Commentary

Surprise! Margaret Spellings disappoints in response to LGBT discrimination law

spellings-400cNew UNC system president Margaret Spellings has weighed in on the state’s new LGBT discrimination law with a memo addressed to all system chancellors. Not surprisingly, the memo, which foreshadowed its predictable conclusions with the bureaucratic subject line (“Guidance – Compliance with the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act”) does exactly what Spellings critics and skeptics would have predicted — toe the line laid down by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory. The memo specifically directs chancellors to establish restroom access policies in contravention of federal law.

In response, groups challenging the discrimination law issued the following response earlier today:

Groups Challenging HB2 Respond to UNC Position on Discriminatory Law

RALEIGH – The University of North Carolina system today announced that it has chosen to follow House Bill 2, a sweeping anti-LGBT law that would prevent transgender students, employees, and visitors from using the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and Equality NC released the following joint statement:

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety, and wellbeing of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender. By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people – it also violates federal law.” Read more

Commentary

More trickledown pay raises for top one percenters at UNC

UNCLogoThere they go again. A few months after the UNC Board of Governors dropped some big cash on system chancellors, UNC Chapel Hill trustees have bestowed big, retroactive raises on an array of already extremely well-paid administrators. This is, of course, at a time when other North Carolina public employees of more modest stature are mostly doing without.

As Jane Stancill of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning:

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, recently received a 10 percent raise, bringing his annual pay to $642,268.

The $58,388 increase for Cunningham was the largest among those approved for nine high-ranking university administrators, who got raises or bonuses ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent.

The increases were part of the annual raise process, according to a university spokesman who said new salary levels were retroactive to July 1, 2015. Trustees initially approved the increases in a December mail ballot, which was ratified last week. The vote last week was unanimous.”

The article goes on to report that the trustees hope to “make adjustments in faculty pay” as well, but as always seems to be the case, that will come after the folks at the top are taken care of. No word about adjunct instructors, food service workers, janitors, etc….

Of course, it seems likely that the conservative leaders in state government will be all in with this approach. After all, they always talk about wanting to “run government like a business” and what could be more business-like in modern America than bestowing big raises on the bosses first and leaving the crumbs for everyone else?

(As an aside, it’s also worth noting that all of the folks receiving raises have received extremely large state income tax cuts in recent years thanks to the the shortsighted policies at work in Raleigh).

Click here to read the rest of Stancil’s story ans see the full list of raises.

News

UNC system official explains N.C.’s prodigious drop in those seeking teaching degrees

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bMembers of the N.C. State Board of Education received some more troubling news about teachers Wednesday.

Alisa Chapman, vice president for academic and university programs in the UNC system, presented data that show the state’s increasing inability to attract students to the teaching profession.

Since 2010, enrollment in bachelor’s and master’s education programs systemwide has plummeted 30 percent, said Chapman. And while the plunge has slowed—enrollment declined just 3.4 percent from fall 2014 to fall 2015, Chapman told state education leaders that the trend should be “very concerning.”

“The challenge in hiring teachers in our state is going to increase,” said Chapman, adding that it would be “even more challenging” to recruit educators in rural counties, many of which serve a low-income population that tends to struggle academically.

In a state that ranks 42nd in teacher pay nationally, teacher satisfaction and recruitment figures to have a big year in 2016.

Read more

Commentary

Editorial: Make community college in NC more affordable, not more expensive

Tuition2For years, the denizens of the think tanks funded by right-wing power broker Art Pope have been making two rather remarkable arguments with respect to higher education: 1) that too many North Carolinians go to college and 2) that tuition and fees should be much higher in order to place more of the cost of attendance directly on students and their families.

It’s essentially the Ebeneezer Scrooge, no-free-lunch, pick-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps  argument. Indeed, if you tilt your head and cup your ear you can almost hear a gaggle of grumpy old white guys sitting around and lamenting how today’s younger generation has no respect and doesn’t have to sacrifice like they did when they went to college.

All of this would be easy to dismiss as so much absurd, conservative blather except for the unfortunate fact that these people and their buddies are, for the time being, running the state. Hence the rapid increases in college fees and tuition in North Carolina in recent years and the disturbing moves to downsize the UNC system.

Fortunately, more and more people are catching on to what these folks are up to and are pushing back. The lead editorial in yesterday’s Greensboro News & Record did a good job of giving voice to the views of those who believe that widespread higher education is a necessity for any state that wants to thrive in the 21st Century. Here’s the N&R:

“Last year, a solidly Republican state launched the Tennessee Promise, which provides last-dollar scholarships for first-time students at community and technical colleges.

North Carolina, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction. It’s raising tuition for community colleges and may add significant surcharges decided on a campus-by-campus basis. The surcharge, up to 10 percent of tuition, would generate revenue strictly for needs on the individual campus where the money was raised.”

After highlighting the fact that many conservative states (besides Tennessee) are actually following President Obama’s urging by pushing to lower costs (and lamenting North Carolina’s move in the opposite direction) the editorial puts it this way:

“North Carolina should make it easier for students to attend community college, not more expensive.

The Tennessee Promise, when implemented last year, immediately boosted enrollment by 6 percent.

Other states, including Indiana, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma, are considering similar plans….

Which makes it frustrating that North Carolina wants to shift more costs to the students, at both community college and state university campuses.

A 10 percent tuition surcharge would yield more than $2 million a year for Guilford Technical Community College, according to system estimates. The money could be well spent, providing better educational experiences. But putting more state resources into community colleges would be a wiser strategy.

The $2 billion bond proposal is a sound investment in a state that has fallen behind in building 21st century infrastructure. But human capital is lagging, too. Providing community college training at less cost to students, not more, could pay big dividends.

If North Carolina doesn’t, competing states will leave us behind.”

Commentary

Appointment of politician’s daughter to UNC School of the Arts board raises questions

Governor McCrory released his latest list of appointees to various state colleges and university boards yesterday. As is almost always the case, the list appeared to include a number of friends and supporters and otherwise connected Republicans. One nominee did, however, stand out. This is from the Governor’s news release:

University of North Carolina School of the Arts Board of Trustees
Anna Folwell (New York, N.Y.) – Folwell is an Executive Project Manager for the Home Team Sports Division at Fox Sports. She previously worked for the company as a Marketing Coordinator. Additionally, through her own company, she has worked in event planning, marketing, production, and community outreach initiatives. She has her Bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill in Media and Journalism and a second degree in Communication Studies. In her free time, she volunteers at various organizations and is a founder of the UNC in NYC Media Mentors group.

Dale Folwell

Dale Folwell

Anna Folwell - Image: LinkedIn.com

Anna Folwell – Image: LinkedIn.com

Ms. Folwell is the daughter of Dale Folwell, a former state representative, assistant Commerce Department secretary and frequent candidate for statewide office (he ran for Treasurer in 2008, Lt. Governor in 2012 and is running again for Treasurer this year). And while, the phenomenon of a connected politician’s relative securing a state government appointment would not ordinarily raise many eyebrows, a couple of items about Ms. Folwell’s appointment to what is a fairly distinguished Board of Trustees do stand out.

First of all, Ms. Folwell is, by all  indications, just starting her professional, career. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2012 and R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem in 2008. Since graduating from UNC, she appears to have worked at a handful of jobs in the media production business — first in Los Angeles and, since August 2014, in New York City for Fox Sports. All of this is, of course, great for a mid-20’s young professional trying to make her way in the working world, but it does raise real questions about whether she is truly qualified to help lead a great institution of higher learning.

This is how the School of the Arts Board is described on the school’s website:

“The University of North Carolina School of the Arts Board of Trustees is composed of 20 distinguished citizens, with eight members elected by the UNC Board of Governors and four appointed by the Governor. The membership also includes a representative of the North Carolina Symphony, the Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources, the President of the UNCSA Student Government Association, an Alumni Representative, two emeritus members, and liaisons from UNCSA’s Foundation Board and Board of Visitors.”

A look at the current list of members would seem to verify this description and its reference to “distinguished citizens.” Ms. Folwell is clearly off to a promising start in her professional life, but calling her a “distinguished citizen” would appear to stretch the definition quite a bit.

There also appears to be a question that arises with respect to Folwell’s residence. Read more