Insights and Observations
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner
of Greenville Cable 7
Purple Alert aims to amplify
East Carolina University’s quest for more attention at
the state level and more love from the legislature may take a step forward
if constituents take notice of a new initiative to involve them. ECU
officially launched “Purple Alert” on Tuesday.
The idea was born as part of a strategy to energize the
alumni base of the state’s third largest institution.
Purple Alert is going to make ECU partisans aware when
there is something going on in the state legislature or otherwise that
affects the university. It is being championed by the East Carolina
University Board of Visitors.
“The Board of Visitors’ goal is to advocate to anyone
and everyone about the good things here at ECU,” said Chairman Joel Butler.
“We see our role to involve East Carolina graduates, students, parents and
others interested in our success to get our message to those who provide
funding for our university or make decisions that affect us.”
Other universities have started similar programs to get
the attention of state legislators. In fact, some initiatives have grown to
the level of actually getting the constituency to form a political action
According to Butler that is not the objective of Purple
“Our goal, for now, is educating people to make their
legislators and members of the Board of Governors aware of our position when
there are things happening at ECU that involve a need for their help,”
After the 2003 session of the legislature, when the
university’s request for $60 million for the new Cardiovascular Diseases
Institute fell short, there was a call to arms by many in the ECU community.
The failure of that request seemed to epitomize East
Carolina’s lack of clout at the state level.
There is but one East Carolina graduate on the UNC
System’s Board of Governors, a prestigious and powerful body that includes
just a few people who reside east of Raleigh.
Funding inequities have long been a concern of
administrators inside the university. Many have said that ECU is the
recipient of a less than fair share because of the “squeaky wheel” theory.
Interim Chancellor William Shelton, at the behest of
many concerned about such things, recently hired a consultant to work on
ways to get the message out in a more effective manner.
Former ECU Student Government President Alan Thomas is
the architect of the “Purple Alert” concept, which will include a website,
periodic emails to those who sign up and a phone number to give the latest
information on issues involving East Carolina.
“We are trying to get our constituents to get mobilized
on projects that are important to ECU," said Thomas. “We want ECU people
across the state to be involved and be informed.”
Thomas is the brother of State Senator Scott Thomas of
Craven County and the son of former Senator Joe Thomas, formerly a powerful
Democrat in the legislature.
The website can be accessed at
www.purplealert.ecu.edu. One who joins
will receive a password which can be used for access to resources and
information, including a message board, talking points on ECU issues that
can be used in discussing the university’s position with a local legislator,
and specific details on how to contact members of the General Assembly.
The launch of the new site has been timed to precede
the upcoming session of the legislature by just a few weeks. The General
Assembly will return to Raleigh for its short session the second week of
Both the Senate and House of Representatives will once
again be discussing the possibility of funding the ECU School of Medicine’s
request for the Cardiovascular Diseases Institute.
The 2003 session ended with a bill that included $180
million for a new cancer center in Chapel Hill and zero for the ECU request.
The Chapel Hill bill failed. Now there is renewed commitment on both sides
to push for both requests in May.
The leadership on both sides have said they will
support the ECU and Chapel Hill initiatives together if funding can be
found. That is a huge “if.” The idea of a cigarette tax is being floated
along with some other creative financing arrangements.
Both Co-Speakers of the House have said in the past
they would not support a tobacco tax, so the question of funding for the ECU
center is still very much in doubt.
banner appears on the website of
the Purple Alert, ECU's initiative to rally support on
behalf of causes considered vital to the university.
“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned this time,”
said Thomas. “It is important for our constituency to be actively involved
in the legislative process.”
With “Purple Alert” there is now a central rallying
point to bring the ECU community together and galvanize the interests at
website is now operational and
available to visitors.
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02/23/2007 10:13:28 AM