Insights and Observations
Thursday, April 7, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Political winds in Raleigh
take easterly shift
|Replay the audio
archive of Wednesday's Talk of the Town with
Wednesday was a busy and
important day at the North Carolina General Assembly. Passage of a state
lottery bill in the House of Representatives was the most high profile
action of the day but it was action taken by the Senate that East Carolina
should be celebrating.
For years there have been
concerns that ECU has been receiving the short end of the stick
when it comes to funding and representation at the state level. The
Senate took a step in the right direction on Wednesday by electing a former
chairman of the ECU trustees board to the University of North Carolina’s
Board of Governors.
Phil Dixon, a prominent
Greenville attorney, received the appointment to the 32-member board. Dixon
will join another former ECU chair on that board if Raleigh’s Craig Souza
receives an expected reappointment from the House.
Souza is currently the
vice-chairman of the Board of Governors. There is even hope that ECU will
receive a third appointment during this session from the House. Greenville
Mayor Don Parrott, another ECU alumnus, is being considered.
If the legislature should
move forward with Souza and Parrott it will be the first time in many years
Pirate faithful will have three appointments on the large state board. That
has been a source of concern to those who believe these appointments are
strictly done for political purposes. The board has been dominated by UNC-Chapel
Hill graduates for years.
East Carolina has fought
an uphill battle for equity in funding and representation. When the General
Assembly first formed the 32 member board ECU had three appointments. It
was assumed that the intention of the legislature would be that East
Carolina would have that type of representation for years to come.
That has not been the
As a result, the
university’s clout has been a huge question in recent years as the system
administration has become involved in ECU at a high level — some say too
high a level.
Chancellor Bill Muse was
removed from his post after a series of concerns by UNC System President
Molly Broad. Dr. Broad subsequently questioned his leadership after
irregularities were discovered in an audit involving funding for the ECU med
Muse floated the notion
that Broad had been concerned over a meeting he initiated with Atlantic
Commissioner John Swofford about potential ECU membership in that league.
While some saw the Muse theory as a “red herring,” there were many outraged
at the notion that Muse was being potentially punished for such actions.
Broad later denied that her concerns about Muse were motivated by his
meeting with Swofford.
It has been these kind of
actions and concerns, however, that have led many in the ECU community to
the conclusion that there is not enough representation at the state level
for the university. With the current makeup of the Board of Governors and
given the competitive environment between all in-state schools, many have
been left to wonder who is looking out for East Carolina’s interests in
Appointing Dixon is
certainly a response to the call by many from Greenville and the university
community that ECU deserves more representation.
“I’m ecstatic,” Dixon
said after the vote on Wednesday. “I was lucky because there were a lot of
good candidates for just two spots (filled by the Senate). I’m real pleased and I
think they recognized that ECU was under-represented.”
In an ironic twist,
Dixon’s appointment came one day after Broad announced her retirement from
the UNC system. It has been rumored for some time that Broad may have
political problems of her own on the board. That seemed to come to a head
recently and Broad is stepping down.
Dixon sees the unique
timing as a chance for ECU to have some input into who will replace Broad.
“I hope to be an advocate
and liaison for our university,” said Dixon. “It seems to me we may have a
great new opportunity in that I may be able to participate in working on
recruiting and hiring a new president for the system, which will give us a
fresh start with someone to let them know what our needs and opportunities
will be at ECU.”
Dixon’s presence on the
Board of Governors will be greatly enhanced if Souza is reappointed and
Parrott can make the grade on the House side.
Pirate faithful should
send a special word of thanks to State Senators Scott Thomas, John Kerr and Clark Jenkins
for championing Dixon’s appointment.
Senate President Marc
Basnight was also instrumental in helping ECU get more representation on the
state board. Basnight has been lobbied hard recently to help ECU on many
fronts and he has responded.
Dixon’s appointment to
the Board of Governors is Basnight’s latest ECU assist. Last fall the
powerful senator from Dare County was the key player in East Carolina’s
medical school receiving $60 million for its Eastern Carolina Cardiovascular
Given Terry Holland’s
agenda of playing in-state schools more frequently on a home and home basis,
this building relationship with Basnight could continue to fuel East
Carolina’s desire to be seen as an equal in the state of North Carolina.
Holland is on record that
he would like to play schools from the states of North Carolina, Virginia
and South Carolina more frequently in the future. And he wants those
schools to come to Greenville to play.
With strong new
leadership in place at ECU and a renewed effort by lawmakers like Basnight,
Thomas, Kerr and Jenkins giving continued support to the university, Pirate partisans
can hope for brighter days ahead.
Hopefully Speaker of the
House Jim Black will soon follow suit in his Chamber with the help of the
local delegation to recognize the need for more ECU representation.
It has been a long time coming and this great university deserves better
treatment than it has had in recent years.
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02/23/2007 10:16:14 AM