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An essay penned by a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claiming a course at one of North Carolina’s flagship schools cast a favorable light on the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has gone viral in the last week.

The freshman journalism student, Alec Dent, claimed in his essay published on the conservative news site College Fix that readings for the optional freshman seminar course “present terrorists in a sympathetic light and American political leaders as greedy, war hungry and corrupt.”

Problem is, as he told WRAL earlier this week, he didn’t actually take the class or read the listed materials.

UNC offers more than 80 seminar courses to its students but “Literature of 9/11” struck a chord with Dent. The course claims to explore a diverse number of themes related to the September 11 attacks, but for Dent it was not diverse enough.

“The class reading list is what first stuck out to me because it really got me thinking, is this a fair and balanced way of looking at the situation,” Dent said.

The freshman journalism major said that he looked at the reading list as well as the class syllabus before writing a piece for an online student publication called “The College Fix.”

Dent admits that he has not taken the class, nor has he read any of the books on the list, but he still felt the course was too one-sided.

“The more research I did into it, the more it seemed like the readings were sympathetic towards terrorism.”

A student who did do the reading and did take the class took issue with Dent’s description, saying that he enjoyed the class taught by Prof. Neel Ahuja, an associate professor in English at UNC, and found it was balanced.

Since Dent’s review was posted a week ago, it’s gone viral in conservative websites and media outlets, with outrage abounding.

Media Matters took a look at a Fox News segment, which had the header “Required Reading: UNC class sympathizes with 9/11 terrorists” and pointed out that the readings were not required, nor were they pushing a single point of view.

“In addition, the full list of assigned readings for the course does in fact contain diverse literature representing the perspectives of Arab-Americans, residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, artists, historians, musicians, and the international Muslim community, as well as several texts aimed to honor or memorialize victims of the attacks,” the Media Matters piece states.

Watch the Fox News segment for yourself below.

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Note: This post has been updated to include comments about the dismissal from Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Assault charges against R. Doyle Parrish, a member of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, were dropped last week, according to court information.

R. Doyle Parrish

R. Doyle Parrish

Parrish, 61, was arrested in May and accused by Raleigh police of assaulting his wife by slapping and pushing her in a May 12 incident at the couple’s North Raleigh home.

He is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Raleigh-based Summit Hospitality Group, which manages 17 hotels and several restaurants.

Parrish faced a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female, but the case was dismissed by prosecutors on Wednesday, according to information filed at the Wake County courthouse.

Update:

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday that the assault charge against Parrish was dropped because his wife Nancy Parrish, who hired an attorney of her own, was not willing to testify against her husband.

The couple has undergone counseling since the May incident and it did not appear to be a situation where there was an ongoing pattern of physical abuse, Freeman said.

“There was no indication this was an ongoing domestic violence situation,” she said.

Freeman said her office does not generally drop domestic violence cases based on victim’s cooperation alone, but did so in Doyle Parrish’s case because there was little evidence to purse the criminal case with outside of Nancy Parrish’s statements.

Freeman also said Doyle Parrish was not given any special treatment by her office. 

The court file for Parrish’s case could not be located Monday by staff at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Following his arrest, Parrish kept his seat on the UNC Board of Governors, the 32-member board that directs the state’s 17-campus university system. He did step down from committees tasked with selecting the UNC system’s next president, citing the need to take care of some personal issues.

This post will be updated if more details about the dismissed charges become available.

 

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It’s certainly not the highest-profile issue, but the new $21.74 billion state budget (whenever it does get passed) could usher in a new approach to higher education in the state.

Earlier House and Senate versions of the budget endorsed giving Western Governors University, an online-based higher education system, a bigger footprint in the state, and one propped up with taxpayer money.

At this point, there are more questions than answers about what will end up in the final state budget, with House and Senate lawmakers now two months behind issuing a budget for the next two years.

WGU

WGU headquarters in Utah

Western Governors University, or WGU, is a non-profit online college, started in 1995 by a bipartisan group of governors in the western part of the country. It specializes in reaching out to “part-way home” students, those that had taken some college courses but because of life or family choices before obtaining a degree.

(Click here to read a previous article about WGU’s foray into North Carolina.)

It costs students approximately $3,000 for unlimited classes during a 6-month period and uses a competency-based model, where students can get credits for classes if they already know the material and can pass a test showing that.

Here in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory is in favor of bringing WGU to the state, and had a meeting at the Executive Mansion in November with Robert Mendenhall, the CEO of the Utah-based University.

In their proposal, House members suggested letting students attending WGU to tap into a $90 million pool of state money used for need-based aid to students attending private colleges in the state.

The Senate took a different approach, and would give the Utah-based college $2 million in state money to set up shop here, with the possibility of drawing down $5 million more if private funds are also raised.

As expected, WGU has both proponents and critics.

It’s hailed by supporters as a fairly low-cost way for older students who may be busy working to finish their degrees, while critics say it offers an inferior education and undermines existing offerings at universities and community colleges.

The $6,000 annual cost for a year at WGU is much lower than what for-profit online colleges like the University of Phoenix and Strayer University can cost.

But it is on par, or close to what UNC system institutions charged this year in tuition and fees, which range from $4,655 a year at Elizabeth City State University to $8,407 at N.C. State University for the 2015-16 school year.

WGU currently has a six-year graduation rate of 38 percent, a rate they hope to increase, which is much lower than the 63.1 percent that graduate from UNC institutions in six years.

Not everyone’s thrilled at the prospect of WGU coming to the state.

John Fennebresque, the chair of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, says the state’s existing higher education institutions can do more for North Carolina-based students than WGU can.

He attended the November meeting McCrory had with WGU in November.

“We can do all that within the (UNC) system,” Fennebresque said in an interview this week with N.C. Policy Watch. He added, “I saw nothing that they offer that we don’t or can’t do.”

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Community Care of North Carolina saves the state’s Medicaid program money, by about $309 per patient, according to an audit released today by the State Auditor’ s Office.

The audit was conducted at the behest of the legislature, which asked for it in 2013 to see if the state was saving money by using CCNC, a provider-led entity that manages the health care of approximately 1.2 million of the state’s 1.5 million Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is a federally-mandated program that provides health care to low-income children, elderly and disabled people.

North Carolina lawmakers have opted not to expand Medicaid, which would offer health insurance to additional low-income adults not eligible for health insurance subsidies on the open market.

The State Auditor’s office, headed by Democrat Beth Wood, contracted with an outside medical research $279,457 to conduct the audit. Major findings included the $309 annual savings per patient (based on 2003 to 2012 data), as well as what were seen as improved health outcomes, a 20 percent increase in physician’s services (which is believed to prevent more expensive future care) and a 25 percent drop in inpatient admissions. The researcher saw no statistical difference in emergency room visits.

Click here to read the entire audit.

CCNC works by pairing Medicaid patients with a primary care doctor or office, which for an additional fee then helps manage individual patient’s care with the intention of cutting down on unneeded medical expenses and providing better care.

CCNC’s future in the state is murky, with the Republican-led House and Senate chambers currently trying to decide how the $14 billion Medicaid program should be managed, and whether it should be privatized. House members have been more open to keeping CCNC, while the Senate has proposed doing away with the state’s contract with CCNC and instead turning to managed-care health companies to take over the bulk of the state’s Medicaid cases.

There’s also been considerable turnover in CCNC itself. Several top leaders left the non-profit entity recently, for what CCNC described as a “downsizing.”

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Today’s the day for former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque to report to prison.

LaRoque, 51, a former high-ranking Republican in the state legislature from Kinston, was sentenced to two years in federal prison in July, after pleading guilty to criminal charge in connection with the theft of $300,000 from a federally-funded non-profit. He is expected to serve his term at a federal prison in Butner.

LaRoque

LaRoque

In the days prior to today’s prison report-in date, LaRoque issued a five-page statement to select media (N.C. Policy Watch not among them) stating that he had been targeted as part of a “witchhunt” in retaliation for his political views and his calling Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP a racist.

He accused the chief prosecutor and IRS agent who conducted the criminal probe of misconduct. He also accused N.C. Policy Watch of unfairly attacking him when a 2011 investigation into his management of the non-profits was published.

(We deny that accusation, and stand by the reporting that has been done.)

From the full text of LaRoque’s statement, published by the Kinston Free Press:

During my last term in the N.C. House in 2011, I received a ranting racist email from William Barber, President of the N.C. NAACP. I replied to the email asking that they discontinue sending me any email from a racist like William Barber. This is the same William Barber, who in 2014 in another racist rant, referred to South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott as a “Ventriloquist’s Dummy.” Shortly after my comments about William Barber, I was smeared by N.C. Policy Watch, an offshoot of the partisan left-wing organization known as the N.C. Justice Center whose Board of Directors included William Barber. This organization colluded to smear me, along with attorneys John Marshall and John Archie of the Kinston law firm of White & Allen, who were representing my political opponent from the previous year’s election.

I believe my actions in advocating for my home town’s non-partisan elections and calling out William Barber as the racist he is was why I was targeted by the DOJ.

Federal prosecutors presented evidence that LaRoque used the federal-sourced funds from two economic development funds he ran to help buy himself cars, a Greenville ice skating rink and jewelry and replica Faberge eggs for his wife.

The federal investigation was opened after a 2011 investigative report was published by N.C. Policy Watch that pointed out LaRoque’s excessive salaries for managing the small non-profits, which were governed for years by a board made of his immediate relatives, and his loaning of money to close associates and political allies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provided the funds for the non-profit business lending groups, provided scant oversight of LaRoque’s dealings for several years.

Both federal and IRS rules governing non-profits have strict rules about how the money could be used, and directors of non-profits are specifically prohibited from using their non-profits for personal benefits.