Poll: Nation On The Wrong Track

North Carolina voters aren’t happy with the direction the nation is headed.

The Civitas Institute is a conservative publication, which conducted a poll in late July. In the release of the poll last week, it stated 70 percent of registered North Carolina voters think the United States are on the wrong track compared to the 20 percent that thinks things are heading in the right direction.

In October 2012, the split was 55-40, with the majority still believing the nation wasn’t in the right place.

The number one issue voters said they were concerned about was the economy. In a close second was jobs and unemployment, followed by immigration, health care, and the current government.

Neither political party had the upper hand in the poll. When voters were asked which candidate they would vote for if the election for Congress was held on that date, 43 percent said the Republican and 43 percent said the Democrat.

And, when asked specifically how President Barack Obama is doing—almost at the midway point in his second term—53 percent disapprove while 45 percent approve.

To see a complete breakdown of the poll, click here.


UNC Title IX Task Force Recommendations Anticipated To Be Ready By End Of April

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said Friday that she anticipates having a report from the University’s Title IX Task Force by the next Faculty Council meeting, which is on April 25.

The Task Force has been working since May of 2013 to rewrite UNC’s sexual assault policy. The tentative goal was to have had recommendations ready by the fall of last year.

“I think we are all waiting for the report from the Task Force, and I know some people wish that report would come forward,” Folt said.

Christi Hurt, Chair of the Task Force, who also served as Title IX Coordinator for an interim period, has said that the group is regularly reexamining their work and ideas on the sensitive issues.

Once a draft is completed, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.

The Task Force was formed in response to changing federal Title IX requirements for universities and incidents on UNC’s own campus that prompted the need for change.

Folt, who spoke during Friday’s Faculty Council meeting, said she applauded the extent to which the task force is “trying to get it right.” She said a number of changes have already been implemented.

“We believe that a number of ideas that are being put forth by our Task Force are already anticipated, or would be the ones that are the guidelines, for some of that federal attention,” she said.

In January, President Barack Obama announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the university level.

The same month, Folt traveled to the White House to participate in policy discussions on a number of topics. During the trip, she spoke with the President and Vice President Joe Biden about policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Biden is leading the efforts of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, as it is called.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

“There is a great deal of interest built on concern that sexual violence has reached epidemic proportions in our nation’s universities,” Folt said.

A number of representatives from UNC have participated in the on-going national conversation.

UNC graduate student Katie Akin, a member of the UNC Title IX Task Force, was invited to sit at the table next to the Vice President in February during a discussion on sexual assault. She offered several recommendations for his consideration.

Vice President Joe Biden talks with Katie Akin; Photo by David Lienemann

Vice President Joe Biden talks with Katie Akin; Photo by David Lienemann


PPP: Obama’s Approval Up 2% From December

President Obama’s approval numbers have improved slightly in a new poll, which could be one reason Democrats have re-taken the lead in a generic congressional ballot.

According to a new national poll from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, Barack Obama’s approval rating is now at 43 percent, with 51 percent disapproving.

“Those still aren’t very good numbers, but they’re the best we’ve found for him since October,” says Director of Public Policy Polling Tom Jensen. “He had, in the interim, hit his record low at 41 percent.

“And it does seem that people are warming up, at least a little bit, to Obamacare.”

Thirty-nine percent of voters now think the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been successful. That’s up seven points from the last PPP survey in late January.

Democrats may also appear to have reason for optimism regarding the U.S House, but Jensen throws a little cold water on that notion.

After trailing Republicans 42-to-40 on a generic Congressional ballot in January, Democrats have now reclaimed a small lead, at 43-to-40.

“The problem for Democrats,” says Jensen, “even though they have this small lead on the generic congressional ballot, is that because congressional district lines across the country and a lot of states are really drawn in a way that benefits the Republicans, Democrats would have to win by a lot more than three points in order to have a real chance at getting back control of the House this fall.”

In another PPP poll released this week, numbers for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina also showed a slight improvement.

She now leads presumed Republican frontrunner, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, 45-to-43. In the previous poll, she trailed all Republican challengers except for one.


UNC’s New Title IX Leader Talks On-Going Reforms To Sexual Assault Policies

CHAPEL HILL – In his first month as the UNC’s new Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Howard Kallem has taken on the challenge of heading up an expanding department charged with monitoring sexual harassment cases on campus.

This coming at a time when the pressure in on UNC leaders to make changes and reform current policies due to past controversy involving the handling of sexual assault cases.

Sexual assault on college campuses is currently an important topic of conversation, not only in Chapel Hill, but across our state and even in Washington D.C.

President Barack Obama recently announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the University level.

Prior to assuming the position at UNC in January, Kallem worked as Chief Regional Attorney of the District of Columbia Enforcement Office for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

“It has been an incredibly steep learning curve to understand all of the procedures and processes at the University and to just get a sense of the culture here,” Kallem said.

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

UNC’s Title IX Office is expanding in 2014 with Kallem and the most recent hire, Hilary Delbridge, the Title IX public communications specialist, coming on board.

Delbridge’s hire sparked criticism on campus. Andrea Pino, who co-filed a Title IX complaint in January 2013 criticizing UNC’s handling of sexual assault, told the Daily Tar Heel that it was merely a PR position. Pino suggested that the University needed to stop treating “scandals as scandals” and focus on fixing its problems internally.

Kallem said that the communications officer position is not a just a “PR job,” rather, he said Delbridge will serve as liaison to hear from the community about “what we [the office] are doing right and what we could be doing better.”

The Title IX Office is in the process of filling two additional positions—another case investigator and a program coordinator to help with training.

“I have to say that it is quite unusual for the University to devote this level of resources to this issue, which is why I took the job,” Kallem said. “Most colleges will have a Title IX coordinator. They are required to do so by Title IX law, but it is often someone who is an assistant athletic coach, or they might be in the human resources department, and it is the second or third responsibility for them.”

Since the spring of 2013, UNC’s Title IX Task Force has been working to address student-on-student sexual misconduct.

The 22-member task force is broadly based, including students, faculty, and staff members who specialize in this area.

Chair of the Task Force, Christi Hurt, served as interim Title IX Coordinator and is also director of the Carolina Women’s Center. Kallem, who has been to two Task Force meetings, said he is benefiting from the work that Hurt has done.

The Task Force is taking time to develop a complaint process that is tailored to the needs and concerns of the students, Kallem said, rather than to those of the administration.

“The goal is to come up with a policy that the community will be into. The way to do that is to have input from the various segments in building the policy from the very start,” he said. “I think all those have the building blocks certainly to develop a process here and change the culture here in a way that could be very interesting and unique in the country.”

Kallem said there has been frustration expressed on campus about the progress of the Task Force, with some members of the UNC community wanting to see results of its work sooner. Kallem explained that there are still issues that need to be addressed, such as the judication process of complaints.

Once the policy has been rewritten, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.

Kallem did not have an anticipated completion date for the work of the Task Force.

“There are lots of pieces already here that are addressing the issue. My challenge is to knit them together into a comprehensive approach and identify any gaps where we can improve.”

The Task Force is also trying to ensure compliance with the UNC System’s statewide reforms.


Sen. Hagan’s Fate May Rest In The Hands Of The President

RALEIGH – Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen says the 2014 senate race will be greatly affected by the President’s approval rating.

“It’s really kind of amazing,” Jensen says. “Barack Obama’s approval has dropped ten points in North Carolina since September; Kay Hagan’s net approvals has dropped ten points in North Carolina since September. We really are seeing that Obama’s fate is basically dictating Hagan’s fate.”

Democrats are losing points when the Affordable Care Act and its website aren’t working the way legislators said it would. Senator Hagan sent a request to the Obama Administration to launch an investigation into the problems behind the ACA, but Jensen says that hasn’t really helped her numbers.

“She’s not somebody who voters have really strong feelings about one way or the other,” Jensen says. “So, where she ends up in our polls sort of goes up and down depending on other things that are going on politically.”

Jensen says the next 11 months will be crucial for Senator Hagan.

“Really, if it’s a good year for Democrats, Hagan should be fine,” Jensen says. “If it’s a bad year for Democrats, she’s in a lot of trouble. If it’s kind of a neutral year, I think we should expect a pretty close race.”

There are five Republicans vying for the opposition to Senator Hagan. Jensen says the numbers have started to settle, and that over the last three months there’s been a big shift in how the race is looking.

“Kay Hagan is up on Thom Tillis by two points, tied with both Heather Grant and Mark Harris, and down by two points to both Greg Brannon and Bill Flynn,” Jensen says.

Public Policy Polling found 43 percent of voters approve of the job Senator Hagan is doing while 49 percent disapprove.

To see the complete results of the polls, click here.


GOP, Obama Line Up Behind Modest Budget Deal

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans and President Barack Obama are lining up behind a modest but hard-won bipartisan budget agreement that seeks to replace a portion of tough spending cuts facing the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

The deal to ease those cuts for two years is aimed less at chipping away at the nation’s $17 trillion national debt than it is at trying to help a dysfunctional Capitol stop lurching from crisis to crisis.

It would set the stage for action in January on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill for the current budget year.

The measure unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate counterpart Patty Murray of Washington blends $85 billion in spending cuts and fees to replace $63 billion in cuts to agency budgets over the coming two years.


AP-GfK Poll: Low Approval Of Congress, Obama

WASHINGTON — A new poll finds Americans hold Congress in strikingly low regard as a midterm election year nears. Nearly two-thirds say they would like to see their House member replaced.

The Associated Press-GfK poll finds that elected officials in Washington are not benefiting from the public’s slightly improved view of the economy and their own personal finances.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is negative: 58 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing, while 42 percent approve.

The low opinions of Congress don’t necessarily signal major power shifts next year in the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate. Many House districts are safe enough to protect incumbents despite public discontent.

Most Americans favor a pathway to legal status for immigrants living here illegally. The House has not approved such a measure.


Obama, In Speech, To Focus On Income Disparities

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is renewing his focus on the income gap between rich and poor.

He’ll deliver an address later today to argue his case that income inequality and wage stagnation are threatening upward mobility and retirement security.

White House says Obama will reiterate his call for an increase in the minimum wage and promote possible economic benefits of the troubled health care law.


HealthCare.gov Update

Obama to focus on positives of health care law

WASHINGTON — A day after his administration said healthcare.gov handled hundreds of thousands of visitors, President Barack Obama today will highlight people who have been helped by his health care reform law.

They’ll join the president at White House event. He’s also expected to charge that Republicans want to strip away benefits without offering an alternative.


Updated healthcare.gov gets mixed reviews

FORT LAUDERDALE — Consumers are reporting a mix of successes and failures as they try logging onto the updated healthcare.gov site.

Brokers and online assisters in Utah say three of every four people who want to sign up for coverage on the federal government’s online exchange are succeeding within an hour of logging in. Navigators in Wisconsin, Illinois, Alabama and North Dakota reported vast improvement, while staffers in South Florida and Iowa were stymied by glitches on the federal website, which is serving 36 states.

About 750,000 had visited the site by Monday night — about double the traffic for a typical Monday. By 10 a.m., with about 30,000 visitors and growing error messages and response times, federal health officials deployed a new queue system.


Dean Smith Awarded Presidential Medal Of Freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith ceremoniously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday morning.

“Dean Smith is one of the winningest coaches in basketball history,” President Barak Obama said. “But his successes go far beyond Xs and Os. Even as he won 78 percent of his games, he graduated 96 percent of his players.”

***Listen to the Ceremony***

President Obama said Smith was a courageous man on the sideline and outside of the gym.

“He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill,” President Obama said. “That’s the kind of character that he represented on and off the court.”

Fifteen other men and women were honored at the White House for the 50th Anniversary of the Medal of Freedom.

President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order in 1963. Since then, more than 500 people have received the highest civilian honor.

“We salute fierce competitors who became true champions,” President Obama said.

Some of the others that were honored include baseball player, Ernie Banks, former president, Bill Clinton, the youngest American and first American woman in space, the late Sally Ride, and media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.

On the court, Smith won two national championships and when he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history. But it is the humble man’s work away from the sport that truly set him apart and deems Smith worthy of the United States’ highest civilian honor.

Taking a stand in a time period when many high-profile figures sat on the sidelines, Smith used his position to advocate for civil rights. In fact, Smith recruited UNC’s first black scholarship athlete and helped in Chapel Hill’s desegregation process in the 1960’s.

Many of his players called Smith a “second father” and his leadership of these young men led to an impressive 96 percent graduation rate.