Higher Ed, News

House Speaker Tim Moore to make high profile trip to Greenville as ECU chancellor search continues

Last month, Policy Watch reported that sources close to the ECU Chancellor search say N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) is pursuing the job.

Though Moore’s office said he was running for re-election, they did not respond to follow-up questions about whether that would preclude him also seeking the ECU job.

Later this month, the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce is welcoming Moore as the featured speaker for its March Power Luncheon.

Recent letters to the Daily Reflector newspaper in Greenville reflect some public pushback against the idea of Moore, one of the state’s most powerful Republican leaders, pursuing a job that would require the very ECU Board of Trustee and UNC Board of Governors members he appointed to give him the position.

The ECU Board of Trustees recently began its chancellor search process in earnest, even as it grapples with a series of scandals related to its leadership and the actions of some trustees. In November, the UNC system named a 20-member search committee that will recommend finalists to UNC-system Interim President Bill Roper, who will recommend a final candidate to the Board of Governors. The board will then vote on whether to make that candidate ECU’s next leader.

Last month, Robert Moore became the second ECU trustee to resign after attempting to recruit a student to run for student government president and thereby, he hoped, swing the balance of power on the school’s Board of Trustees.

In his resignation letter, Robert Moore suggested Tim Moore (no relation) was seeking the chancellorship at ECU – news to much of the public but not, board members said this week, to those close to the process.

“In closing I want to again thank you for the opportunity to serve the institution that I have come to adore and love,” Robert Moore wrote to the Speaker. “I would also like to wish you the very best of luck in your continued pursuit of the position of Chancellor at East Carolina University.”

Late last year rumors surfaced Moore was pursuing the presidency of the UNC System, causing pushback from students, faculty, staff and even some members of the UNC Board of Governors.

Higher Ed, News

Margaret Spellings addresses education issues a year after UNC exit

Margaret Spellings officially left her position as President of the UNC System one year ago.

Just last month Spellings — now president and CEO of the non-profit Texas 2036 — had a public conversation on “The Future of Higher Education” at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her talk touched on public investment in higher education, the importance of access to education and a number of other issues with which UNC continues to struggle even as it continues to search for her replacement.

 

In conversation with UTEP College of Education Dean Clifton Tanabe, Spellings tackled Pew Research Center and Gallup data that shows views of higher education sharply divided along partisan lines.

“The data says that about half of Americans used to think education was part of the solution — that it was a great American institution and virtue,” Spelling said. “Now, more than half of the people think that it’s part of the problem in our country.”

The study actually said about half of American adults think colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days. About four-in-ten (38%) said they are having a negative impact.

“The share of Americans saying colleges and universities have a negative effect has increased by 12 percentage points since 2012,” the Pew Center wrote in an August 2019 summary of its data. “The increase in negative views has come almost entirely from Republicans and independents who lean Republican. From 2015 to 2019, the share saying colleges have a negative effect on the country went from 37% to 59% among this group. Over that same period, the views of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic have remained largely stable and overwhelmingly positive.”

Spellings emphasized getting students at the K-12 level interested in college, particularly those who may be the first generation in their family to attend.

That’s a theme Spellings has returned to throughout her career, from the No Child Left Behind Act during her tenure as Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush to programs to the  NC Promise tuition program during her time at UNC. During that program’s initial phase tuition at Elizabeth City State UniversityUniversity of North Carolina at Pembroke and  Western Carolina University  was dropped to $500 per semester.

Though the program had the support of N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), it was one of a number of moves during Spellings’ presidency of the UNC System that earned her ire from conservatives who found her not sufficiently ideological in the role.

Spellings ultimately resigned her position at UNC after three years amid a series of simmering tensions and public conflicts with the UNC Board of Governors over everything from the Silent Sam Confederate monument to the proper role of the board in relation to the system president.

The UNC System has received  “several dozen” applications for in its search for UNC System president, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey said last week.

The search committee met last week to begin reviewing them.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper is scheduled to leave his interim position in June. If a new president hasn’t been found by then, Ramsey said, the board will have to deal with that situation then.

 

Higher Ed, News

Conflict at ECU continues as yet another trustee complaint remains unresolved

It’s been a big month for ECU scandals with two members of the school’s Board of Trustees ultimately resigning as a result of a scheme to recruit and finance a student government presidential candidate.

One of those trustees, Robert Moore, alleged in his resignation letter that N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore is pursuing the open chancellor position at ECU — which other trustees and members of the UNC Board of Governors later confirmed to Policy Watch.

But as February comes to a close, there is another outstanding ECU trustee complaint.

As part of a storm of complaints and cross-complaints on the school’s sharply divided Board of Trustees, Moore filed a complaint against trustee Max Joyner. The complaint involves allegations Joyner used his position as a trustee and information he gained on the board as part of a real estate deal near campus. Moore has also alleged Joyner tried to recruit his own student government presidential candidate at the school.

ECU Board of Trustee member Max Joyner.

The UNC Board of Governors didn’t take up the complaint against Joyner earlier this month when it held a hearing on Lewis and Moore, as members indicated they wanted more information on the complaint before they proceeded.

But last week, during the closed session portion of a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors’ University Governance Committee, committee members said it would be appropriate to contact ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Vern Davenport about removing Joyner from his trustee committee assignments until the matter is resolved. UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey agreed.

Joyner is chair of the ECU trustees’ University Affairs and Economic Development committees and a member of the Audit, Risk Management, Compliance and Ethics Committee.

Joyner is also a former Greenville City Council member and former member of the the Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority Board. He is a second-generation member of the ECU Board of Trustees, following his father.

Developments are expected in the case as soon as next week, according to sources close to the matter.

Policy Watch will continue to report this story as it develops.

Higher Ed, News

Sons of Confederate Veterans conference hits Raleigh this weekend

Image: Adobe Stock

The Sons of Confederate Veterans organization is bringing its annual Stephen D. Lee Conference to Raleigh this weekend — and a large scale protest is being organized.

The Confederate group has been fairly constantly in the news in the last few months.

In late November the group struck a deal with the UNC Board of Governors to get possession of the controversial Silent Sam Confederate monument — and $2.5 million in a trust for its care. The deal prompted immediate backlash from the students, faculty, staff and community of UNC-Chapel Hill, where the statue stood for more than 100 years before protesters brought it down in 2018.

Earlier this month the same judge who approved the Silent Sam settlement scrapped it — and dismissed the original lawsuit by the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ North Carolina division.

A coalition of local anti-racist organizations called Smash Raleigh Racism is organizing a protest of the event to be held Saturday, Feb. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. across the from conference site, the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham Airport/Brier Creek, 8001 Arco Corporate Drive in Raleigh.

“The Sons of Confederate Veterans are a white supremacist organization with ties to the KKK, League of the South, and other violent, fascist groups,” Smash Raleigh Racism said in a statement Tuesday. “The state of North Carolina refuses to remove the racist confederate monuments from the state capitol building, making racist groups like the SCV feel welcome in North Carolina. Our community, which opposes racism and bigotry, wishes to make sure they know that their hate is not welcome in our state.”

Information on the protest can be found at the event page on Facebook.

Higher Ed, News

News and notes from Friday’s UNC Board of Governors meeting

Friday’s meeting of the UNC Board of Governors didn’t contain any major bombshells — but there were some noteworthy moments and comments as the board looks to move beyond recent controversies at East Carolina University and the ongoing issue of the Silent Sam Confederate monument.

SILENT SAM

UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey said he was “very disappointed” that a North Carolina Superior Court judge recently scrapped the UNC System’s settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Ramsey said the university is working to get back the monument, which he said will be secured off-campus, and the $2.5 million it paid the Confederate group in the settlement.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper said emphatically that the monument will not return to campus.

Both Roper and Ramsey said the system will continue to seek a lasting and lawful solution to the issue of the monument but said they don’t want the UNC Board of Governors or the system to concentrate more on it than various more pressing issues — finding a new UNC System President and filling several vacant chancellorships among them.

No word yet on whether the system will seek to get back the $74,999 the UNC Board of Governors paid in a separate deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans as part of an agreement to keep them from protesting on campus with Confederate flags, Ramsey said. The system’s lawyers are dealing with the question, he said.

UNC SYSTEM PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH

The UNC System has received  “several dozen” applications for UNC System president, Ramsey said Friday.

The search committee will meet next week to begin reviewing them. No timeline is set for choosing a new president for the system, he said.

Roper is scheduled to leave his interim position in June. If a new president hasn’t been found by then, he said, the board will have to deal with that situation then.

The number and quality of the candidates is a testament to the high regard in which the university system is still held, Ramsey said, despite many well publicized problems at the system level and various campuses over the last few years.

STATE BUDGET STANDOFF

Roper again addressed the state budget stalemate Friday.

While being careful to say he isn’t taking a political side on the issue, Roper highlighted the many problems across the system arising from the budget impasse between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly.

“I say this without seeking to be political and without placing blame on any party or any single state official,” Roper said. “My concern for the UNC system is, pure and simple, non-partisan. But there is too much at stake to quibble over how our budget gets enacted. I’m passionate about seeing that it does get enacted, one way or another.”

Policy Watch previously reported that trustees at UNC Schools were bristling at a UNC Board of Governors resolution that called on state lawmakers to pass the currently proposed budget, which would require a veto override. It also gave a directive to individual boards of trustees at UNC schools across the state to pass concurring resolutions.

The legislature adjourned last month without resolving the months’ long budget stalemate and withSenate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) saying it’s possible no new state budget will be passed this fiscal year or next.

Since July, Republican legislative leaders have tried and failed to wrangle enough votes to overturn the budget veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, who among other objections, would like to see Medicaid expanded in the state.

Though many boards of trustees at UNC Systems complies, others — including UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T — said they were uncomfortable passing a resolution that specifically asked for a solution favored by Republicans in the legislature but opposed by Democrats.

Roper emphasized the problems caused by what he called “the ongoing state budget morass” and said a solution is needed, however it happens.

“The consequences of not having a budget in place are reaching every corner of our state,” Roper said. “Ultimately the impact will be felt most profoundly by the students and the communities we serve.”

Roper listed a number of high profile problems. Among them:

* Without the half-million dollars in capital funds it was anticipating, Western Carolina University has been unable to replace the outdated and failing steam plant that provides heat and hot water on campus. “The plant is one hash winter or one mechanical failure from a complete campus shut-down,” Roper said.

* The opening of the North Carolina School of Science and Math’s campus in Morganton has been postponed until next year.

*N.C A&T has been unable to renovate Carver Hall, Roper said, leaving Agriculture students working in non ADA-compliant classrooms without proper air conditioning.

* At UNC-Pembroke new health science and STEM buildings can’t move forward.

Roper said next month he and his colleagues will undertake a road trip across the state to highlight the various problems at universities that would be solved or alleviated by passing a state budget.