McCrory at UNC University Day: Focus on Job Skills

In his keynote speech Sunday for UNC’s 221st birthday celebration, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said that universities must prepare more students for technology and research jobs that need to be filled right now.

If that doesn’t happen, he said, thriving industries could leave the state:

“To ensure we get a return on our investment – more importantly, to ensure that no more students at any of our universities graduate with a huge debt, and no job comparable to their investment – universities must continue to help decrease the job gap by honing in on skills and subjects employers need while also stimulating a student’s passion and interest.”

Former Gov. Jim Hunt was also onstage at Memorial Hall on Sunday. He received a rousing standing ovation as he was honored by the school with a Distinguished Alumnus Award, after an introduction by Secretary of the Faculty Joseph. S. Ferrell.

Hunt was praised for his contributions to education in the state, including his support for the creation of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

“Today he continues his lifelong advocacy of education through the James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy,” said Ferrell.

Hunt, who earned UNC degrees in 1964 and 1978, was the longest-serving governor in North Carolina, with 16 years in office.

McCrory listed some of his own recent accomplishments during his speech, in which he compared himself to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

He said that both of them had to deal with problems left behind by previous administrations.

Folt became chancellor one year earlier, to the day.

“I inherited the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country,” said McCrory, “a debt of more than $2.5 billion owed to the federal government for unemployment insurance; a $530 million misforecast for Medicaid.

“And I also had to deal with teachers who, sadly, had not had a decent pay raise for over five years; and also, an empty rainy day reserve account that needed desperate replenishment.

“Due to some very tough decisions that my administration and others had to take during the past year-and-a-half, these problems are now being resolved.”

McCrory said that he’d like to see North Carolina become the “third vertex” of an “innovation triangle” of research that includes Silicon Valley and the Boston-New York area.

Perhaps due to dreary, drizzly weather outside, Memorial Hall was less than packed for the governor’s visit.

That didn’t seem to dampen the spirit of the chancellor, who received praise for her first-year performance from McCrory and members of the Boards of Trustees and Governors in attendance.

In her closing remarks, Folt referred to recent “challenges” faced by the university.

“Today, as we reflect on the past, and we look to the future, we must also acknowledge that the present isn’t perfect,” said Folt. “It never is. We have, and we always will, continue to face challenges.”

Earlier, McCrory praised Folt for working with faculty members “to end grade inflation.”

Besides Hunt, other recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award included Lt. General Patricia Horoho, the first female Surgeon General of the U.S. Army; Andrew McNally, geographer and former CEO of Rand McNally; Attorney Wade Smith, for whom the Wade M. Smith Award of the North Carolina Bar Association is named; and Attorney James Patton Jr., co-founder of the Patton Boggs law firm.

Professor of Public Policy Krista Perriera received the Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award for her work studying disparities in health, education and economic well-being, particularly as they affect Hispanic families.

NC Voter ID Court Battles Likely To Be Lengthy

Protesters rally for voter rights at Moral Monday; Photo by Rachel Nash

CHAPEL HILL – Our state became the 34th state in the nation to require voters to show a photo I.D. at the polls after Gov. Pat McCrory (Rep.) signed it into law last week. The new measure will bring sweeping changes to the state’s election process by reducing the early-voting period by a week, abolishing same-day voter registration and ending straight-party voting. The passage of the bill was immediately met with lawsuits filed in federal court questioning its constitutionality.

Mark Dorosin, managing attorney at UNC’s Center for Civil Rights and a member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, has been following the course of this legislation since it was proposed in the General Assembly.

“A full and final resolution of the case could take several months or potentially more than a year, so I think that this issue will be tied up in litigation for quite some time,” Dorosin said.

Backers of the Voter I.D. Law, set to take effect in the 2016 election, said it will protect against voter fraud, but Dorosin said he believes fraud is not a problem in this state. He also added that the other provisions of the bill  have nothing to do with preventing voter fraud.

“There is no basis or any justification, I don’t think, for getting rid of same-day registration or early voting, other than to keep people from voting,” Dorosin said.

Several lawsuits have been filed in federal court after McCrory signed the voter I.D. bill into law on August 12. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Foundation and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a suit on the grounds that provisions of the new law would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminates against African-American voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The N.C. NAACP and the Advancement Project filed a separate suit on the grounds that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate based on race or membership in one of the language minority groups. The NAACP also said the voting restrictions violate the 14th and 15th amendments.

“The thing about the North Carolina case is that it is just not about the Voter ID Law, but in the case filed by the NAACP, challenges the range of voter suppression components of the new election law,” Dorosin said.

Groups in North Carolina aren’t the first to challenge Voter I.D. related legislation. In Pennsylvania, voter I.D. legislation has been in legal limbo since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in March of 2012.

Dorosin said he believes court battles concerning the N.C. Voter I.D. will be more challenging than other cases in other states because the provisions of the bill are broader.