Cunningham, Tillis to meet in UNC discussion on friendships across the political divide

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and former Demcoratic challenger Cal Cunningham will discuss building and maintaining friendships across the political divide.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and former N.C. State Senator Cal Cunningham, a Democrat, will meet in November as part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Abbey Speaker series.

The event, to be held November 10 at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Global Education Center and livestreamed on Zoom, will focus on building and maintaining friendships across the political divide.

Cunningham challenged Tillis for his U.S. Senate seat in 2020 but failed in the wake of a sex scandal in which text messages revealed he carried on an extramarital affair while campaigning for office. The contest was the most expensive in U.S. history, with campaigns and outside groups spending more than $280 million as the outcome helped decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Cunningham kept a low profile as the scandal erupted around him in October, which political observers said contributed to his loss. He has since remained relatively low-profile.

The discussion, co-sponsored by the  UNC Institute of Politics. will be moderated by Sarah Treul Roberts, professor of Political Science and faculty director of UNC’s Program for Public Discourse.

Register for the Tillis/Cunningham discussion here.

More information on upcoming events as part of the Abbey Speaker Series and Program for Public Discourse here.

N.C. A&T receives $23.7 million grant for clean energy training program

N.C. A&T has received a $23.7 million federal grant to create a clean energy workforce training program.

Gov. Roy Cooper was on campus in Greensboro Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughan and others to announce the grant, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.  The money, part of the American Rescue Plan good Jobs Challenge grant program, will go toward A&T’s new STEPs4GROWTH program, which will provide clean energy workforce training.

The university plans to have the program off the ground by 2026 and to place several thousand workers in the clean energy sector over five years.

Gov. Roy Cooper was on hand for the grant announcement at N.C. A&T Wednesday.

“You’ve heard a lot about the clean energy jobs coming to North Carolina by the thousands,” Cooper said Wednesday. “You know what keeps me up at night? Who’s going to fill those jobs.”

Cooper said the A&T program will be essential for the clean energy economy that is “important for our planet and our pocket books.”

“We are on the cutting edge of the clean energy economy,” Cooper said. “It is an intentional thing. And developing this talented, diverse workforce is going to be critical to the success.”

Cooper touted bipartisan state legislation requiring the power sector to reduce carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030 and to get to carbon zero by 2050. The state is pushing offshore wind power and attracting companies that make clean cars, planes and boats. That’s going to mean new skills are needed to build those things,

North Carolina’s universities and community colleges are the ideal place for these clean energy youth apprenticeship programs, Cooper, said – particularly the state’s thriving historically black college and universities (HBCUs).

“People are coming here because they know we value diversity,” Cooper said. “We also value education.”

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U.S. House Democrats file brief in college affirmative action case

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott of Virginia has filed a brief along with 64 other House Democrats urging the Supreme Court to uphold the role that race plays in college admission policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. 

“Narrowly tailored admissions policies that recognize race as one criterion — out of many criteria for evaluating prospective students — are a key tool to realize diverse learning environments and address continued educational inequity,” Scott said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The Supreme Court originally combined the two cases that challenged affirmative action, but then separated them — likely because the newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, said she would recuse herself from the Harvard case because she previously held a six-year term on Harvard’s board of overseers. Legal experts have said the court’s decision could reshape the use of affirmative action in higher education.

The cases are Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina.

Both ask the court to overturn a 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that upheld the University of Michigan’s practice of considering race in its undergraduate admissions process to achieve a diverse student body.  

The Harvard case also questions whether the university is violating the Civil Rights Act by placing a cap on its admittance of Asian American students, which discriminates against those students, the plaintiffs argue.

“These admissions policies are critical for achieving the promise of equal educational opportunity that remains unfulfilled more than 65 years after the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education,” Scott said. 

House Democrats, in their brief, argue that race-conscious admissions policies are still needed “given the continued underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, and many Asian Americans in colleges and universities across the country.” 

“Even with the use of a race-conscious admissions program, the University of North Carolina (UNC) ‘continues to face challenges admitting and enrolling underrepresented minorities, particularly African American males, Hispanics, and Native Americans,’” they wrote. 

The Supreme Court will hear the cases in the fall. 

House Democrats who signed onto the brief include:

North Carolina

Rep. G.K. Butterfield

Rep. Alma Adams

Rep. Deborah Ross

Rep. Kathy Manning Read more

Democrats in Congress press Biden to extend pause on student loans

UNC-Chapel Hill announces new vice chancellor of communications

Kamrhan Farwell has been named UNC-Chapel Hill’s next vice chancellor of communications, the university announced Thursday.

Farwell, now the vice chancellor and chief marketing and communications officer at the University of Missouri, will begin at UNC-Chapel Hill Sept. 26. She replaces Joel Curran, who left the university last October to take a position at the University of Notre Dame. Curran originated the role in 2013 but left last year in what appeared to be a wave of exits by high level staffers that included Joanne Peters Denny, director of the the university’s media relations and its chief diversity officer, Sibby Anderson-Thompkins.

Kamrhan Farwell (Photo Courtesy of the University of Missouri)

Farwell will have her work cut out for her. The past two years have brought a torrent of bad publicity for the university, from controversies over its poor response to COVID-19  and its failed attempt to hire acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to continuing concern about the influence of deep-pocketed donors,  the North Carolina General Assembly’s conservative majority and its political appointees on the UNC Board of Governors.

In a message to the Carolina community Thursday, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said he has great confidence in Fawell.

“A highly respected leader, Farwell brings extensive experience to this role, most recently leading a 120-person communications team at the flagship campus known as Mizzou, as well as the University of Missouri System,” Giskiewicz wrote.

“For the past four years, Farwell has led all institutional communications, including comprehensive marketing and media strategies that have helped rebuild and bolster the University of Missouri’s reputation,” Guskiewicz wrote.  “During her tenure, freshman enrollment increased by 30 percent, the institution celebrated its first Nobel Prize and legislative support grew in 2022 by the highest percentage in 35 years.”

In her own statement, Farwell said she is looking forward to joining the Carolina community.

“I am inspired by the quality of the scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill, the integrity of the leadership, and the enthusiasm of faculty, staff, students and alumni,” she said. “I’m anxious to do my part in sharing the university’s compelling story and global impact with the world.”