Higher Ed, News, Policing

UNC releases “after-action report” on toppling of “Silent Sam”

UNC officially released an after-action report on the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument Friday, a week after the UNC Board of Governors voted on its release.

The report (which can be read in full here) found “serious deficiencies” in the way the evening of August 20, 2018 was handled, there was “no evidence of a conspiracy between UNC-CH and protesters or any other individuals to remove Silent Sam.”

The report does include a controversial and unattributed assertion that protesters threw frozen bottles of water and eggs at the police officers who feared for their safety and that of others.

That is a detail disputed by protesters and reporters on the ground during the statue’s toppling.

The report has five key findings:

1) Insufficient reporting structures led to miscommunication between campus administration and the UNC-CH police. The report recommends direct communication between the chancellor and police chief and training on police procedures for senior leaders at the school.

2) Information gathering duties were left mostly to one officers and should instead be shared by multiple, dedicated officers.

3) Information gathering was insufficient before the August 20 rally, with police missing “red flags” that should have indicated to them that an attempt would be made to topple the statue.

4) Officers were insufficiently trained in crowd control procedures, given what they were facing. More comprehensive training is recommended in the report.

The report also suggests the creation of a system-wide police academy that could employ students to be trained as police cadets/officers during their junior and senior years.

5) The University police force was inadequately staffed for the rally that led to the statue’s toppling. The report makes reference to a controversial plan – first floated last year – to create a “Special Operations Team” and a system wide mobile police force to deal with protests at UNC schools.

The recommendation echoes the controversial idea, floated last year, of a “mobile force platoon” costing $2 million a year and $500,000 a year in equipment.

Chancellor Carol Folt abruptly stepped down from her position last month after tensions with the board of governors over her response to the statue’s toppling and plans for its future.

In a response to the report, Folt wrote that the campus agrees with and will implement the recommendations but has concerns with the initial draft of the report, including “factual issues.”

It is not clear to which sections of the report Folt was referring or if changes to those sections were made before the public release of the report.

 

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, Environment, Higher Ed, News, public health

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. In some North Carolina counties, traditional schools are being squeezed by charters

School buses prepare for another school year

There has been much written about the impact charter school growth has had on some of North Carolina’s larger, urban school districts.

But the impact might be greater on some of the state’s smaller, rural school districts where the loss of students, and the funding that follows them, are felt more profoundly.

Take Granville County Public Schools (GCS), a district of about 7,600 on the Virginia border.

This month the school board approved a plan to close an elementary school and to consolidate two middle schools, the result of lagging enrollment. [Read more…]

2. When will Republicans’ patience with President Trump run out?

 

Republicans, we need to talk.

Not about the shutdown. I get the ceasefire, I get that the air traffic slowdowns may have finally spooked the president and D.C. Republicans, even if only for a temporary respite.

This is about the bigger picture, not about short-term, beltway battles and shutdowns that may or may not be on the minds of Americans when they go to the polls in 2020 – although I don’t imagine the passage of time will sweeten the memory for Americans who worked weeks without paychecks.

This is about the future of the GOP platform, that grand-old-promise to shrink government, reduce inefficiencies, cut taxes, and preserve the American dream. [Read more…]

3. “The spill was an instant disaster”: Reflections on the five-year anniversary of the Dan River coal ash breach

Until that winter’s day, the 4-foot section of corrugated metal pipe, 48 inches in diameter, had done its job. It swallowed storm water, said to be uncontaminated, that drained from Duke Energy property, chugged the water through its gullet that ran beneath an unlined coal ash basin, and then spewed it into the Dan River near Eden.

But on Feb. 2, 2014, the pipe could take no more.

For more than 50 years, Duke Energy had dumped millions of tons of coal ash into an open, unlined pit at its power plant on the Dan River. On that calm, cloudy Sunday afternoon, as pre-gamers chilled beers and fried chicken wings for their Super Bowl parties, the pipe collapsed. Hazardous material from the basin rushed through the breach, which released at least 39,000 tons of ash and up to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River.

At 2 o’clock, a security guard making the rounds had noticed the water level in the 27-acre ash pond had dropped.

At 6:30 p.m., thousands of North Carolinians watched the Seattle Seahawks, led by former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, win the coin toss to start Super Bowl 48 against the Denver Broncos. Two minutes later, as the Seahawks kicked off, Duke Energy officials were investigating the pipe breach and preparing an EM43 report, used to document emergencies in North Carolina. [Read more…] Read more

Higher Ed, News

UNC-Chapel Hill interim chancellor to be announced next week

Today is embattled UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt’s last day on the job.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, whose last day on the job is Thursday. Her interim replacement will be named next week, UNC confirms.

An interim chancellor will be announced by Interim UNC System President William Roper next week, UNC confirmed Thursday.

Roper held a closed-door meeting with faculty leaders on campus Wednesday and has a short-list he’s considering, according to faculty who attended.

Roper is himself holding an interim position after former UNC President Margaret Spellings exited that position following tensions with the UNC Board of Governors.

He laid out his qualifications for an interim chancellor for UNC’s flagship school at last week’s meeting of the board of governors.

Roper said he expects the interim chancellor may need to be in the job for up to 18 months while a search is conducted for the school’s next leader.

“Carolina cannot and will not drift during an interim leader’s tenure,” Roper said. “It will surge forward under a strong leader.”

Roper said he’s looking for “a well-known entity here in North Carolina” who will be “ready to start on day one” without needing months to get acclimated. He’s also looking for “someone of stature” who “has the gravitas to lead” he said.

Lastly, he said, they must have his trust and the trust of other leaders.

 

Higher Ed, News

UNC interim President: Silent Sam should not return to original site

In his first UNC Board of Governors meeting as interim president of the UNC system, William Roper tackled some of UNC’s thorniest issues – including the future of the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue.

“Although I was not supportive of the way the monument was taken down in August, my personal position is we should not be putting the monument back on McCorkle Place,” Roper said in a press conference after Friday’s board meeting.

Though Roper didn’t say whether that would preclude the statue from returning anywhere on the Chapel Hill campus, simply saying it should not return to its original site may be enough to ruffle some feathers on the board. Several members have insisted the statue, toppled by protesters in August, must be returned to its original place at the heart of the campus.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt ordered the base of the statue removed earlier this month, just before she surprised the board by announcing her resignation. Several members of the board – including Chairman Harry Smith – said Folt overstepped her authority by giving that order. Others have suggested she broke a 2015 law on the preservation of such monuments.

Interim UNC President William Roper and UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith during Friday’s meeting of the board.

The board voted Friday to give Roper the authority to begin negotiating Folt’s exit package. He is already looking for an interim chancellor and is meeting with students and faculty to get input.

In prepared remarks Friday, Roper provided a window into how he will make the decision.

“First, this is an interim position.,” Roper said. “There will be a national search to come later for a permanent chancellor.”

Roper said he expects the interim chancellor, which he will choose by the end of January, may need to be in the job for up to 18 months while a full-time chancellor search is conducted.

“Carolina cannot and will not drift during an interim leader’s tenure,” Roper said. “It will surge forward under a strong leader.”

Roper said he’s looking for “a well-known entity here in North Carolina” who will be “ready to start on day one” without needing months to get acclimated. He’s also looking for “someone of stature” who “has the gravitas to lead” he said.

Lastly, he said, they must have his trust and the trust of other leaders.

“We are not in the business of micromanaging our key leadership,” he said.

Micromanaging was a common description of  the sort of board of governors behavior Folt and outgoing UNC President Margaret Spellings faced during their tenures, leading to the conflicts with the board many have speculated led to their abrupt exits.

Faculty, staff and national experts predict finding the next leaders for both Chapel Hill and the UNC system will be difficult given that recent history.

Higher Ed, News

Western Carolina University chancellor interviews to begin next week

The UNC Board of Governors is facing the twin challenges of replacing both the UNC System President and chancellor of its flagship campus, UNC-Chapel Hill.

But while those searches have yet to properly begin, a second attempt at finding a new chancellor for Western Carolina University is well underway.

The university has received 58 applications for the position and have identified ten candidate for initial interviews. The Board of Governors, who will hear a report on the search at Friday’s full board meeting, is expected to vote on the final candidate by April.

As Policy Watch reported back in July, the first search for a chancellor was scuttled when board of governors member Tom Fetzer leaked confidential candidate information to a private firm for investigation. He then used information the firm provided to argue that the candidate, whose name was withheld during the search, had provided inaccurate information when applying for the job.

The candidate abruptly withdrew from the search and board members and then-UNC President Margaret Spelling, who had chosen the final candidate, criticized Fetzer for compromising the candidate’s confidentiality and disturbing the established candidate search process.

Fetzer argued that the process itself was inadequate and he simply did what he had to do in order to be sue due diligence was done.

Fetzer later revealed he had a conversation with UNC President Margaret Spellings about being interim chancellor at the school, where he was once a trustee. Two former trustees at the school asked if they could put his name forward, Fetzer said, but in a telephone conversation with Spellings he was told she had already decided on an interim.

Fetzer denied he pursued the chancellor’s position himself.

The search, which had to that point cost $90,000, was begun again.