Listen to the 2015 WCHL Community Forum

UNC Distinguished Writer in Residence to Hold Reading of New Work

A noted author and environmentalist will hold a reading Tuesday night on the UNC Campus.

Terry Tempest Williams is an author, environmentalist, and activist. She is also the 2015 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at UNC.

Williams says, coming from the Western United States, North Carolina is a blast of nature.

“From the mountains, to the piedmont, to the coast, I don’t know of any state that has kind of stratigraphy of change,” she says. “I have such respect for the history that is here, the arts, [and] the music. I think it’s just a stunning place.

“And as a Westerner, it’s just extremely exotic. Seeing the dogwood, the forsythia, this is like going to Eden.”

Among the issues Williams says she holds near and dear to her heart is the accessibility of clean drinking water. She says she was thrilled to hear about UNC’s “Water in Our World” campaign.

“You hear the adage, ‘you don’t talk about politics or religion.’ In the West, you don’t talk about water,” she says. “It’s that controversial, and it’s that essential.”

Williams speaks not only of clean drinking water globally, but also domestically where she says she has seen fracking leave behind a trail of contaminated water.

“Coming from a state, and a neighboring state of Wyoming, where fracking has been going on for a long time, I can tell you the consequences are not pretty,” she says. “I know that it’s about jobs, and economies, and cheap energy. But the fact is there’s a town in Wyoming called Pavillion, and the simple story is this – they can no longer drink their water.”

Williams was a panelist on Monday afternoon for a discussion on the future of water in our world. She says conversation is a key to solving major problems we face as a society.

“I think that we are so polarized, that we have stopped listening to one another,” she says. “I think that if we can really have those hard conversations; look each other in the eye and say, ‘What concerns you? What do you care about? What binds us together?’ rather than what tears us apart.

“Then I think we can come to those essential facts that without water we do not exist.”

Williams will also hold a reading at 7:30 Tuesday evening in the auditorium of the Genome Sciences Building.

“I get nervous even thinking about it,” she says. “I will be reading new work about America’s national parks.”

The reading is free and open to the public.

Finally, Williams will be part of a panel discussing the role of naturalist in a world of environmental threats at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. That panel will meet in Donovan Lounge.

UNC Senior Associate AD Retiring

The Senior Associate Athletics Director, and Senior Woman Administrator, at UNC is retiring. The university announced that Dr. Beth Miller will be retiring on July 1.

In a statement, Miller says, “I’ve been fortunate to be part of the University and the North Carolina athletic department for 40 years and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunnigham says, “Beginning as a coach and transitioning into an administrative role, Beth has always worked tirelessly to support all of our student-athletes and coaches. She has been a pioneer for women’s college athletics both nationally and at UNC. Because of her leadership and guidance, Carolina’s Olympic Sports have achieved incredible success with more than 30 national championships.”

Miller served as head volleyball coach and softball coach before transitioning to an administrative position.

She was also recognized by as one of the top 10 senior woman administrators in the country, earlier this year.

Former UNC Football Player and Local Golf Pro Mike Rubish Passes Away

Former UNC Football player and local golf pro Mike Rubish passed away, on Sunday, at the age of 90.

His family released the following statement:

Mike Rubish, a former UNC football player and local golf professional, passed peacefully Sunday afternoon, March 15, 2015, at his home in Chapel Hill.

Rubish, 90, was born in Weirton, West Virginia, and was the son of Johan and Anna Rubish.

At age 16, Rubish joined the 7th Air Force and served in Hawaii. He was at Hickam Field on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. While there, Rubish roomed with and befriended famed baseball slugger Joe DiMaggio.

After World War II, Rubish chose a football scholarship at UNC over playing baseball for Duke. He was a member of the 1946-49 Tar Heels with Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice and was the team’s barefoot kicker. He played for UNC in the 1946 and 1948 Sugar Bowls and the 1949 Cotton Bowl.

The 1950 UNC graduate was drafted by and played for the Washington Redskins, once kicking a 40-yard field goal to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rubish left the National Football League to become a professional golfer and got to know Arnold Palmer, whom he once beat in an exhibition match in Pennsylvania. Rubish was a member of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) for more than 60 years, mostly as a Class A teaching pro in Durham. North Carolina. He owned and operated Golf City, a driving range, par 3 course and two miniature golf courses for 26 years.

After running a golf shop near South Square Mall in Durham, Rubish retired and enjoyed playing golf and cards with his many friends.
Rubish is preceded in death by his oldest son, Michael, Jr., and all but one of his 13 siblings.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Patsy Andrews Rubish of Carrboro and Chapel Hill; sons Jeff Rubish and his wife Barbara and Drew Rubish and his long-time partner Mary Stewart; five grandchildren, Christopher, Connor and Kathryn Rubish and Kelly and Kimberly Rubish, all of Chapel Hill, and his one surviving sister, Barbara, of Pennsylvania; and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at University Baptist Church on Thursday, March 19, at 2 p.m. followed by a reception on the fifth floor of the Pope Box at UNC’s Kenan Stadium. The family welcomes all friends of Mike Rubish, past and present, to attend the celebration of his life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.

Former Tar Heels Helping Fight Childhood Cancer

Former Carolina baseball teammates are joining forces once again to fight childhood cancer.

Former Tar Heel Catcher Chase Jones tells WCHL’s Blake Hodge that the fight against childhood cancer is personal for him:


You can donate to help fight childhood cancer here.

UNC Grad Programs Recognized

UNC graduate programs are very well represented in the 2016 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools” from the US News and World Report.

The new honors for UNC graduate programs includes the school of medicine, public health, nursing, business, law, and education – with specialty areas recognized within each department.

UNC Provost James Dean says the school is quite proud of the rankings.

“We have a lot of very strong graduate programs, and they generally are recognized by the US News rankings,” he says. “But you can never take it for granted.

“It’s possible that other competitors come in, and you move down. Or that something goes wrong within your own school and you move down.”

Dean adds the rankings vary among the different disciplines, from very subjective views to more objective factors.

He says the precedent is for UNC to be involved in the discussion among the top programs in the country.

“I think it’s fair to say that we do expect to be recognized. That’s because of the quality of the programs,” he says. “You get accustomed to being ranked among the top schools in the country, but you’re never comfortable.

“You always have to worry about what else you can do, and what other schools might be doing, and what you need to do in order to compete.”

Dean says one note he is especially proud of is the breadth of fields the university was recognized for.

“It says that we’re a very comprehensive university. We have programs in almost all of the fields that US News ranks,” he says. “I think the exception is engineering, and there might be another one.

“It’s an expensive business to run graduate schools that comprehensively. And so we’re grateful for the support of the people of North Carolina, who have supported the university for so long through their elected representatives.”

In recent weeks, the graduate programs at UNC have been under scrutiny after revelations that exceptions were made to allow student-athletes into programs. Dean says he doesn’t feel the lingering academic scandal plays any role in the evaluation of graduate programs offered at Carolina.

“The things that happened, happened some time ago. They ended years ago,” he says. “And in the case of any implications for our graduate programs, I think that story identified one or two students out of tens of thousands of students that we’ve had over that period of time.

“It’s certainly not anything systematic.”

US News has ranked graduate programs annually since 1990.

Census Report: Off-Campus Students Inflate Local Poverty Rates

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau sheds light on a question many local leaders have been asking for a long time- how do college students affect town and county poverty rates?

Rebecca Tippett is the Director of Carolina Demography at UNC’s Carolina Population Center. She says off-campus students significantly inflate local poverty rates.

“In Chapel Hill the poverty rate cuts in half when you exclude them from the population, because the poverty rate among those students is so high, largely just because they’re in school full-time and might not need to be working,” says Tippett.

When off-campus students are not counted, Chapel Hill’s poverty rate falls from 23.7 percent to 11.5 percent. At the county level, the rate drops from 18.8 percent to 14 percent.

The report used data from the 2009-2011 American Community Survey. It examined three groups of students, those living in dorms, those living with family members, and those living off-campus.

Students living in dorms, who account for 11 percent of the total student population nationwide, are never counted in the poverty rate.

Students living with family members account for 63 percent of the total. They are always included in poverty measures, as are the 25 percent of students living off-campus.

The report shows excluding the off-campus population has little impact on state poverty rates, but can make a big difference at the local level.

When it comes to estimating the need for social support services, government officials usually assume students are only temporarily living below the poverty line while they are in school full-time.

But Tippett says that’s not always the case. She warns against excluding the student population from discussions of poverty all together.

“I do have some concerns about wanting to remove students from the impoverished population entirely,” says Tippett. “I think it many cases, particularly when you’re having conversations about the increasing challenge of student debt and the current job market, we do want to keep in mind that just because people are in school they don’t all have parental support. They might be trying to work full time and can’t make it. I think there are important nuances to this to keep in mind.”

Tippett says this is an area where local governments should coordinate with schools and institutions to make sure student needs are met.

“Just because people are students, doesn’t mean they don’t have needs that are not being met by their work and loan packages,” says Tippett. “I think this is a very tricky population and what it points to is the need to coordinate local government and school interaction to address this, to better understand what the student population is; who they are; what their needs are; how that might impact and interplay with the local government.”

You can read the full report here.

BOG Takes 1st Step to Replacing President Ross

The first step in determining the next President of the UNC System was taken by the Board of Governors on Wednesday.

Tom Ross is scheduled to leave that position in January of next year, following a decision by the BOG.

A nine-member nomination committee was unveiled during a conference call. That committee will nominate members to three committees that will be involved in the search process.

Those committees will consist of a leadership statement committee, a screening committee, and a search committee.

The leadership statement portion will involve campus leaders to put forward a description of the qualities the board is looking for in the next University System President.

From there, the screening committee will wade through applications.

The search committee will have the most influence in the process, including hiring a search consultant.

Nominations to each committee will likely come at the next Board of Governor’s meeting on April 10 in Greenville, on the campus of East Carolina University.

UNC Loans $3M to Preserve Housing in Northside Neighborhood

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt made a big announcement Monday about Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood. He spoke at the Hargraves Community Center to an audience of Northside residents, community leaders and local officials.

“UNC Chapel Hill is the new catalyst by providing a $3 million no-interest loan that will be managed by our friends from the Self Help Credit Union to lead the acquisition of properties in the neighborhood,” said Kleinschmidt.

The 188-acre Northside neighborhood has historically been the largest African American neighborhood in Chapel Hill. Residents have moved out over the last few decades as developers have bought the properties to rent at a higher price than many families can afford. The landlords often rent houses to students.

Self Help will collaborate with community organizations to buy properties and hold them until they’re ready for home ownership or rental housing.

According to a fact sheet from the project partners, in 1980 the U.S. Census found 1,200 black residents living in the neighborhood. In 2010, that number was 690.

That’s a 40 percent reduction in the black population over three decades.

Esphur Foster, a 75-year-old Northside resident, spoke on growing up in the neighborhood. She uses the term Potter’s Field, which is what Northside used to be called. She talked about one of the characters in the neighborhood, Aunt Lee, who “placed her hands on her high and wide hips with a cigarette dangling from her lips.”

“One of the most amazing things was that the ashes never fell from her cigarette as she walked around doing chores and hollering at us,” said Foster. “She said as loud as she could, ‘Go home, go home, your mammy wants you home sometime.’ . . . We scattered like the wind-driven leaves falling from the trees in the fall.”

Four organizations will work in partnership on this program called the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. Self Help Credit Union will work with UNC, the town of Chapel Hill, and the Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, which is a grassroots advocacy organization.

The stated goals of the initiative are:

  • Helping long-term residents who want to stay in Northside remain in their homes
  • Attracting new residents – a balance of working families, seniors and students – from diverse backgrounds
  • Increasing the availability of housing and financing options for neighborhood properties

UNC to Continue Work on Poverty

Many UNC faculty members, and citizen across the state, have expressed concern recently with the decision from the Board of Governors to close three centers across the UNC System. UNC Faculty Chair Doctor Bruce Cairns tells WCHL’s Blake Hodge that the university’s work on poverty will continue despite the decision to close the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at UNC.

Boxill Resignation Comes Days Before Appeal Hearing

Dr. Jan Boxill, who has been one of the key figures in the academic scandal at UNC, resigned her position just before her appeal of her firing was to be heard by a faculty committee.

Rick White, Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs at UNC, says that process came to a halt with her resignation.

“That hearing was scheduled to take place,” he says. “However, Dr. Boxill chose to resign prior to that hearing starting. Once that letter of resignation was received and accepted, then that whole process just stopped.”

Boxill’s resignation was effective February 28.

White says they did not cut a deal for the resignation.

“That was no settlement per se,” he says. “Dr. Boxill is covered under the state of North Carolina retirement system. However, we’re treating this now simply as a resignation and not a termination, because she did resign prior to that termination process being complete.”

White says as far as the university is concerned, the resignation of Boxill is a “closed book.”

Boxill did not return a request for comment from WCHL.