed by the work of the high school students.

“They were really great kids,” Ford said. “I was a little hesitant at first because I thought they might not be hard workers, but they were really dedicated. And they were able to come up with some really great interpretations about what we found. They’re really perceptive and they also loved digging.”

The Summer Ventures program is open to high school students who want to explore deeper into certain areas of science and math, and is highly competitive, Ford said. The 12 students who worked on her team came from across the state because ECU is the only place that offers archaeology in the program, she added.

The artifacts recovered in the excavation have been cataloged, added to a digital database and are being held at ECU, where they can be preserved and available for future study, Ford said.

As for the site, she is unsure if or when another group might come to investigate more, but the findings from this summer have already greatly expanded our knowledge of Grifton’s past, she said.


Forums set for chancellor search | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 252015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To access the survey, go to the search website, www.ecu.edu/chancellorsearch, and click “search survey” in the purple box on the left.

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

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

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

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


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

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Nov 252015


By Jessika Morgan
November 24, 2015

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

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

Gillette, now 31, said the blindness was gradual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming independent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting records

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

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

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

“You see it in your mind first.”

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

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

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


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

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Nov 252015


From staff reports
November 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article46115935.html#storylink=cpy


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

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Nov 252015


By Susan Svrluga
November 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaction was intense.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi Ya’ll

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the full statement from the president Tuesday morning:

A message from President Bruce Shepard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for being there for all who are Western,



Hotel, alumni center planned | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 252015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edwards said the project likely will total $15 million.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Nov 242015


By Jared Brumbaugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Nov 242015


By Emma Brown
November 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Johnston County Schools name superintendent | The News & Observer

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Nov 242015


By Drew Jackson
November 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/garner-cleveland-record/article46080400.html#storylink=cpy


Playing in the Red | The Washington Post

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Nov 242015


November 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the findings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not enough money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do they do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cost of doing business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedict strongly disagreed with characterizing any Auburn spending as bloated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ECU breaks ground on student center | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 232015


By Holly West
Friday, November 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Nov 232015


Saturday, November 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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


Editorial: Salary demands | The Daily Reflector

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Nov 232015


Saturday, November 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Nov 232015


By Jane Stancill
November 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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