BOG Addresses Substances On Campus

CHAPEL HILL - Earlier this year Governor Pat McCrory challenged the UNC Board of Governors to look at its substance abuse challenges on campus.

Vice Chairman, Frank Grainger, engaged with Governor Pat McCrory, head of the ABC Jim Gardner, Frank Perry from Public Safety, and a few others on Sept. 4 about the strong presence of drugs and alcohol on campus.

“It appears that drugs are becoming more and more prevalent on our campuses” Grainger said.

Grainger says that campuses across the state have been seeing a higher level of substances because drug “pushers” are moving away from the areas they used to frequent.

“Drugs pushers are moving to the campuses more than to the urban parts of the cities now, because they feel that the campuses have more money on them, etcetera and is an easier push for them,” Grainger stated “and the Governor is not messing around with this.”

Another meeting between the Board of Governors and Governor McCrory is scheduled for Tuesday.  Grainger says they plan on working with the campus police chiefs, ABC, and Public safety to coordinate and work together on this issue.

“The president and I have been talking and we’re going to bring all of our police campus chiefs together and let them tell us what’s going on, on their particular campuses so we can report this back” Grainger said.

Along with the drug “pushers,” stores that supply underage students with alcohol will be targeted as a source of the problem.  Working with the ABC and public safety will allow for the BoG to challenge the substances that are coming to campuses.

The next Board of Governor’s meeting is October 11 and will discuss the  September 17 meeting with Governor Pat McCrory.

UNC BoG Recognizes Former Governor Holshouser

CHAPEL HILL - The UNC BOG recognized our former Governor James Holshouser and honored his life with an award in his name. UNC System President Tom Ross says Holshouser was a great leader and influenced many.

“This University and our entire state lost a consummate public servant, a source of infinite wisdom and a true statesman, this summer with the passing of Jim Holshouser” Ross stated.

Holshouser served as Governor of North Carolina from 1973 to 1977.  He also served on the Board of Governors for the UNC system for more than 30 years where many members have said they valued his thoughts and practices.

“I always told people that Governor Holshouser should have been named Mr. E.F. Hutton, because when he spoke truly everyone listened” Ross said “in word and indeed he personified the true meaning of statesmanship and servant leadership, and our university had no greater friend or stronger ally.”

To honor Holshouser the BOG voted to change the name of their public service award to the Governor Holshouser award for excellence in public service.  This award was originally created in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by faculty of the University. Holshouser exemplified many of the characteristics that this award represents.  BOG member Peter Hans says words do not describe the loss of Holshouser.

“President mentioned in his remarks, we lost a giant in June, and a man who epitomizes public service” Hans commented.

The board also recognized another BOG member that recently passed, Julius Chambers.  Chambers was a civil rights attorney for many years along with Chancellor of North Carolina Central University.

For more information on James Holshouser click here.

UNC System Cuts Energy/Water Costs By 20/40%

CHAPEL HILL – The UNC Board of Governors is working to cut energy and water costs for the schools to make a more efficient system and President Tom Ross says the schools are making small changes to save big.

“You may recall that our strategic plan identifies some key areas of work, like including energy-related research, analysis, instruction, and outreach, where with targeted investments UNC, we believe, can make a real and meaningful difference,” Ross says.

The UNC system averages $225 million per year on energy and water costs.  Since last year the university system has saved $63 million in energy costs and $13.7 million in water costs.  Since the 2002-2003 school year the total equals $297 million in savings.

System wide, the schools have managed to cut electricity by 20 percent and water by 40 percent, and President Ross says there are more plans to continue making the University more efficient.

“To date, this board has authorized 15 guaranteed energy performance projects across the system,” Ross says. “Ten of these projects are currently under contract producing energy savings of more than $10 million per year.”

Current energy sources can be costly in terms of money and for the environment.  The UNC system has often been at the forefront of innovation and new ideas, and energy is no different.  Ross says that UNC will stay at the forefront when dealing with energy and water to improve the system.

“Recognizing that most sources of easily accessible energy are limited and that many are non-renewable, the plan calls for UNC to be in the forefront, in collaboration with private industry and non-profit organizations and making discoveries that will fuel our state and the world in the future,” Ross says.

The University schools have worked to reduce costs of energy and water by substantial amounts.  However, Ross says that they will continue to work and cut costs for expenses like water and energy.

“But we know we can do more, and we have as a collective goal in our university system to save $1 billion over the next 20 years in water and energy costs,” Ross says. “And while the financial savings are important, we will also be helping to preserve our natural and environmental resources for future generations. “Water, for example, is, we believe, the new precious metal, and we have to be sure its preserved as a public asset and that we protect our water supplies and find new ways to reduce consumption.”

UNC has implemented many ways to conserve water, like grey water in the bathrooms.  The University says plans like these will continue to appear as it works to conserve resources.

Math Mistake Means One Out, Another In On UNC Board

RALEIGH – A math error by North Carolina House members counting ballots means one person elected to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors this week won’t join the panel after all.

The House elected eight people to the board Wednesday, like lawmakers do every two years. But House Rules Chairman Tim Moore announced Thursday the House clerk’s office had determined a number was transposed as he and other lawmakers tallied ballots for 14 nominees.

The chamber made several parliamentary maneuvers and recounted the ballots. Seven of the eight nominees elected Wednesday still won Thursday. But the new tally shows Jim Nance of Albemarle actually lost and G.A. Sywassink won.

The House says Sywassink is CEO of Standard Holding Corp.

The Senate also elected eight people Wednesday to the 32-member board.

Legislators Elect Next Class To Serve On UNC Board

RALEIGH – The General Assembly has elected its next class of 16 people to serve on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The House and Senate held separate elections Wednesday to pick eight people apiece to serve on the 32-member board, which sets policy for UNC’s 17 campuses. They’ll serve four-year terms.

New board members include former state Rep. Laura Wiley of Greensboro, Hendrick Motorsports executive Scott Lampe of Davidson, Raleigh attorney Steven Long and Greenville radio personality Henry Hinton.

House Democrats and Republicans argued about the election, won mostly by Republican nominees. Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham says it’s a travesty Republicans didn’t support some Democrats to promote board diversity.

House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes of Granite Falls says his side makes no apologies for electing Republicans.

UNC Turning To “Competency-Based” Approach

CHAPEL HILL – As the UNC system reexamines its strategic goals for the next five years, university officials have turned to employers and business leaders to identify key needs—and the result of that will be a new focus on a novel academic approach called “competency-based learning.”

That’s according to UNC president Tom Ross, who says today’s business leaders want people who can think and communicate effectively for themselves.

“When we talk to people–business leaders and other employers of all types–they tell us what they need more than anything else who can think critically, who can write and communicate orally, who can understand how to use data, how to look at a variety of different disciplinary concerns to solve problems, (and) how to work in teams,” Ross says. “Those are the core ‘competencies’ that employers need.”

More information on “competency-based education” available herehereherehere, andhere. (Online universities have been a driving force in the CBE movement so far–most notably Western Governors University, based in Utah.)

The competency-based learning approach focuses on developing broader, widely-applicable skills—like writing and critical thinking—rather than particular bits of information or specific knowledge about specific jobs. In essence it suggests a return to the liberal arts and a recommitment to developing well-rounded graduates with a strong intellectual core—a task that UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp says has been a strength of the UNC system from the beginning.


And while employers say they need competent workers for jobs right now, Thorp says the real strength of “competency-based learning” is in how it trains students to adapt to the as-yet-unknown jobs of the future.

“If a student is a junior in high school now…by the time they get out (of college) it’s five, six years from now–and the rate of change in the economy right now, with technology and migration, is so fast,” he says. “We need to give students the ability to teach themselves the jobs of the future, because we can’t prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet.”

Right now, the competency-based approach is still in development. Ross says turning to it now will not only benefit today’s students—it’ll also put UNC on the cutting edge of an educational trend that’s only going to become more mainstream in the coming years.

“Really nobody’s doing competency-based education,” he says. “The assessment tools available to look at it are still in development and relatively new. So it’s new territory–but (it’s) ground we need to plow, if we’re going to be a successful university in the future.”

The focus on “competency-based learning” is part of the UNC system’s new five-year strategic plan, which the UNC Board of Governors is currently examining. The Board saw a draft of the plan at their meeting earlier this month; it’s expected to approve the final version in February.

Ross: UNC Strategic Plan Blends Quality Education, Job Needs

CHAPEL HILL – This week, the UNC Board of Governors examined the first draft of the strategic plan that will govern the university for the next five years—and system president Tom Ross says he’s confident it will move UNC in the right direction.
“What’s most exciting to me about this plan is (that) it really incorporates together our responsibility to help the state be prepared to meet the workforce demands of the future, but to do it with high academic quality,” he says.

Read the plan here.

The five-year plan is entitled “Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina,” written by UNC’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions. That committee generated some controversy in the fall, as some observers complained that there weren’t enough members with direct UNC ties—and that those who were on the committee were not sufficiently committed to the value of higher education.

But Ross says he’s happy with the finished product regardless.

“At the end of the day,” he said at Friday’s meeting, “I think everyone is committed to endorsing a plan that ensures an affordable, high-quality education for our students and that effectively and efficiently responds to the evolving state needs.”

The 66-page draft released this week comprises the first three chapters of a five-chapter plan, corresponding to five overarching goals: graduating a higher percentage of North Carolinians; improving academic quality; serving the people of the state; maximizing efficiency; and maintaining affordability, accessibility, and financial stability.

Read a recap of the first day of the Board’s two-day meeting.

In order to accomplish those ends, the plan proposes a variety of specific objectives. Among those are a targeted focus on particular research areas, an added commitment to online education or “distance learning”—and an ambitious goal of raising the number of North Carolinians with bachelor’s and professional degrees.

Right now about 30 percent of North Carolinians have degrees; the plan is to raise that to 32 percent by 2018. It doesn’t sound like a big increase, but Ross says that would make North Carolina one of the most educated states in the U.S.

“It’s a challenge,” he says. “It’s not going to be easy….But I think if we want to be the most competitive state to attract new business and to be able to meet the workforce demands that are going to be there, we need to be able to meet this goal.”

Also on the table is a potentially controversial proposal to eliminate the cap on the number of out-of-state students UNC can accept in a given year. Right now, no more than 18 percent of students in a class can be non-residents—but out-of-state students pay more in tuition, so there’s a financial incentive to bring more in. Then again, North Carolina prides itself on its constitutional commitment to educational accessibility for all residents—so there are many who object to a proposal that seems to close the door.

Ross says he’s not sure what will happen, but it’s a conversation worth having.

“We’re still at the preliminary stage, and we’ve gotten some good feedback,” he says. “Whether any discussion of removing the cap continues to be a part of the plan–I don’t know. We’re still receiving feedback on that, and there are people who feel strongly both ways.”

The Board of Governors only began considering the draft this week, but the timetable is a speedy one: the Board is planning to approve a final draft at its next meeting on February 8.

UNC Strategic Plan Pushes Quality Education, Definition Pending

CHAPEL HILL – It was standing-room only in Chapel Hill’s Spangler Center on Thursday, as the UNC Board of Governors got its first look at a draft of the strategic plan drawn up last fall by a controversial committee–a plan that could redefine the very nature of education in North Carolina.

Click here to read the plan in full.

“Our Time, Our Future”

The economic situation is improving in North Carolina, but it’s still not ideal—and as system president Tom Ross said Thursday, higher education remains in a period of great transition.

“Times have changed, (and) they’re going to continue to change,” he said. “It’s our time to figure out what are the key pieces that need to remain the same, and what are the pieces that need to change, so that we can continue to deliver real value to the students and to the people of North Carolina.”

With that in mind, university leaders are focusing their efforts this semester on finalizing a new strategic plan to govern the UNC system’s development through 2018. It’s entitled “Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina,” and the title implies the overarching mission: to shape the university system—given existing constraints—with an eye toward serving North Carolina’s immediate and long-term practical needs, economic and otherwise.

“We know about the economy, we know about rapid technology change, we’ve talked about rapid technology shifts…(and) we all know that we’re competing, not anymore with just border states, but globally,” Ross said. “There’s a proliferation of different kinds of delivery methods and different kinds of organizations…

“We’ve got to figure all of that out, and we’ve got to do it in an environment which–I think rightly so–demands greater accountability and improved performance.”

The 66-page draft released this week constitutes the first three parts of what will be a five-part plan, outlining how the UNC system can move forward in the coming years to meet “five high-priority goals”: graduating a higher percentage of North Carolinians; improving academic quality; serving the people of the state; maximizing efficiency; and maintaining affordability, accessibility, and financial stability.

All that in the midst of a still-tenuous economic recovery, coupled with a nationwide spike in student loan debt that’s become more and more of a hot-button issue. Compounding that is a rapid transformation in the nature of higher learning: online classes are becoming increasingly common, and universities are seeing more demand from ‘non-traditional’ students, including older students and military personnel.

Each of those challenges makes it harder for students in the UNC system to graduate on time—if at all. The new five-year plan attempts to counter that, by making it a priority to increase the percentage of North Carolinians with college degrees.

“The degree-attainment goal isn’t just about the University,” Ross said Thursday.  “It’s about the state of North Carolina’s future, and about the workforce needs of the state, and how (we’re) going to play our part in being sure that we have an educated workforce that can do the jobs of tomorrow.”

Currently about 30 percent of North Carolinians have degrees; the plan is to raise that to 32 percent by 2018.

“The Fundamental Infrastructure”

In order to accomplish that, the plan directs UNC to focus its efforts on recruiting veterans and community college students; retaining current students and bringing back those who leave without a degree; and—perhaps most notably—promoting online education, also known as “distance education” or “e-learning.”

UNC launched its online program in 2007—and now, barely five years later, Academic Affairs senior vice president Suzanne Ortega says it’s become an indispensable component of the university’s future.

“E-learning is not a goal in itself,” she said Thursday. “It is the fundamental infrastructure and strategy we need for meeting our other important academic goals.”

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp–who incorporated online components into the class he taught last semester–agrees. “The whole online-education thing has come to a point where everybody needs to embrace it,” he says. “It’ll change the way we do things in the classroom…

“You know, we used to think that online education was just going to be about sending text. It’s not about that anymore…(and) I think as people get more and more accustomed to the fact that it’s here to stay, you’re going to see the quality and the quantity increase.”

And in keeping with the larger mission of service to the state, the strategic plan calls for a targeted commitment to promoting research in a few specific areas—ranging from health care to energy to military technology—that can best promote a “return on investment” and improve the state’s economy.

“We are good at a lot of things, and we can be very good at several things, and we can be great at a few things,” says Chris Brown, UNC’s vice president for research and graduate education. “But we can’t be great at everything. So we’ve got to make some targeted investments.”

Whither Descartes

Most of the specific aims laid out in the proposal seem non-controversial, or at least they were in Thursday’s meeting of the Board. But everything in the strategic plan—from the targets of research to the degree attainment goals to the emphasis on distance learning—rests on the single foundation of economic growth and jobs: shaping the university around the goal of getting as many North Carolinians to work, as soon as possible.

And if there was a clash on Thursday, it was over that deeper philosophical question: is a “quality education” defined simply by the extent to which it leads to a job—or is there more to a “quality education” than that?

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Suzanne Ortega said the university’s mission should be to provide students with the specific training their potential employers might need.

“Our students deserve the opportunity to master precisely those skills that employers tell us are most important, both to active career lives (and) to success as citizens,” she said.

Chancellor Thorp, on the other hand, said he’s in favor of a broader liberal arts education—and not just for its own sake.

“If a student is a junior in high school now…by the time they get out (of college) it’s five, six years from now, and the rate of change in the economy right now, with technology and migration, is so fast,” Thorp said Thursday. “We need to give students the ability (through liberal arts education) to teach themselves the jobs of the future, because we can’t prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet–other than by doing that.”

That philosophical discussion will continue to run underneath the ongoing debate about UNC’s future—particularly since more Republicans came onto the Board of Governors in 2011, giving the Board more of an even partisan split than usual.

Partisanship aside, though, everyone’s on board with the shared goal of improving the quality of education at North Carolina—however that phrase may be defined.

“If we just turn up the crank and turn up people who can’t connect the dots, it’s not particularly helpful,” said Board member Fred Eshelman.

The Board will conclude its two-day meeting in the Spangler Center on Friday; the members will examine an updated draft of the strategic plan at their next meeting in February.