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Henry's Highlights
Friday, November 28, 2003

By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner of Greenville Cable 7

Who is looking out for ECU?


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We are taught to see the glass half full instead of half empty. It is often hard to do. It is never easy to be a Pirate, but the past twelve months have been more difficult than usual.

The experience should leave us all with the question, who is looking out for East Carolina University?

In the last few days, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a new redistricting bill in both chambers for both the Senate and House of Representatives. If you are paying attention, you might ask, once again, what the heck is going on?

Why should ECU fans care? Is this an issue that could and most likely will affect the success of our athletic programs?

The new districts leave Pitt County with virtually no chance of electing a state senator and will make it difficult on the current members of the house to be re-elected.

There is much dismay over this situation. So much, in fact, that Senator Tony Moore switched from the Democratic to Republican Party this week, saying that he had been betrayed for his unwillingness to toe the party line on issues involving ECU.

Senator Moore specifically mentioned that high ranking members of the Democratic Party were mad that he had pressured Governor Mike Easley to help ECU get a look from the ACC during their recent expansion. He also said he feels his stance on the attempts to aid in bringing a cardiovascular institute to East Carolina’s Brody School of Medicine cost him points with the leadership in Raleigh.

In fairness, there are several theories on why Moore’s district was split. The leadership in the Senate says it is a constitutional issue dealing with the federal Voting Rights Act and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. Others say the Dems viewed Moore as vulnerable since they fed him well over $200,000 in campaign funds two years ago and he barely won over his Republican opponent by a 51-49 per cent vote.

Most believe that this redistricting is just a pre-emptive strike on the Republican Party’s stated goal of taking over the Senate next year and ousting 12-year Senate Leader Marc Basnight.

You can subscribe to the theory of your choice, but let’s be honest: If these new voting districts withstand the inevitable legal challenge, Pitt County will not have a snowball’s chance in hell of electing a local person to the Senate in the 2004 elections.

Now, let’s look at the major off-the-field factors in East Carolina’s growth over the last 10 years. It is a well known fact that the late Senator Ed Warren had a deep passion for his alma mater. While thought to be a very loyal Democrat, the soft-spoken Warren had the seniority (20 years in Raleigh) to get things done. He was also very close to the Senate leadership.

With their help, the pressure was applied to finally have N.C. State and North Carolina schedule ECU on a home and home basis.

Representative Henry Aldridge, who also passed away last year, was very instrumental in securing funding for the upper deck and club level in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. When funding was cut from the state budget several years ago, Aldridge went to then-Speaker of the House Harold Brubaker and got the needed funds from a state renovations budget.

The passion displayed by Warren and Aldridge, both Greenville residents and both alumni of East Carolina, was a huge factor in the forward momentum of our program over the last 15-20 years.

The recent removal of Chancellor William Muse by system President Molly Broad was done with the consent and approval of both the UNC Board of Governors and the ECU Board of Trustees. There is no question there were issues that needed to be addressed at the highest level of the university at that time, but the decision to remove Muse was extremely controversial.

Muse subsequently has said he feels he was removed in no small part due to his persistence on the med school initiative and the fact that he scheduled a meeting with ACC Commissioner John Swofford to discuss East Carolina’s conference situation.

The removal of Muse took place without input from anyone in the Greenville community. There is not a single Pitt County resident among the 32 member Board of Governors and only one ECU graduate on that board. Perhaps that is not that surprising considering these are all political appointments and ECU obviously does not have heavy clout at the state level.

More disturbing to those who live in the community, however, is that fact that there is not a single Pitt County resident on the 12-member ECU Board of Trustees.

Now, with this recent re-districting of the Senate voting districts, it is inevitable that there will also be no Pitt County resident in the most important lawmaking body of our state.

There are people from all over the state who love this university and there is no question that those who will be elected or appointed will take the university’s best interest at heart. Clearly, you do not have to live here to want the best for ECU.

But nothing comes easy to this community and this university. As we have seen all too often, it takes passion at the highest level to get things done here.

All leading to the question, once again.

Who is looking out for ECU?

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02/23/2007 10:12:11 AM

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