UNC Ranked Best Value Education in Country

UNC is checking in atop a national ranking for the 14th year in a row.

Carolina offers the best value of any public school in the country, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which publishes the annual list.

“UNC ranks number one for both in-state and out-of-state [students],” says editor Sandra Block. “UNC is just a bargain for what you get.”

Block says that UNC’s ability to provide financial aid to students is paramount to maintaining their positioning on the top of the list, but there are other factors – including “[the] student-faculty ratio, [the] admission rate – which is 27%, very competitive – [and] undergraduate debt, [which] is lower than average.”

Block mentions that UNC is the top ranking public university on the combined public-private value list, checking in at number 22. She says the list is dominated by private universities because of the amount of financial aid at the disposal of the schools – including one just down the road from UNC.

“Duke is number 10 on our combined list,” she says.

Both UNC and Duke excelled at graduating their students in four years. Duke has a four-year graduation rate of 87%, while Carolina’s is 81%.

Block adds that public universities face some obstacles that private institutions don’t – including state budget cuts.

The recent revelations of academic irregularities at UNC involving student athletes have dominated headlines in the academic world. Block says that they did factor that into their study by removing those students and rerunning the numbers to recalculate the graduation rate.

“Not to downplay the seriousness of the scandal,” she warns, “(but) statistically it wasn’t significant.”

Block says that, overall, the state of North Carolina, in particularly the Triangle, is very well represented on the list. UNC tops the list for in-state and out-of-state students at public universities. Duke checked in at number 10 on the combined public-private list, and North Carolina State University ranked 12th on the public university list for in-state students.


Temporary Process To Report Suspicious Academic Activities Unveiled

Plates were full for administrators, faculty, and students at UNC this holiday season, with commencement, final exams, and reviews from the UNC System Board of Governors.

There was certainly a lot to cover on Friday, and Chancellor Folt made an effort to touch on everything in front of the Faculty Council. She encouraged as many as she could to come to commencement on Sunday, and celebrate the hard work of the approximately 2,100 students who will be graduating.

Chancellor Folt also took a moment to praise the faculty for their presentations to the UNC System Board of Governors – who were conducting reviews of different departments in universities across the state.

“The people that gave the presentations were just tremendous,” she said. “And the reason I mention this is to let you know that every single person here takes this extremely seriously.”

Chancellor Folt also mentioned how proud she was of the UNC students, who were showing great passion for their departments amidst everything else going on right now, from final exams to taking part in nationwide protest over injustices they feel have been handed down in recent weeks.

“I was also concerned on the other end that for many students they were studying for their finals,” she added. “There are so many things going on, on our campus, which carry anxiety and concern.”

The main focus of the meeting was a presentation by the Faculty Athletics Committee. Chair Joy Renner introduced a draft program that would allow faculty members to voice any concerns over actions involving academic choices of student athletes at UNC.

A draft process is now in place for faculty members to voice concerns over any academic irregularities that involve student athletes. This process will bring any complaints through a vetting process to involve several departments that collaboratively look into each case.

One faculty member asked if the athletics committee was the appropriate branch to handle this enforcement. Chancellor Folt said this is a temporary fix and a bigger solution is in the works.

“This is much bigger than just faculty issues, or athletic issues,” Folt said. “We’re trying to do an audit of where people go when they have concerns when they want to bring forward.

“Once we do that audit, then we can start looking for the best process to build the equivalent of an ombudsperson. But it’s going to take time to get that right.”

The goal of Chancellor Folt and Committee Chair Renner is for the process to be completely transparent – and available to the public – once the final order of directives is in place.


UNC Awarded $25.3 Million To Run EPA’s Library

UNC’s School of Information and Library Science received its largest grant ever to operate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Research Triangle Park library.

SILS Dean Gary Marchionini says the $25.3 million dollar contract will allow the EPA library to expand its services.

“They’ve put RTP, that library, in charge of serving most of the journals and subscriptions for the entire library system in the EPA.”

The library serves the 2,000 scientists, engineers and contractors working at the EPA in the Triangle. That facility is already one of the largest in the nation; now it will serve as an information hub for the EPA’s other libraries.

The School of Information and Library Science has run the EPA’s RTP library since 1975. While it’s aimed at those researching environmental policies, the library is open to the general public.

Marchionini says it’s also a great example of collaboration between a public university and a government agency. “It’s kind of a nice partnership that’s a win-win for everybody.”

You can learn about SILS and the EPA library here.


Judge Orders Mediation For UNC Media Lawsuit

A judge on Friday denied a motion from UNC lawyers to dismiss a suit brought by WRAL and other local media to compel the university to disclose the names of employees disciplined in the wake of the Wainstein scandal.

In addition to denying the dismissal motion, the judge instructed the parties to settle the matter through mediation, saying, “If you can’t come up with a timetable, I’ll do it for you.”

The university has thus far refused to publish the names of the nine people fired or disciplined for participating in the long-running paper class scheme.

Media organizations including WRAL, the News and Observer, the AP and seven others insist the names are a matter of public record.

WCHL is not part of the lawsuit.


A Long Journey to Graduation

Sunday marks the Winter Commencement for some 2,100 students graduating from UNC. Some have overcome more challenges than others.

Katie Savage is not your typical UNC graduate. When she was just 14 years old she was undergoing heart surgery, when complications caused a blood clot. That blood clot forced doctors to quickly amputate her leg. Katie says the moment waking up from surgery is forever embedded in her mind.

“I remember reaching out for my leg,” she says, “and when my hand eventually started hitting the bed, I just busted into tears. I will never forget that.”

Listen to the full story:

Being a 14 year old can be difficult enough, but being a 14 year old who unexpectedly lost a limb can be devastating. Katie says the feeling of isolation and missing out was hard to bear.

“I was normal,” she says. “You’re told you’re going to go to high school; you’re going to go to prom; you’re going to go off to college; you’re going to get married…

“For me, my reality was shattered. Everything changed.”

She adds that those were lonely years, feeling like the world was passing by.

“My biggest memory was looking out the window,” she recalls. “I looked at kids who I rode the bus with, and I would see them get up and go off to school; here I was at home.

“And eventually, those kids were driving to school, and I was still at home – looking out the window – just wishing to be normal.”

A long and winding road eventually led Katie back to Chapel Hill, this time as a student.

“My first association with Chapel Hill was an amputation,” she says. “That’s the cool part about, now, being on the other end of things. There’s a lot more joy and things that I have received from my experience at Chapel Hill, compared to having lost so much.”

While at Chapel Hill, in addition to her studies, Katie founded the first-ever organization specifically for students with disabilities. She calls it Advocates for Carolina. The mission was to be there for those who were dealing with issues that not everyone could comprehend.

“I don’t want for what happened to me, to ever happen to another young person. I just hope that people are able to get the support that they need.”

Katie says that remembering those times as a teenager looking out the window fueled her passion for helping others. “That was definitely the main reason behind this – to offer the community of students a place where people don’t feel alone.”

She realized quickly after starting the organization that this is the work that she was meant to do.

“Something I realized is that God can have a plan for us that is far bigger than we could have ever planned for ourselves.”

As far as the plans that she can control, Katie would love to continue her education as a Tar Heel.

“I would like to go to graduate school. Ideally, I would love to be at Carolina for graduate school.” She adds, “It’s very humbling to be in this position. I honestly never imagined that I would be graduating from the University of North Carolina. It’s just unreal.”

But for now, the best part about graduation for Katie is just that, graduation. This will be her first time taking part in a graduation ceremony.

“I’m just looking forward to graduating because this is my first graduation. I didn’t go to the graduation ceremony for high school or community college.” She describes the feeling, “Imagining it makes me feel really complete. I’m a bit nervous, but I’m really excited…I can’t stop smiling.”

Katie will receive her bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC on Sunday, walking across the stage just down the road from where she learned to walk again.

While speaking with Katie, she recalled hearing a story on WCHL one day in years past, when she was feeling particularly down, that inspired her. And now, she hopes to be the one to do the inspiring.

“I was thinking, ‘oh my goodness. Here I am all these years later, potentially giving hope to someone else.’ I’m truly honored and completely humbled right now.”


With Cuts Possibly Looming, UNC Centers State Their Cases

Representatives from various UNC-Chapel Hill centers and institutes made presentations to the UNC Board of Governors Thursday in order to retain their state funding in the face of budget cuts – or just to remain alive.

Amidst a crowded room at the Spangler Center Thursday morning, the Board listened to speakers like Christi Hurt of the UNC Women’s Center, who spoke about having only one staffer who works directly with sexual assault victims.

“We truly do need a whole lot more,” she told Board Chair John Fennebresque (who asked, “Don’t you need a hundred?”). “The rest of the Women’s Center staff is trained to provide support, and we also do the work of the prevention efforts throughout the whole center…so the program itself isn’t isolated in one person, but she’s (the only one who is) distinctly trained to provide one-on-one advocacy support.”

The weeklong meetings arose after the state legislature paved the way for $15 million in cuts in last year’s budget.

Another group facing elimination is the Sonya Haynes Center for Black Culture. Director Joseph Jordan reminded the board that the center was created in 1988 from $9 million raised exclusively in private funds.

“It was created at the urging of concerned students, faculty, community and alumni as a center for the arts and cultures of African-Americans and as a site for campus and community service programming,” Jordan said. “In the 26 years since its creation, it has grown to become a major and unique resource for the university and the regional communities.”

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt reiterated that 51 percent of state funding has already been cut since 2009, which has prompted the university to become more aggressive in fundraising.

She said centers like the ones being discussed Thursday were crucial to those fundraising efforts.

“We’re getting ready to go to a multi-billion-dollar campaign – and one of the best ways you do that (is) to raise money for a center, not an office,” she told the Board. “The Stone Center is a vehicle for raising funds – and we are just in the process in developing that whole strategy, and they will be getting support, as will the Women’s Center…

“(These) are big draws for people that like to give to a named place.”

Groups under review may be terminated, lose state funding or could continue operating as it is. Thirty-four groups are under review at 11 UNC system universities.

Numerous students were also in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, carrying signs and wearing black tape over their mouths to protest the threat of funding cuts.


Pit Protests Continue On UNC Campus

Although it’s almost exam time for UNC students, the Pit wasn’t quiet Tuesday.

Students gathered and linked arms standing around the Pit in protest of the Ferguson outcome, police brutality and racial profiling. The assembly lasted for more than four hours to represent how long Michael Brown laid in the street after being shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson.

“So what’s going on right now is that we’re holding a protest just so we can continue to raise awareness about police brutaility against African American individuals within this country,” sophomore Kierra Campbell says. “We’re calling out names of victims who have been killed by police brutality because of their race and so we just want individuals to know why we are out here and we’re standing here because we want to have open dialogue. We’re telling people to ask us, if you don’t understand why we’re here, why we’re angry, it’s about raising awareness. It’s about standing up, saying the names and giving light to these victims who have not received justice.”

The protest gained momentum via social media, which is how Communication Studies major Ashley Winkfield became involved.

“After the announcement one of the organizers, she put on Twitter, ‘I wish we had a space to talk about this,” she says. “And from that, the three of us we kind of were like well let’s, let’s make a space, let’s, let’s have a space to talk. And from that we kind of were able to really decide that we need to make an action, we need to make a start of something, because the organizations weren’t necessarily moving fast enough. That’s not nothing against them, but just you know, we wanted this to be a people’s movement. We wanted this to be something where people can come together and really express how they feel and be able to protest in peace. But also to build awareness, because I think a lot of the issues come from people just don’t talk about it.”

Winkfield says they key is to get people talking.

“People don’t talk about race, we’re in a post racial society,” she says. “ So right now it’s really about making sure that people are talking, people are listening, because we do have a lot to say,” she say. “You know we have people being killed, every 28 hours a black person is killed by the police and it’s happening at the same rate of lynchings during the Jim Crow era. But these are things that nobody talks about.”

The protest started at 10 a.m. with five people. Winkfield says it grew tremendously throughout the day.

“If you don’t why we’re here, ask us,” she says. “And people do ask and we say join us and they’ll be like, ‘Can’t right now, but when I come back from class I will.’ You know someone just had a whole conversation here just asking, ‘So what is the point of all this? Like you’re saying all these names, you know, you’re, you’re making a stink, but what are you actually doing?’ But it’s a conversation regardless. So even if it’s not a positive conversation, it’s still a conversation that someone is learning. There’s an exchange of ideas, there’s an exchange. Even if you don’t agree, we can express how we feel.”

This gathering took place a week after 500 people gathered in the Pit after a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.


A Day In The Life At The Battle 4 Atlantis

Eight teams. Eight fan bases. Three days. Twelve games. One mega-resort. 3,300 seats. And don’t forget that kooky dancing basketball…

Just what was the Battle 4 Atlantis like, anyway?

All week long, through upsets and nailbiters, as ranked teams fell to confident challengers, people both here in Nassau and back home in America have been commenting about how strong a tournament this has been. But it took a trip to the Caribbean to actually get here, and the Imperial Arena (actually the Imperial Ballroom) isn’t very big. UNC folks were everywhere at the Atlantis – only Wisconsin’s fan base was bigger, and every other team was far behind – but still, this was a pretty tough ticket to get.

So here’s a look at part of what you might have missed – with photos taken (mostly) on Friday before and during UNC’s match with Florida.

Battle 4 Atlantis - lobby

The lobby of the Atlantis Resort’s Royal Towers. Just like in the States, the Christmas decorations were out before Thanksgiving.


Heather and Colin of Anthony Travel handled hospitality for UNC fans.


Walking down the long hallway to the Imperial Ballroom Arena.


Things start to get crowded in between games, as one group of fans leaves the arena and another group shuffles in. In this picture you can see a young Wisconsin fan bottom left and a Tar Heel fan there in the center. For those of you keeping score, there were three roughly equal groups of fans at Atlantis: UNC fans, Wisconsin fans, and every other fan base combined.


Waiting just outside the hallway into the arena.


Fans walked down a long hallway into a circular central area, made a right, walked down another long hallway into THIS circular central area, then made a left up there where it says “IMPERIAL ARENA” and entered from there. The arena itself is just on the other side of the wall with the UNC and UCLA banners.


And here’s the entrance to the arena itself. Doors are on the left…


…where the Tar Heels are warming up. Again, what you’re looking at is actually a 50,000-square foot ballroom, so the entire floor is carpeted; the court has been placed on top of the carpet and those bleachers are temporary. (It’s all extremely intimate – imagine Cameron Indoor Stadium with the upper deck removed. They had t-shirt guns for time-outs, but I saw one of the t-shirt gun guys casually underhand a shirt up into the stands – and it made it halfway back.)


This photo’s dark, but this is your view entering the arena – you actually walk behind the back of the bleachers first.

4 - Battle4Atlantis Entering Imperial Arena

And then you round the corner and see this.


If you happened to catch the games on TV, you probably noticed the unusual lighting. Here’s a shot of the blue lights, as the Heels and Gators continue warming up.


They were handing these out to fans on Thursday. I’m not sure how many people used them; the games were exciting enough as it was.


This guy is Bounce, the official mascot of the Battle 4 Atlantis. I liked him.

On Thanksgiving, Bounce was paired with a second mascot, a man-sized turkey dressed as a Pilgrim. (Not making that up.) It was the most Thanksgiving-y thing I saw all day: Paradise Island really does not feel like a foreign country in any manner – they even accept US currency – but Thanksgiving is not exactly a big holiday there. (Though to be fair, Paradise Island exists to be a tourist destination, so I’m not sure any holiday would feel all that big. Maybe Christmas, I guess, but otherwise it’s just one eternal Saturday.)


Obviously I’m no professional photographer, but here are the pros, seated next to the basket in the middle of the game. See the guy with the dark hair and the mustache right in the middle, holding the big camera? That’s Nick Vitali; he took all the in-game shots for Chapelboro…

UNC Basketball Marcus Paige vs Florida in Battle 4 Atlantis - 3

…and that was his vantage point when he took this nice shot of Marcus Paige shooting over a Gator defender.


The Tar Heels beat the Gators, 75-64. Afterwards, Coach Williams and the players got a loud ovation from the UNC fans in the hallway outside the arena as they waded their way into the press conference room. “We’re very appreciative,” said Williams after the UCLA game on Thursday, noting just how strong the UNC fan base was in Nassau this week.

I took this picture around 11:00, about an hour after the game was over; numerous Tar Heel players were still out there, signing autographs, shaking hands, and taking pictures with dozens of fans. The Battle 4 Atlantis in a nutshell: players, coaches, and fans all intermingling in the same resort. Total strangers shouting “Go Heels!” and “Go Badgers!” at each other as they passed. Very cool atmosphere.


…and not a bad location either.



UNC Rolls Over Florida, 75-64, In Battle 4 Atlantis

The Tar Heel basketball team jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Friday and never looked back, rolling over the No. 16 Florida Gators 75-64 in the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

It was UNC’s second win in as many days over a ranked opponent: they also beat UCLA on Thursday after an opening-game loss to Butler.

“We feel better than we did after the first night,” said head coach Roy Williams after the game.

Carolina hounded Florida on defense from the beginning; the Gators didn’t score until almost seven minutes had gone by. Florida’s outside shooting came up short as well: the Gators shot only 6-27 from 3-point range. (The Heels, by contrast, shot 6-12 from beyond the arc.)

Photo by Nick Vitali.

Photo by Nick Vitali.

By halftime, UNC led 39-23. Florida got as close as 7 in the second half, but never really threatened. The Tar Heels never trailed during the game.

It was a team effort all the way for UNC. Kennedy Meeks led the way with another double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds (tying his career high for rebounds). Justin Jackson scored the first five points of the game and ended with 12.  JP Tokoto and Brice Johnson each added 10, and Marcus Paige chipped in 16.

Brice Johnson goes high for a slam against Florida. Photo by Nick Vitali.

Brice Johnson goes high for a slam against Florida. Photo by Nick Vitali.

But UNC struggled against Florida’s full-court press, and the Tar Heels shot only 32 percent in the second half after shooting 58 percent in the first half – points that Williams says give the team something to work on.

Tonight Billy’s press really bothered us,” he said, referring to Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “We turned it over 19 times, and that’s too many to say the least.”

Still, UNC came away with a double-digit win against a ranked opponent. Both Williams and his players gave part of the credit for that to the team’s depth – which allowed the players to stay fresh, even while playing three games in three days.

“Yesterday (against UCLA) I think we (only) had two guys play over 22 minutes,” Williams said. “The depth helped us win the game last night, and I think it helped us get off to a better start tonight.”

JP Tokoto agreed. “In the UCLA game, the guys were really fired up from the Butler loss…(and) for this game it was the same thing as yesterday,” he said. “We knew we had to come out with energy – (and) everyone played three games, so we knew we couldn’t use that as an excuse. Our depth really helped us.”

Marcus Paige drives against Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Photo by Nick Vitali.

Marcus Paige drives against Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Photo by Nick Vitali.

With the win, UNC moves to 5-1 on the season (2-1 this week in the Bahamas) and takes home fifth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis – a high-level tournament that included four ranked teams plus at least three high-quality unranked teams in Butler, Georgetown and Oklahoma.

“We were exposed to many different things,” Williams said – citing Butler’s physical play, UCLA’s speed, and Florida’s screen on the ball. “Used to be, a tournament would be four good teams and four not-so-good teams. But this is a big time tournament…great tournament, great field, and I do believe it really helped us.”

Wisconsin took home the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis title by beating Oklahoma in the championship game on Friday.

UNC has very little time to relax: they host Iowa on Wednesday back in Chapel Hill, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.


Tar Heels Bounce Back, Beat UCLA 78-56

One day after a disappointing loss to Butler, the Tar Heel basketball team changed up its lineup, came out fresh, and rolled to a 78-56 victory over the no. 22 UCLA Bruins on Thanksgiving night in the Bahamas.

Roy Williams started Isaiah Hicks, Joel James, and Nate Britt in place of Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks. James was a non-factor, but Hicks finished with 10 points on 5-7 shooting – tying the career high he set the day before.

“They pay me a lot of money to make decisions,” said head coach Roy Williams on the lineup switch. “I was ticked off (after the Butler game), I made decisions – and it worked out fine.”


Meeks, Johnson and Tokoto prepare to enter the game after sitting the first couple minutes. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

UCLA jumped out to an early 7-point lead, but Carolina came back quickly, took the lead, and went into halftime up 43-29. UCLA cut the lead to 9 early in the second half, but the Tar Heels rolled from there, dominating in the paint and hitting outside shots over the Bruins’ zone. Marcus Paige gave Carolina a 17-point lead with back-to-back three-pointers, and UCLA never threatened again.

“We shot the ball better, and we caught UCLA on a night when their shots didn’t go in,” said Williams.

Paige led the way for the Heels with 21 points. Justin Jackson added 12 and JP Tokoto chipped in 10 off the bench.


Marcus Paige battles UCLA’s Bryce Alford for the ball. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

“We did get a little motivation from our coaching staff” after the Butler game, said Paige. (An understatement, presumably – as a laughing Williams sat beside him.) “I like the way we responded; hopefully we won’t have to have a lot of those teaching points again.”

A night after being out-muscled by Butler, the Tar Heels led the Bruins 34-28 in points in the paint.

The key stat, though, was turnovers. Hounded by Carolina’s defense, UCLA turned the ball over 23 times to UNC’s 11, and UNC capitalized, leading the Bruins 31-6 in points off turnovers.

“For us it’s easy now to see the difference in how we played tonight versus how we played yesterday,” said Paige. “Being unselfish, flying around on defense – that’s a more fun style to play, and when you see the results…why wouldn’t you want to play that way?”


Tokoto electrified the crowd with a big breakaway dunk. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

In all, ten Tar Heels scored in the game – including Sasha Seymore, who came in late with the Heels up big.

“We play more guys than they do…and so it was important for us to have fresh troops out there most of the time,” said Williams. UNC’s deeper bench meant their players would be better rested in the second half, a big advantage in case the Heels needed a comeback.

On this night, though, they didn’t even come close to needing it.


Meeks and crew celebrate the Tar Heels’ victory. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

The Heels next face Florida in the fifth-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Friday night at 8 pm. (The Gators narrowly escaped an upset bid by UAB in the late game. Florida and UNC last met in the 2000 Final Four.) Wisconsin and Oklahoma will meet in the final at 4:30.