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Thousands Gather at UNC to Pay Tribute to 3 Shooting Victims

Thousands filled the Pit at UNC on a chilly Wednesday evening to pay tribute to three young Muslim college students who were gunned down the day before in Chapel Hill – allegedly, over a parking dispute.

Many, however, say they believe 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks committed a hate crime.

The vigil began with UNC dental students, in their white coats, standing together in the center of The Pit, and holding candles in remembrance of their classmate Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

There were several speakers, including town and university leaders, and friends and family of the three shooting victims.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt thanked everyone for coming out, including busloads of students from N.C. State and N.C. Central universities.

“As is often the case at a time of tragedy,” said Folt, “when you think you’re going to reach out to try to help people, you find that the people you’re trying to help are the ones that, in fact, help you.

“That has been my experience today, as I’ve talked with groups of students, with faculty, with Imam Abdullah, sitting in and watching the prayer ceremony, and even coming here tonight.”

N.C State Chancellor Randy Woodson said it was a day to remember the three young students for all they were, all they wanted to be, and what they could have been.

“Tonight, we remember Razan,” said Woodson, “an amazing design student at NC State, an amazing breath of fresh air for the college, and for that school; Yusor, an outstanding biology student at N.C. State, that was so excited, having only been married for six weeks, to begin her journey in the dental school at Carolina; and Deah.

“If you’ve met Deah, you know that this is a man that possessed the most amazing bear hug that you could ever experience.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told the crowd that he appeared before them with “a broken heart.” The mayor paid an emotional tribute to the victims, and to the town he said they exemplified.

“This community, this university, this town is a welcoming town,” said Kleinschmidt. “It’s a compassionate town. It’s a peace-loving town. I know this for at least three important reasons. The three souls we lost helped not only create, but sustain that truth about who we are, as a community.”

Imam Adbdullah Antepli, the chief representative for Muslim Affairs at Duke University, said that in his 25 years of studying theology and philosophy, he’s never read the passage in any book that could make sense of a tragedy like this.

Still, he offered words of hope in troubled times.

“Three cruel, hateful bullets snuffed out lives that were just coming to fruition,” said Antepli. “We cannot undo the hatred. We cannot undo the hate crime. We cannot undo the bullet…I hope we’re able to leave here with the faith that, at the end of the day, knowledge is somehow more luminous than ignorance; that justice is more beautiful than tyranny.

“And that most important lesson of all: that love is more divine than hatred.”

Deah Barakat’s brother Farris said he’s comforted by his belief that the victims have gone to paradise, where they are elated and happy. He echoed the Imam’s call for peace and tolerance, here on earth.

“If, and it is quite possible, that this was an act based off of evil and a scared, ignorant man, do not let ignorance propagate in your life,” said Barakat. “Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.”

Chapel Hill couple Chris and Abby Fulton told WCHL that they came out to show support for the families of the victims.

“Three people being brutally murdered so close to home…” said Chris Fulton.

“Yeah, it’s just so sad,” Abby Fulton continued that thought. “it’s like, the least you can do is come out and say this is horrifying, I’m here to say this is horrifying, and to show you that I’m one among many who want to surround you with love from your community, as much as possible.”

Stories Continue to Honor Coach Smith

Thoughts, stories, and memories are still coming in honoring of the late legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith.

Listen below for a conversation with Smith’s longtime Pastor Bob Seymour:

Listen below for reflections from Barry Jacobs:

Listen below for a conversation with UNC Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell:

Listen below for memories from Director of Public Policy Polling, and avid UNC fan, Tom Jensen:

Listen below for a great story from Elizabeth Fritz, who scheduled the birth of a child around the 1982 National Championship game:

Listen below for the story of a monk with a weak spot for Tar Heel basketball, as told by local pastor Mark Acuff:

You can hear additional audio here.

And share your story with us.

Roy Williams Remembers Dean Smith

As Chapel Hill and the nation mourns the passing of former UNC Coach Dean Smith, tributes from notables are pouring in from far and wide.

Current Tar Heel Head Coach Roy Williams reflected at a press conference on Sunday.

Need for Yik Yak Questioned on UNC Campus

Yik Yak is a social media network that allows users to anonymously post messages that can be seen by other users in their area.

The app has been under scrutiny, as of late, as some colleges and universities across the nation have banned its use. Schools do this by denying access to the app on the school’s wireless networks – leaving the option open for those on campus to access the app through their data network.

Specific to UNC’s campus, Yik Yak has been controversial after a bomb threat was made on the social media platform. Offensive statements were also posted on the app during the “Black Lives Matter” movement on campus.

UNC Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp issued the following statement questioning the need for Yik Yak:

“We are aware that some people use insensitive and hurtful language on Yik Yak. One of the difficulties we have with the site is that students and others who post messages do so anonymously, and there’s no accountability for their actions. Yik Yak adds little to no value to our community and creates more problems for our students than it will ever be worth. We want Carolina to be a place where people feel comfortable talking about race and other issues, and we are working hard to create opportunities for them to do that in a constructive and respectful way.”

Some feel that banning the app will impose on free speech. What, if any, action UNC officials will take against the social media site remains to be seen.

UNC Offers Admission to Over 6,200 Applicants From Early Deadline

UNC has offered admission to more than 6,200 candidates from the record number of first-year applications to the state’s flagship university, according to the school.

These candidates were selected from the more than 17,000 applications that were submitted before the early-notification deadline.

Overall, from the first and second deadlines, nearly 32,000 applications for admission were submitted to UNC; that marks 10 consecutive years of record applications.

A statement from the university says admitted students hail from 96 North Carolina counties, 47 states, and 30 countries – including the US. Thirteen percent will be the first generation of their family to graduate from college.

Decisions for second-deadline applicants will be released by the end of March. The University expects 4,000 new first-year students to enroll in August.

Founding CEO of Hulu Named UNC Spring Commencement Speaker

UNC has announced that Jason Kilar will be speaking at the Spring Commencement.

Kilar is a 1993 graduate of UNC. He went on to be the founding CEO of Hulu, the online television streaming service. Kilar is currently the co-founder and CEO of Vessel – a recently-launched streaming service aimed at providing a wide-range of videos directly to your mobile device.

In a moment when “innovation” is a buzzword – across the UNC campus, with the recently announced Carolina Research Venture Fund, and across the state as Governor Pat McCrory is pushing for our area to become the third vertex in a National Innovation Triangle – Kilar seems a timely fit for the commencement speech.

In a press release UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says that:

“Carolina is honored to have Jason Kilar, a proud alumnus and highly successful entrepreneur, as our Commencement speaker. Jason’s innovations have had a significant impact on the way people experience media and entertainment, and his continued accomplishments are an inspiration to all at Carolina who strive to use their talents to do better and do more.”

Commencement will be on May 10 at 9 a.m. in Kenan Stadium.

UNC Votes for NCAA Autonomy

The five power conferences in the NCAA, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, have voted in favor of autonomy when determining guidelines governing student athletes.

The decision was made at a meeting with university leaders from around the nation. UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says the conference included 80 members, one from each of the 65 universities in the power conferences along with 15 students.

“The most interesting part of the conference was the students. They were incredible,” she says. “They had lots to say about these things. This is the first time students have started to be included in their future and the way we think about it with the regulations from the NCAA.”

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says the vote for autonomy will allow the power conferences to make decisions that will not include smaller conferences.

“Schools in the BCS conferences now have the right to vote about legislation that would affect them only,” he says.

Chancellor Folt says the primary vote was taking steps to protect the student athletes.

“The initial regulations voted in mostly have to do with things like getting students full cost of attendance, a very strong one that says that students couldn’t lose their scholarships based on athletic performance,” she says.

“That’s a very big commitment. We were already very close to that in our own way of dealing with things, but this makes this true across the conferences.”

Cunningham says they will now be able to provide the full cost of attendance to student-athletes through scholarships.

“We have 800 student-athletes. There are about 300 scholarships that we spread over the 800 students,” he says. “The in-state difference is about $4,000, and the out-of-state is about $6,000.”

Cunningham says the transition will not be smooth, but it will be beneficial for student-athletes.

Chapelboro’s Art Chansky says it is important to stay on the student-athlete side of the line that divides them from employees of universities.

“[Universities] are doing this, this, and this, while retaining the college model,” he says. “They want to stay on that side of the amateur line and never get to the point where the government is going to say, ‘you’re paying them too much, they’re employees.’”

Chansky says crossing that line could result in universities losing certain designations.

The chancellor says the next level of conversation will include governing how many hours student-athletes can commit to their sport, as well as looking at standards for admission and ongoing eligibility for student-athletes.

UNC Facing High Number of Legal Challenges

UNC is currently facing several legal challenges, including a class-action lawsuit from two former student-athletes filed last week.

To handle the breadth of the lawsuits, UNC has retained the services of New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, according to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

“We have many different challenges, and a lot of them will play out at different levels,” she says. “Some will be local. Some will go all the way to the national level.”

Folts adds this is a high influx of cases to handle at one time.

“It is true that every university has a constant flow of legal actions,” she says. “We are at a new level, at another level, an unusual level, maybe the greatest level.”

Chancellor Folt also says they typically work with local firms but do need to reach beyond those resources at times.

“Some times the expertise may come from another firm,” she says. “This particular integration will also include local firms. It’s that synthesis that we’re using; that I think will really help us.”

The chancellor also says they are wading through an influx of public records.

“Our whole enterprise, legally, has really grown here,” she says. “We’re using it as an opportunity to get the assistance that we need, and then think about how to restructure our office so that it can be nimble and flexible.”

Chancellor Folt adds they would rather contract out during these heavy times, because – hopefully – this staff will not typically be necessary.

“We don’t want to buy a 50 person legal team, because I hope we don’t need that for the rest of our time here,” she says. “So you need those experts.”

Meanwhile, UNC is also searching for a replacement for their general counsel.

Most recently, Rashanda McCants – former UNC women’s basketball player – and Devon Ramsay – former UNC football player – filed a lawsuit against UNC and the NCAA, alleging they didn’t receive a proper college education during their time in Chapel Hill. This lawsuit is one of the many ripple effects following the Wainstein report that found UNC was offering classes with little or no faculty involvement where, typically, high grades were handed out for minimal work.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says he has not had an opportunity to asses that suit.

“I became aware of it when it was filed, but [I] have not had a chance to read it yet,” he says. “And I haven’t been a part of conversations on campus about its implication yet.”

Former football player Michael McAdoo has also filed a class-action lawsuit directed only at the university.

The university is also listed, along with Harvard University, in a complaint that was filed in November. That suit calls for race-neutral admission processes at all universities, after alleging the schools cap the number of Asian students that they will admit.

There is also the ongoing lawsuit regarding Mary Willingham and the effort to settle her workplace harassment claim.

And in August, a female student filed a complaint alleging the university mishandled her sexual assault case.

The law firm hired by UNC will be paid $990 per hour of service from partners and associate fees will range from $450 to $975 per hour. That payment was approved by the governor and state attorney general.

Applications Up Again at UNC

Applications for admission to UNC are up again.

UNC is announcing a record for first-year applications, marking ten years in a row that a new record has been set. Overall applications are up two percent over last year and 37 percent over five years ago: applications from low-income households are also up two percent.

Some had thought the low-income number may go down after the UNC Board of Governors unanimously approved a budget item in August that capped need-based financial aid at 15 percent. UNC is currently above that threshold and, therefore, must freeze the amount they are putting toward financial aid.

Chancellor Carol Folt says the administration will do everything possible to continue meeting student’s full needs.

“We have different ways that we cover that,” she says. “I think one of our greatest assets is that we have been able to keep costs low. The average debt of students at Carolina hasn’t changed in more than 15 years.”

Chancellor Folt adds the Carolina Covenant is a big part of meeting that need.

“We are aggressively growing that. We are celebrating 10 years [of the Carolina Covenant formation],” she says. “We’re putting in what, I believe, is necessary to make sure that we meet the need.”

According to UNC, Covenant Scholars comprised 13 percent of the enrolling classes for the past two years.

The chancellor says it is important to continue offering a top-quality education at a great value and remain accessible.

“I think our best value in the country comes from that commitment to continue bringing in students that are capable [and] able,” she says. “And make the financial barrier not the one that would keep them away.”

As of January 20, nearly 32,000 applications for enrollment were submitted to UNC from 99 counties in North Carolina, all 50 states – plus the District of Columbia – and 113 countries outside the US.

Students who applied in October will receive their decisions by the end of January. Students who applied in January will receive their decisions by the end of March.

Officials say the university expects to enroll a first-year class of 4,000.

Another Lawsuit Filed Against UNC by Former Student Athletes

Another lawsuit has been filed alleging UNC did not provide a proper college education to its student athletes. A class action lawsuit was filed in Durham County on Thursday afternoon. WCHL’s Blake Hodge spoke with Attorney Bob Orr who filed the suit.

You can listen to that interview here.