Policy Watch Investigates

Policy Watch Investigates

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Historical Commission members to grapple with Confederate monuments issue next week

Back in September, the N.C. Historical Commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds. Instead, the commission formed a task force to study the politically fraught issue, which the North Carolina General Assembly dropped into their laps with a 2015 law that makes it more difficult to remove such statues. Next Monday at 3 p.m., that task force – the Confederate Monuments Study Committee – will have its first meeting via teleconference. The public can listen in via a livestream on the YouTube site of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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Higher ed battles seem certain to continue in 2018: Here are five to watch

Last year was a tumultuous one for public higher education in North Carolina. Here are five issues to watch carefully 2018 as all signs point to the volume of the debate going nowhere but up. 1) "Silent Sam" – The fight over the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus known as "Silent Sam" has been going on for decades. But in the wake of the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA and the toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham, the movement to remove the controversial marker picked up momentum in 2017. Departments across the Chapel Hill campus, student, faculty and staff groups, even administrators – all called for or suggested it’s time for the statue to come down.

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A contentious year to remember: Our investigative reporter looks back at five big stories

#1 - Opioid crisis hits Wilmington area hard; lack of public resources hinders response This summer the N.C. General Assembly passed a state budget that included about half of what was called for in the bipartisan Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act. Shortly thereafter, I got out of Raleigh to take a long, hard look at the consequences of policy coming out of the capital on people outside the Triangle. I spent a few days in Wilmington, which by some estimates is the worst city in the nation for opioid abuse.

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Monday numbers

225,000 - Approximate number of students enrolled at schools in the University of North Carolina system.

17 - Number of campuses in the UNC system, including 16 universities and the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the first public residential high school for gifted students in the United States.

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Free speech policy, controversial conservative academic on the agenda for tomorrow’s UNC Board of Governors meeting

The UNC Board of Governors is holding its last meeting of 2017 Friday, where the latest of its many recent controversies is expected to come to a crescendo, even as the next is cued up. The full board is expected to vote on a controversial new speech policy that civil liberties advocates, students, staff and faculty groups worry could chill speech and discourage certain types of protest on UNC’s 17 campuses.

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Five questions with Professor Valerie Johnson

Historical commission member weighs in on monuments, free speech Valerie Johnson is the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director of Africana Women’s Studies at Greensboro’s Bennett College and chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. She is also one of only two Black members of the 17-member North Carolina Historical Commission, which must approve any proposed removal, relocation, or alteration of historical monuments on state property.

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Board of Governors may consider moving UNC system offices out of Chapel Hill

In the last few months the UNC Board of Governors has proposed a lot of controversial moves for the university system.

One of the latest might be the most perplexing – even to members of the board itself.

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UNC Board of Trustees face growing pressure to remove Silent Sam

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been raging for decades. But it appears to be approaching a critical mass this year as students, faculty, staff and community members push for removal of the statue in the wake of deadly white supremacist violence at the University of Virginia.

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At UNC, badly divided Board of Governors struggles to find common ground on some basic issues

At last week’s meeting of the full UNC Board of Governors, the seeds of the contentious board’s next major conflict began to sprout.

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Despite criticism, UNC Board of Governors moving ahead with campus “free speech” policy

When the UNC Board of Governors holds its full board meeting this week, it will take up several controversial questions and proposals on which its task forces and subcommittees have been working for months.

One of the most controversial—the creation of a system-wide campus “free speech” policy—has met skepticism and resistance.

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Civil liberties advocates wary of campus free speech bill under consideration by UNC Board of Governors

As the UNC Board of Governors moves toward creation of a policy to “restore and preserve free speech” on public campuses, civil liberties advocates are worried it may have the exact opposite effect.

“We worry about things that are overly broad, vague and open to interpretation,” said Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

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As Board of Governors continues with conservative new road map, some worry about direction

A new UNC Board of Governors Task Force began what members called the “massive” job of analyzing UNC President Margaret Spellings’ administrative staff Monday.

The effort is so far long on ambitions and short on specifics.

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New developments in the conservative move to reshape UNC

At a Wednesday meeting of a UNC Board of Governors task force, there was a long discussion of how to make meetings of the full board more efficient, more productive, with more “deliverables.” In short, as several members said repeatedly, the objective is to make it run more like a successful business. Running the meeting was task force Chairman Tom Fetzer, the former N.C. Republican Party Chairman who was appointed to the board in March.

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Opposition to Confederate monument grows, but UNC officials decline to act

Dr. Altha Cravey, a tenured professor of Geography at UNC-Chapel Hill, knew she was unlikely to hear anything about the ongoing “Silent Sam” controversy at Tuesday’s Spellings Commission meeting.

The meeting, with panels moderated by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and UNC alum Frank Bruni of the New York Times, was mostly to tout UNC System President Margaret Spellings’ vision for the University and discuss the 2006 Spellings Commission Report “then and now.”

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The battle for the future of UNC: Conservative members of the Board of Governors push for dramatic change

When the N.C. Senate elected Tom Fetzer to the UNC Board of Governors in March, it was widely seen as another in a series of GOP appointments designed to tilt the board - and the 17-campus system - in a more conservative direction.

Fetzer - an influential lobbyist from Wilmington, former mayor of Raleigh and chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party - left little doubt about that during a speech during the board’s contentious Sept. 7 meeting.

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Author of new book on tragic 1991 Hamlet chicken plant fire: Little of substance has changed

Twenty six years ago, one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history rocked the tiny town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

Twenty five workers died and 55 were injured when a grease fire broke out at the Imperial Food Products plant, which made cheap chicken tenders for chain restaurants like Long John Silvers. The victims, mostly black and female, struggled to get out of the building but found the doors locked from the outside. The plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

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