UNC System President Praises GA’s Work On Budget

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend

Tom Ross

Tom Ross

UNC System President Tom Ross praised the North Carolina General Assembly for it’s attention to higher education with the signing of the 2014-15 budget, signed into law Thursday morning by Governor Pat McCrory. The reception wasn’t as rosy on the Pre-K-through-12 level.

President Ross released a statement shortly after the passage, reading, in part: “There is a lot to appreciate in this budget, including the first new investment by the General Assembly for parts of our strategic directions initiative and the support of the New Teacher Support Program.”

“We continue to focus on our responsibility to produce a well-equipped talent force for our businesses and our communities,” President Ross said. “Highly talented faculty and staff are critical to these efforts. As other states continue to reinvest in higher education, our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff will only get more challenging. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly next session to address the issues that will hinder our State’s future competitiveness.”

The New Teacher Support Program’s goal is to cater to each young educators individual needs in order to make sure they are on the path to success.

Despite an average of seven-percent increase to teachers’ salaries in primary education, there are still concerns among educators.

Longevity pay, the bonus once awarded to teachers with more than ten years of experience is no longer guaranteed. Instead, the new plan caps teacher salaries at $50,000 for those with more than 25 years in the classroom and rolls longevity pay into the base salaries.

This has some long-term teachers estimating their raises at closer to 2-4 percent, while starting teachers will receive a seven-percent boost and those with half a decade of experience could see as much as an 18 percent increase.

Rep. Graig Meyer (D, Orange-Durham)

Rep. Graig Meyer (D, Orange-Durham)

Representative Graig Meyer of Orange and Durham counties told WCHL Wednesday, after the announcement of Budget Director Art Pope’s resignation, that he’s also concerned about future budget decisions because there is now an $800,000 to $1 billion deficit that will have to be accounted for during 2015-16 budget talks.


Indictments For 2 Charged In UNC Professor’s Death

HILLSBOROUGH – Two men now face indictments in the death of a professor at UNC.

An Orange County grand jury on Monday indicted 23-year-old Derick Davis II of Durham and 27-year-old Troy Arrington Jr. of Chapel Hill on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The men were arrested after the attack last month. Police said 59-year-old Feng Liu died a day after suffering serious head wounds.

Davis and Arrington have been held at the Orange County jail, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys. District Attorney Jim Woodall hasn’t said if the state will seek the death penalty.

Liu was a research professor in UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy. A memorial for him was held Saturday on campus.


UNC Announces Aug. 11 Emergency Drill on Manning Drive

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will conduct an emergency drill on Monday, August 11 that will affect traffic on Manning Drive between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Actors will portray campus community members and victims in order to simulate a response to an actual emergency on campus.

Emergency personnel and vehicles will be visible along Manning Drive, and uniformed responders will react as they would in an actual emergency.

A portion of Manning Drive will be closed for the duration of the drill, and drivers are encouraged to utilize the posted detour route along Bowles Drive.

The FCX, HU, S and U bus routes will all use the Bowles Drive detour.

The bus stops on Manning Drive at Ehringhaus Dorm and Hinton James Dorm will be closed during the drill.

Riders can board detoured buses at the stop on Manning Drive at the Public Safety building.

In a press release, Chapel Hill Transit announced that efforts will be made to maintain the normal schedule, but customers are encouraged to allow for extra travel time and delays.

The drill will also impact schedule projections on the NextBus website.

For more information about the drill, visit alertcarolina.unc.edu.

For more information regarding Chapel Hill Transit that day, you may contact customer service at 919-485-7433.


Memorial for Slain UNC Professor Held This Saturday

A memorial service will be held at 4 o’clock tomorrow at the UNC Memorial Hall in remembrance of UNC professor and cancer researcher, Feng Liu, who was robbed and fatally beaten near Ransom Street and West University Drive last Wednesday.

The Dean of UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Bob Blouin, told WCHL what kind of colleague Liu was and how he will be remembered by those around him.

“I grew to know him as a wonderful, kind, gentle, but endearing personality; someone who quietly touched the lives of other faculty, staff, and students,” says Blouin. “He will be deeply missed by many.”

Liu came to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. His research interest focused on gene and drug delivery for cancer treatments.

Residents of the Westwood neighborhood where Liu was killed have started a fundraiser in his memory at YouCaring.com.

The money will go toward the newly established Feng Liu Graduate Student Award fund UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Donations can be made by mail to:

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation
CB# 7296
194 Finley Golf Course Road, Suite 106
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

You can give directly to the fund here.

Flowers, cards and condolences can be sent to the Liu family at:

The Liu family
c/o UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
301 Pharmacy Lane Suite 100
Chapel Hill NC 27599-7355


Six Weeks Later: Awaiting UNC Student’s Official Cause Of Death

Six weeks after a 21-year-old UNC student died of what appears to be cardiac arrest, there still aren’t any official answers from the North Carolina medical examiner.

John Pharr (courtesy of RegencyCenters.com)

John Pharr (Courtesy of RegencyCenters.com)

“The medical examiner reached out to us within 24 hours of his death and was very gracious,” says John Pharr, the father of Harris Granger Pharr. He was speaking with WCHL Thursday from Prague on a trip to Amsterdam. “He said, ‘it is unusual; we do do a pretty thorough investigation and certainly when the decedent is of the age of what Harris was’. He estimated the time of death and said, ‘in my professional opinion, he certainly died of cardiac arrest, and the cause of that I have no idea’. He said, ‘I do not suspect foul play and examined the body extensively for signs of drug abuse etc’, and he said, ‘I found none’. So, we’re not pressing for answers.”

John is the Senior Vice President and Senior Market Officer for Raleigh’s Regency Centers, a commercial property developer, owner, and operator.

Harris Granger Pharr (Courtesy of Facebook)

Harris Granger Pharr (Courtesy of Facebook)

Harris, a rising senior biomedical engineering major and member of the Alpha Chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity, died in his bed at around five or six in the morning of June 19 at his college residence at 500 Pittsboro Street. The residence is across the street from the UNC School of Public Health, where Pittsboro Street and Manning Drive split, and John says it was a house that held close to ten students.

Harris’ father described him as a “pretty intense guy” when it came to academics. He says he would often find him up late studying when he was at home in Raleigh, sometimes until three or four in the morning.

He says he believes one contributing factor to his death may have been the activity he took upon himself to accomplish the night before.

“One of the upstairs rooms had become available, and he wanted to move his whole setup into that room,” Pharr says. “That was about 6:00 at night. I understand he accomplished that all himself without any help, which would have been physically stressful.”

However, he says it’s hard to believe that alone would force a 21-year-old into a cardiac arrest.

The News and Observer published a story on May 24 that shared legislators’ concerns about the state medical examiner’s system inadequacies. That story came after the N&O investigated “thousands of faulty investigations into suspicious deaths”.

Part of the story stated, “An Observer investigation…found that medical examiners rarely go to death scenes and sometimes don’t look at bodies in cases they handle. The state requires no training and seldom disciplines examiners who break the rules. The state also conducts fewer autopsies than leading systems, which experts say makes it harder to determine the correct causes of death.”

In multiple emails to WCHL Thursday, the ME’s office said the time it takes to complete a case can vary, and that the level of testing required could extend it. John says he was told it could take up to 90 days to get an official result. The ME’s office said it couldn’t release any information until the case was complete.

John adds that not everyone is being as patient as he is.

“He had life insurance,” Pharr says. “The life insurance company I do know contacted the medical examiner. They’re trying to get the medical examiner to make a statement of fact that his death was not as a result of foul play. If somebody was responsible, then they go after that person with regards to the pursuit of an insurance claim.”

The Chapel Hill Police Department ruled in its investigation that foul play was not suspected.

Harris’ body was cremated, and family and friends held a funeral at the First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh on June 25.


UNC Asks Federal Court To Hear Willingham Lawsuit

UNC is asking that the lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims retaliation against her speaking out should be heard by a federal court and not on the county level.

According to WRAL, the University asked North Carolina’s Eastern District of Federal Court to pick up the case filed by former academic adviser Mary Willingham because the claim she is making falls under federal law, not state law.

Willingham has said the University put player eligibility for financial benefit above academic integrity. She claimed she was never properly listened to by UNC and then took her claims to the media.

She said the retaliation came when she was told she was going to be demoted and given additional duties. Her role, she said, was also changed from advising undergraduate student-athletes to senior graduate students. Lastly, she described the office to which she had to move as “poor”.

Willingham resigned from Carolina on May 6. She first said she had made the decision to leave on April 21 after an hour-long meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt. She said the conversation made her realize there was no more she could do at UNC and that she wanted to continue her fight to correct problems with intercollegiate athletics elsewhere. Along with the lawsuit, she has asked the University System Board of Governors for reinstatement.


Hundreds Gather for Vigil Honoring Slain UNC Professor Feng Liu

Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil, just a few blocks from where UNC Professor Feng Liu was murdered a week earlier.

Feng Liu

Feng Liu

“We should not be here today,” said Tony Yao, president of the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina. “Something…something is wrong with our community, something that has prevented Professor Feng Liu from enjoying another beautiful day of the life, family, and work.”

Dedicated scientist, humble man of achievement, generous friend, devoted husband, proud father, excited grandfather-to-be, wise counsel, drinking buddy, golf partner, and contributor to a better world.

As Tony Yao, president of the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina paid tribute to his fallen friend, UNC Professor of Molecular Pharmaceutics Feng Liu at the beginning of Wednesday night’s candlelight vigil, he included many of those things in his description.

Other friends, colleagues and admirers who spoke at the event on Pittsboro Street did too, And many, like Yao, expressed the same outrage at the circumstances of Liu’s death.

Corner of Ransom St and West University Dr (courtesy of Google Maps)

Corner of Ransom St and West University Dr (courtesy of Google Maps)

It was exactly one week since the 59-year-old professor was found lying on the ground with blood pouring from his head on West University Drive near the Ransom Street intersection. He was mugged, and his attackers hit him on the head with a rock. Liu died from his injuries.

The two accused assailants, Troy Arrington. Jr. and Derick Davis II, are being held on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

At Wednesday’s vigil, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt spoke near a flowing fountain that did its best to comfort the audience. Behind her and other speakers at the entrance of the FedEx Global Communication Center, a table had been set up with flowers, and a framed picture of Liu smiling – he was a great smiler, one friend recalled.

Two nights earlier, Folt met with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt in her office to discuss public safety concerns, as the UNC community mourned a shocking loss.

As she spoke to those assembled to honor Liu, Folt reaffirmed the university’s commitment to keeping faculty and students safe.

“As we go forward today in his honor, I know we want to concentrate about him, and his legacy, and what he has meant for our community, but also with his work, for so many people throughout the world” said Folt. “But I also do want to tell you that there is nothing, nothing more important than the safety of our campus and our community. And as we go forward, that too will be part of everything we do in the coming days.”

Liu came to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 2005. His research interest was in developing methods to deliver drugs to cancer cells.

His colleague Xio Xio, who knew Liu from his days at the University of Pittsburgh, remembered him as an excellent teacher and role model for students. He said Liu was also a great scientist whose achievements were felt around the world.

One of those achievements is the hydrodynamic method, a breakthrough in gene therapy.

“It’s used by hundreds of labs over the world,” said Xio. “I think many labs at UNC also use that technology. The paper was cited more then 1,200 times. That kind of achievement can rarely be matched by scientists in the world. But Feng was always a humble and modest man. He never bragged about it.”

Xio mentioned the Chinese tradition of paying tribute to the dead on the seventh day of their passing. Liu’s family couldn’t be present, he added, because they were in Asheville, where half of Liu’s ashes will be spread somewhere in the mountains. The other half will be placed in Liu’s hometown in China, near the graves of his parents.

Another reason Liu’s family is in Asheville is that Liu’s daughter had an appointment for a pre-natal checkup there. She’s due in less than two months, and as Xio reminded the somber crowd, the closest Liu ever came to seeing his granddaughter was in an ultrasound image.

Another colleague, Jun Li, spoke with emotion about his slain friend. He said he now avoids walking past Liu’s office, for fear that he’ll break down in tears.

Li talked about the trauma suffered by the entire UNC community. he said that the site of Liu’s murder is a street where many of his co-workers at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy also take regular walks around lunchtime.

“My wife and my little daughter also walk that way,” said Li. “it’s not a bad place. But it just happens to Dr. Liu.”

After about 45 minutes of tributes, it was time for mourners to walk to that once-unremarkable place, after candles had been lit, and Chinese liquor had been poured in front of the table in Liu’s honor, and all of the guests had bowed three times toward his picture.

The eight-minute walk was quiet, and orderly, and mourners were accompanied by a few Chapel Hill police on bicycles.

Darkness fell as people arrived at Ransom Street and West University Drive, and many heavy sighs and gasps were audible as flowers were left at the murder site on West University.

They were the sounds of disbelief at the senseless crime committed here, on a quiet, familiar street, at the tree-lined edge of someone’s front yard, in the middle of a sunny day.


Vigil, Memorial Service For Slain UNC Professor Feng Liu

Originally posted 1:15 p.m., July 29, 2014

A vigil for slain UNC Professor Feng Liu will be held UNC’s Campus on Wednesday, exactly one week after he was robbed and fatally beaten near the corner of West University Drive and Ransom Street.

The vigil takes place from 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the FedEx Global Communication Center, located at 301 Pittsboro Street. It’s sponsored by the Chinese-American Friendship Association. Liu was a native of China.

There will be a memorial service for him on Saturday at UNC’s Memorial Hall at 4 p.m.

Liu came to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. His research interest was in gene and drug delivery for cancer treatments.

Residents of the Westwood neighborhood where Liu was killed have started a fundraiser in his memory at YouCaring.com.

The money will go toward the newly established Feng Liu Graduate Student Award fund UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Donations can be made by mail to:
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation
CB# 7296
194 Finley Golf Course Road, Suite 106
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

You can give directly to the fund here.

Flowers, cards and condolences can be sent to the Liu family at:

The Liu family
c/o UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
301 Pharmacy Lane Suite 100
Chapel Hill NC 27599-7355


Accidental Alarm Registration; “Better Back Care”; August Pet Adoption

If you’re in Chapel Hill and you haven’t registered your alarm yet, now is the time to do it.

Chapel Hill’s Accidental Alarm Program went into effect on July 1 – and since then, more than 1600 residents and more than 650 businesses have registered their alarms, as required.

The program is designed to cut down on the costs associated with emergency workers having to respond to false alarms. The town will issue a fine for any unregistered alarm system or any alarm that accidentally activates more than three times in a 12-month period.

There’s no cost to register your alarm. You can do it online by visiting TownOfChapelHill.org/alarms.

UNC’s School of Medicine has won a $6 million award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Innovation Center for a program called “Better Back Care.”

The program is still in development, but the purpose is to create a “medical neighborhood” connecting 60 primary care providers with UNC’s spine program to improve care for people with back pain. It will be directed by Dr. Brian Casazza and Dr. Amy Shaheen.

UNC is one of only 39 awardees nationally – and this is the only spine-care program to be selected as an award recipient.

If you’re thinking about adopting a pet, August might be the perfect time.

As part of a “Back to School” promotion, Orange County Animal Services is reducing adoption fees by nearly 50% for cats and dogs. Cat adoptions will be $50 and dog adoptions will be $60 – and as always, all the animals are fully vaccinated, vet checked, and spayed or neutered.

The Animal Services office is on Eubanks Road in northern Chapel Hill. To see photos of the animals, visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/AnimalServices.


UNC Program Promotes Energy Awareness Among Local HS Students

The UNC Institute for the Environment is a collaborative, cross-departmental organization which focuses its research on critical issues that lie at the heart of our most pressing environmental challenges. Specific areas of focus include: sustainable communities, energy and the environment, watershed science and management, and environmental modeling.

This week the Institute is hosting 28 local high school students who will spend a week on the campus of UNC exploring topics related to current energy use, climate change, alternative energy and sustainability as part of the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP). Science educators from the UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (MPSC) along with scientists from UNC will contribute to programming and lead hands-on sessions and lab tours. The program will enable students to take part in hands-on STEM activities such as the construction and testing of dye-sensitized solar cells and wind turbines. Students will take field trips to locations such as the UNC co-generation plant, chemistry laboratories at the UNC-based Energy Frontier Research Center and the Carolina Campus Community Garden.

Funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, this student science enrichment program is free and participants are paid a $500 stipend for attending the summer program and participating in at least four follow-up activities during the academic year. In addition, students are asked to conduct a community outreach project to educate others about energy, climate change, and/or sustainability.

The program is lead by Dana Haine, K-12 Science Education Manager for the Institute and proud member of Chapel Hill High School’s class of 1991. Haine credits her outstanding CHHS science teachers for inspiring her to pursue a career in science. In the five years that the Environmental Institute has been running the program, she has seen how it inspires students to seek out more science classes in high school and select STEM related majors in college. When not running the Climate LEAP program Haine and her colleague hold workshops for K-12 science teachers and are available as a resource for educators across the state.

The Environmental Institute provides yet another example of the broad, positive reach of UNC in our education community. It’s good to know that our aspiring scientists have programs like this one available to encourage their ambitions.