News

UNC Board of Governors approves chancellor incentive pay plan, paid parental leave

The UNC Board of Governors approved two new policies Friday aimed at recruiting and retaining employees — and incentivizing their success.

The board approved a paid parental leave policy matching the one Gov. Roy Cooper gave employees of agencies under his oversight this month through executive order. Employees giving birth will be eligible for 8 weeks of fully paid parental leave. Those who adopt, foster or have a legal placement of a child will be eligible for four weeks. The university system has about 30,000 employees who could potentially take advantage of the new policy.

The board also approved in principle a plan to create an incentive pay plan for UNC system chancellors. The plan, whose final details will still have to be worked out and approved by the board, would give the opportunity to earn between up 20 percent of their base salary as an incentive. The pay would mean lower base salaries for future chancellors and the incentive pay as part of their overall salary — not as a bonus on top of salaries that as of 2018 ranged from $291,305 per year to $664,387 at N.C. State University.

“This is a matter the board of governors has been considering since 2015,” said Interim UNC System President Bill Roper Friday.

Roper said a full plan may be done by the November meeting of the board but may take as long as January to finalize.

The system needs to begin doing what many other sectors of the economy now do, Roper said — reward people for performance with incentive pay.

“The notion is to have base pay be good but not at the top of the range, so-to-speak,” Roper said. “And then have the opportunity to earn additional pay for performance that is in the direction of things that the university and the university system want to accomplish.”

The message, Roper said, is that chancellors will not be guaranteed their pay “just for breathing.”

“You’ve got to perform,” Roper said.

Metrics would be different at the state’s 16 public universities, according to Roper and UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith. But among the overall metrics would be whether schools are attracting and retaining students and graduating them on time and with less debt as well as taking more students from rural and low income backgrounds.

Smith said he believes both new policies would allow the system should help the university recruit the “high value athlete” brand of employees for which they’re searching.

“It’s hard to find them and it’s getting harder,” Smith said.

Commentary, News

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. PW exclusive: Experts question business dealings of UNC Board of Governors member

Thom Goolsby, a former North Carolina state Senator now serving on the UNC Board of Governors, is running an “online financial education” company that might run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry, a Policy Watch investigation has found.

Two securities law experts who have examined the business’ offerings at Policy Watch’s request say Goolsby could be violating the spirit – and potentially the letter – of the order, issued in April 2014 by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State.

“It certainly has the aroma that he’s gone beyond the consent decree in terms of what he’s offering to people who donate to this,” said Tom Hazen, a UNC-Chapel Hill law professor with expertise in corporate, securities and commodities law.[Read more…]

2. NC’s Mark Meadows out as head of Freedom Caucus


Future of once-powerful congressional group in question as “Trump whisperer” takes his leave

Once called the “most powerful man in the House,” North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows is stepping down from his perch atop the conservative U.S. House Freedom Caucus after nearly three years as its chairman.

The move comes as the once-powerful Freedom Caucus has been forced to change its tactics on Capitol Hill. Republicans lost the House majority this year and no longer set the agenda in the lower chamber of Congress. The caucus that spent years pushing GOP leadership to the right is now fighting the Democratic majority and gearing up for 2020. [Read more…]

3. Doing the math on Duke Energy’s “climate strategy” — and its campaign contributions

Duke Energy calls its new net-zero carbon emissions plan a “directional beacon,” but for critics of the utility, the proposal is blind to the drivers of climate change.

Tuesday’s announcement from the energy titan offered no hard-and-fast numbers in which to hold the utility accountable, stating only that by 2050, Duke will have phased out coal. The company will still use natural gas. The utility also said it “hopes to have a new set of generation resources that are low- to no-carbon. These include new nuclear technologies, longer-lasting energy storage and other options we haven’t even considered yet.”

But the utility’s plan ignores an inevitable increase in methane — a potent greenhouse gas even more destructive than carbon dioxide — from an increased use of natural gas. Nor does the plan address how the utility will offset a projected 5.5 million tons in additional carbon emissions each year from just two of its natural gas plants. [Read more…]

4. Private religious school receives state voucher money despite teaching homosexuality is a sin

In the western part of the state, the “Citizen Times” reports that a conservative religious school that receives a third of Buncombe County’s opportunity scholarship money teaches students that homosexuality is a sin.

Temple Baptist School in West Asheville is also dismissive of the theory of evolution, the paper reports. It opts to evangelize about Young Earth creationism, which contends Earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

Here’s how Brian Washburn, the administrator at Temple Baptist, explained the school’s approach to those subjects.

“What we do is based on the Bible as our foundation,” Washburn told the “Citizen Times.” “So that’s going to influence our approach to teaching all of our subject areas. [Read more…]

5. NC’s late summer political turmoil undermines democracy

The confluence of three essentially unprecedented events combined to make last week an extraordinary one in the modern history of North Carolina policy and politics.

On Tuesday, the state conducted a special election to choose 15% of its delegation to the U.S House of Representatives. Under normal circumstances, such an event and its aftermath would have dominated the news cycle all week – especially given that one of the two districts had been the subject of intense national scrutiny ever since rampant ballot fraud tainted the 2018 vote. [Read more…]

Not last week. [Read more…]

6. ‘A perfect synergy:’ Attorneys behind UNC Center for Civil Rights merge with national group

Civil rights litigation isn’t always about securing a win in court – sometimes there is a deeper reclamation that comes from fighting for what’s right alongside others who care about the cause.

That was evident Sept. 12 as racial and social justice advocates from across the state gathered to celebrate the work of Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, the former heads of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

After UNC fired the two attorneys in December 2017 and banned the Center for Civil Rights from taking legal action on behalf of its poor and minority clients, Dorosin and Haddix moved their work to the newly-launched Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights and continued working from Haddix’s home.

After seeking a partnership to expand their resources and advance their work, in July, they united with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national nonprofit that, since 1963, has worked to address inequities for Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. [Read more…]

7. Does money matter in public education? Let us count the ways.

Powerful new research confirms numerous benefits of substantially increasing public investments

For decades, a debate raged in education policy circles: does money matter? While this question has definitively been answered by academics, it will undoubtedly be the subject of heated debate over the next year in North Carolina.

In June, court-appointed consultants submitted a much-anticipated report detailing how North Carolina can meet its constitutional requirement to provide a “sound, basic education” to all students. For the time being, the report – part of the longstanding Leandro court case – remains confidential. But most observers anticipate the report will recommend that the state substantially boost its investment in public schools. [Read more…]

8. Policy Watch podcasts:

Click here for the latest commentaries and newsmaker interviews with Rob Schofield

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon

Commentary, News

Hopeful news for 2020? Student voting was way up in 2018.

"Vote" pin

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David Rice of the group Higher Ed Works forwarded along an article from Inside Higher Education this morning that includes some encouraging news about a Tufts University study on student participation in U.S. elections. This is from “Massive Surge in Student Voting”:

Turnout among college student voters more than doubled from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections, according to a new report suggesting that a traditionally apathetic voting bloc may significantly influence next year’s presidential contest and politics at large.

Political researchers say efforts by colleges and universities to boost student civic engagement are paying off and that nearly 40 percent of students who were eligible to vote cast ballots in the 2018 elections, a significant upswing from 19 percent in the 2014 election. The change reflects a nationwide rise in voting participation in nearly every age demographic, but the spike among students is particularly noticeable.

The report released Thursday by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education details the surge in college student voting. The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which launched in 2013, is now widely considered to be the best gauge of student voting patterns….

The study also found that voting rates were up among students of all races.

As noted, the report attributes the spike to variety of factors — from the rise of Trump to intentional efforts on college campuses to spur student participation. In the latter vein, it highlights a program at UNC Greensboro:

For instance, students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are given a checklist when they move out of the dormitories that asks them whether they’ve updated their voter registration with their new address.

Not surprisingly, the growth in participation has alarmed some conservatives.

Lawmakers are taking notice that students — who overwhelmingly tend to vote liberal — may play a role in the upcoming election. Some lawmakers have tried to limit early voting centers on campuses, as a result. For example, the former Maine governor Paul LePage, a Republican, went so far as to disseminate misleading information about the requirements for voting.

Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, recently was accused of disenfranchising college voters by scheduling two special elections on dates when certain students would not be on campus.

The bottom line: One can only hope that the events of the last few years, as well as the growing existential threats posed by the climate crisis and environmental challenges, have spurred young people to awareness and action and that it’s not a temporary phenomenon.

News

Trump’s pick for labor secretary questioned gay rights in 1985 article

Eugene Scalia attends his confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Labor Secretary in front of the the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

Senators ask son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia about past opposition to LGBTQ equality

WASHINGTON — When Eugene Scalia was a fourth-year English major at the University of Virginia in 1985, he penned an article for the student paper about gay rights.

In it, he referred to a lesbian couple that had visited the university, “the proud parents of a daughter fathered by a homosexual acquaintance.”

He went on, “Now I do not suggest that we all conform to a particular lifestyle, but this arrangement, for one, is in conflict with the fundamental organization of our society: I do not think that we should treat it as equally acceptable or desirable as the traditional family life.”

He concluded: “I am not sure how I stand on the basic issue of gay rights.”

Scalia, who is now President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Labor, was grilled on the article Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate.

“My worry is that your views have not necessarily matured as the country’s have,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told him.

Scalia stressed that he was in college when the article was written, and that he “wouldn’t write those words today.” That’s in part, he said, because “I now have friends and colleagues to whom they would cause pain and I would not want to do that.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) pressed Scalia further on the article, asking Scalia whether he now believes that LGBTQ Americans are entitled to equal protections under the law.

“That is what the Supreme Court ordained,” Scalia responded, but Kaine pressed him for his personal views. Scalia then said he does personally believe that LGBTQ Americans are entitled to equal protections under the law.

The nominee also said he believes it’s wrong for an employer to terminate someone based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Scalia — the son of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — has worked as a corporate lawyer and also served as the Labor Department’s top attorney during the George W. Bush administration.

Democrats on the committee slammed his previous work for big corporations, questioning whether he was an appropriate nominee to carry out the Labor Department’s mission.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said he’s “skeptical” of the nomination based on Scalia’s record.

The top Democrat on the Senate committee charged with vetting Scalia, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, said he would be better suited to be a “secretary of corporate interests.” She said Scalia’s career has shown “hostility to the very workers he would be charged with protecting.”

Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin told Scalia,“Your history and record on worker safety is of concern to me and is not what I’d be looking for in our next secretary of labor.”

She pointed specifically to his previous work defending UPS against claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and his representation of Sea World after a killer whale attacked and killed a trainer.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee — said he was concerned that Scalia was being unfairly criticized for his work as a corporate lawyer.

“Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and very effective advocacy,” Alexander said.

“I am not necessarily my clients,” Scalia told senators. “I will seek to defend them, to vindicate their rights, but that doesn’t mean that I necessarily think that what they did was proper.”

If confirmed, Scalia would replace former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who resigned earlier this year amid controversy over his role in securing a plea deal for the late Florida financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief for the States Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

Education, News

UNC system chancellors weigh in on search for next UNC system president

Chancellors from UNC System schools weighed in on the search for the system’s next president Thursday at a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors’ Presidential Search Committee.

N.C. State University President Randy Woodson told the board he believes it’s essential the next president of the system understand the system, its schools and how the ways in which they are all unique. As important, he said, is that they be willing to do things differently in a fast-changing higher education environment.

To do that effectively, he said, the next president will have to have the support of the board.

“We need a leader who is embraced by this board and empowered by this board to lead the system,” Woodson said.

The relationship between the board and the system’s new leader was a recurring theme among the chancellors Thursday, with allusions to the tensions between the board and its last president, Margaret Spellings.

Spellings resigned her position last year after just three years as president of the system. During her tenure political and personal tensions with members of the board of governors exploded into public acrimony.

N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin addressed that problem most directly, saying the system’s next leader needs both the support of the board and also the system’s chancellors.

“My observation — and I think I speak for our chancellors around the table — is the president seemingly over the last few years of tenure, has had the appearance of protecting the universities from the board around matters that were in our minds relevant, quality, competitive conversations we should be having,” Martin said.

That led chancellors to feel they had to defend their universities and the roles they play, Martin said — not a position in which most leaders want to find themselves.

There was disagreement among the chancellors and board of governors members Thursday about how important it is for the system’s next leader to be a native North Carolinian or at least a long-time resident of the state.

UNC-Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois said he doesn’t believe it’s important the system’s next leader come from North Carolina — but he would like to see the next system president serve from between 8 and 10 years.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz agreed that where the next president comes from shouldn’t be a determining factor – but did say he believes they should have a strong grounding in higher education. His comments may be in response to some board of governors members who have said they believe chancellors and presidents should be chosen from other areas — especially business.

Board of Governors member Philip Byers said he doesn’t believe the board needs to look far for its next president.

“When I look around this table, I see people who could be the next president of the UNC system,” Byers said. “I don’t think we need to look all over the country.”

One person around that table — board of governors member Tom Fetzer — denied persistent rumors he wants the job as system president or to become the next chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Lord no,” Fetzer told Policy Watch Thursday.

Fetzer said he has young children and wouldn’t want to put his family through the current social media environment in either a bid for that sort of leadership position or a run for office.

Under rules approved by the board, any Board of Governors member who did want to be considered in a search would need to resign their board position first.