Letter to the Editor from UNC-Chapel Hill Associate Vice Chancellor Rick White

December 3, 2016

Letter to the Editor published on the News & Observer website on December 2, 2016.

December 1, 2016

Attention:  The People’s Forum

Dear Editor:

There’s a practice in journalism: any story with the words “may” or “might” in the headline isn’t really a story. Dan Kane’s story about Eric Hoots (“How UNC basketball’s academic aide may be connected to bogus classes Nov. 1”) fits that rule to a T.

Some key facts about Hoots’ responsibilities were omitted. Hoots is a liaison with the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and has no counseling or academic responsibilities – and never has.  To be clear, we provided Kane that information but he left it out. 

Kane’s story implies the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a mere formality that we “could” ignore and easily provide him with a student’s academic information. He knows better. We can’t. It’s a federal privacy law to protect the rights of all students.

Professional newspapers don’t have to resort to innuendo because they have facts to back up what they publish. The News & Observer didn’t. Yet again, Kane was allowed to write his own narrative instead of reporting the facts. The final word on this story should be Kane’s apology to Eric Hoots.

Rick White

Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Title IX Records Request: Carolina Responds

October 28, 2016

 

The University today responded to a request made by The Daily Tar Heel seeking sexual assault-related records and the names of those found responsible through a campus disciplinary process.

The request was sent to UNC-Chapel Hill administrators from DTH Editor-in-Chief, Jane Wester and Director/General Manager, Betsy O’Donovan, last month.

Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Joel Curran responded to the DTH request, which had also been endorsed by a coalition of North Carolina media.

In light of the potential interest on this topic, the University is posting Curran’s response here.

 


 

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screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-2-05-38-pmOctober 28, 2016

 

Jane Wester, Editor
Betsy O’Donovan, Director/General Manager
The Daily Tar Heel
151 E. Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

 

Dear Jane and Betsy:

I’m writing in response to The Daily Tar Heel’s September 30 request and Jane’s October 2 column (“We should know who’s found responsible for sexual assault”). The former seeks records “in connection with a person having been found responsible for rape, sexual assault or any related or lesser included sexual misconduct” by the Honor Court, the Committee on Student Conduct or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office. The latter said, “I badly want to know how many people my school has found responsible for sexual assault and what consequences those people are getting.”

On the one hand, I can understand a student journalist’s instinct to want to know the identity of a fellow student who has been through an adjudication process about an issue that’s so important on college campuses including Carolina. I also appreciate the interest in advocating for as much transparency as possible about the processes and policies that affect the lives of students so profoundly when it involves sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

However, the University must once again respectfully disagree with the DTH’s assertion that releasing the names of students “found responsible” in these cases constitutes a “public service.” Rather, we’re firmly convinced that such disclosures would have quite the opposite – and devastating – impact on victims, as well as the campus community. Our point of view is directed by federal privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and informed by many opinions (some of which the DTH has reported; for example, “Survivors say releasing records on campus sexual assault is a delicate balance”) held by victims, witnesses, investigators, counselors and others.

Although I’ve previously articulated the University’s position in two statements provided to the DTH since September 30th, for the benefit of those who signed on to your request and for the record, following is a summary with some additional context:

  • Like all campuses nationwide, Carolina has a legal and ethical responsibility to protect the privacy rights and educational records of all students. FERPA protects all education records from disclosure; courts have found that student conduct investigations that fall within Title IX are education records. Title IX investigation records are protected from disclosure by FERPA. In addition, FERPA permits, but doesn’t compel universities to disclose the name of a student, the violation committed, and the sanction imposed if the student is found to have violated rules or policies for a violent crime or forcible sex offense. Among leading public and private universities that are Carolina’s peer campuses, we’re not aware of any others that have publicly disclosed the names of students found responsible in these cases under this exception to FERPA. Furthermore, we’re not aware of any institutions that have a policy of always disclosing identities and offenses under the FERPA exception. We don’t believe Carolina students should be subject to different standards than their peers on other campuses nationwide.
  • Carolina spent the last several years taking a comprehensive look at how our campus approaches all aspects of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Those changes and the resources available to students have been well documented on our website, http://safe.unc.edu/. Paramount to those efforts is providing a private process in which victims can file reports, request accommodations, and receive compassionate care.
  • Releasing names of those found responsible in sexual assault or misconduct cases will inevitably lead to disclosures about the identity of victims who put their trust in the University’s process and don’t want their identities revealed or discovered for any reason. It also could compel individuals found responsible to publicly air concerns in a manner that’s at odds with the University’s desire to preserve the confidentiality and reputational interests of everyone who is involved in a case. The potential for public disclosure also threatens to severely undermine the University’s efforts to encourage individuals to report these cases and would have a chilling effect on their participation in the Title IX process. There is the real risk that disclosure would re-traumatize victims who already decided it’s in their own best interest to put a sexual assault incident behind them. We found it interesting that an October 25 DTH story, “Survivors have many options in reporting sexual assault,” included this sentence: “Other reasons for initiating the investigation from the school and not the police was because she wanted to keep her privacy and thought the school’s investigation could result in a more helpful outcome of other survivors of sexual assault.”
  • The Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office reports a 52 percent increase in formal investigations of sexual assault and a 156 percent increase in requests for accommodations, resources and other support between 2013-14 and 2014-15. (For context, visit http://www.unc.edu/campus-updates/message-chancellor-folt-difficult-important-topic/.) Those increases in reports followed the policy changes and expansive efforts to communicate with students about streamlined processes and the availability of more support services. We’re concerned that the disclosures you seek would erode the confidentiality of the process and negatively affect students’ willingness to report in the future.
  • We’re also concerned about the impact that reporting names could have in jeopardizing the privacy rights of others, including the witnesses who play vital roles in Title IX investigations, as well as the accused.
  • Universities are not courts of criminal law – where the accused has an absolute right to counsel regardless of their ability to pay for legal services, crimes must be proven by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the names of people found guilty of crimes are a matter of public record. Campuses must follow different laws at the federal and state levels regarding the standard of evidence for evaluating reports and protecting students’ privacy rights. The federal government requires campuses to run their own Title IX processes and to use a preponderance of the evidence – meaning more likely than not – standard. The University has a compelling interest to ensure that its process is as effective as possible in serving the campus community. And that point leads back to our concern about the fact that the inevitable disclosure of victims’ names will erode trust in the entire process.

Carolina is committed to providing as much information as we can about issues that affect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. However, as noted above, federal privacy law requires the University to protect the educational records of students (beyond basic public directory information) and consider the well-being of the campus community. The University collects and discloses a great deal of information about crimes committed on or near campus, including those involving sexual assault. That publicly available information includes incident reports created by our Department of Public Safety when investigating potential crimes, as well as the summary statistics that appear in the annual security report and a new report produced for the first time last April by the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

The annual security report is available here with additional context about the federal requirements to report crime data under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Those data now include reports required by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

The EOC’s first annual report for 2014-2015 includes a section called “Reports” that summarizes the number of formal investigations and allegations about prohibited conduct, including interpersonal violence, sex discrimination, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or stalking. The accompanying charts provide totals and the number of outcomes, policy violations, and voluntary resolutions. Of 18 allegations of misconduct, 11 resulted in findings of policy violations or voluntary resolutions. Where policy violations were found for reports of Title IX violations and related misconduct, the report noted that the following sanctions and corrective actions were issued to students, often in combination, including: expulsion, indefinite suspension, probation, orders of no-contact, behavior management counseling, community service, written apology, and housing restrictions. Consistent with University practice, the report did not disaggregate violation or sanction information any further to prevent identifying individuals.

Finally, the University has previously fully complied with its responsibilities under federal and state laws to disclose public information and public records on this topic. There’s a wealth of information about the University’s public records policy and how we respond to requests for public records that we can provide at http://publicrecords.unc.edu.

 

Best,

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cc:  Chancellor Carol L. Folt
Vice Chancellor Mark Merritt
Vice Chancellor Felicia A. Washington
Associate Vice Chancellor Becci Menghini
Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp
Director of Student Conduct Aisha Pridgen
Senior Director of Public Records Gavin Young
Rick Gall, WRAL-TV
Aysu Basaran, WRAL-TV
Randall Kerr, WRAL-TV
Rick Thames, The Charlotte Observer
Adam Weinstein, Fusion
Bob Ashley, The Durham Herald-Sun
Susan Harper, Indy Week
Jeffrey Billman, Indy Week
John Drescher, The News & Observer
Steven Doyle, The Greensboro News & Record
Brent Wolfe, WUNC-FM
Greg Collard, WFAE
Roxann Elliott, The Student Press Law Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The More Things Change…

August 2, 2016

To paraphrase the French critic, journalist, and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphone Karr, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

In the wake of changes reflected in recent legislation requiring that all scooters / mopeds registered in North Carolina now carry liability insurance (House Bill 148), many are wondering how this will be enforced (if at all) at UNC. UNC holds the legal, legitimate operation of moped / scooter to be “self-evident,” in that operators of any vehicle with valid parking at UNC—from a cars to a scooters—must already have provided proof of insurance and registration. (See Section 3-18 of the UNC Parking Ordinance)

Yes, for about 28,000 moped owners in North Carolina, laws over the past two years mean a bit more paperwork, but the majority of mopeds and scooters operating at UNC are already in compliance with North Carolina State Laws.

This is not to say that owners can’t be cited at UNC. UNC Transportation and Parking can and will cite those parking without a permit or in non-designated spots (i.e., disability access-ways) and report unregistered vehicles to UNC Police. And police officers may not specifically target violators, but they can and will cite scooter / moped operators without registration when given probable cause (i.e., if an unregistered scooter is involved in traffic stop or a collision)—much the same way UNC Police would cite any unregistered vehicle.

Still the nearly 400 students and employees with valid UNC moped / scooter parking permits (who have already insured and registered their vehicle) will not notice any differences as a result of new laws, and that means keeping the “change” in their pockets.

 

Randy Young

UNC Media Relations

UNC Police/Transportation & Parking

Viagem Segura! – “Safe Travels!”

July 27, 2016

Viagem Segura means “safe travels” in Portuguese – a sentiment I want to convey to some UNC School of Media and Journalism students who are “limbering up” for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. On Thursday, a group of 30 student journalists depart for Rio, where they will spend the next three weeks working for the Olympic News Service (ONS)

One of two college groups reporting for the ONS, the students will clock 12 hour days while living in the media village and working alongside professional journalists from around the world. They’ll cover assigned beats and file stories at the Olympic Media Center for NC media like WRAL, The News & Observer, WUNC-FM, The Herald-Sun and North Carolina News Network. A number of student athletes in the group will even be covering THEIR sport at the games – Soccer, Track & Field, Lacrosse and Fencing.

And this is not the first time MJ School students have worked for the ONS  – Tar Heels also covered the Olympics in Beijing!

It’s the school’s premiere resources and rich history of excellence and opportunity that have prepared these students for this moment. As a proud alum myself, I can’t help but brag on this six-time Hearst Journalism Awards national championship-winning program that also helped mold me into a communications professional.

The students going to Rio represent the diverse disciplines the school offers: Writing, TV & Radio, Multimedia & Photography and PR. They also represent the numerous on-campus journalism opportunities the school and University support: The Daily Tar Heel, Carolina Connection, Reese News Labs, Carolina Week and Sports Xtra. Perhaps most importantly, they are representative of Carolina’s commitment to access and affordability. Funding from an anonymous donor is supplementing each student’s trip and Carolina Covenant is traveling participating Covenant scholars at no cost aside from incidentals.

The Office of Communications and Public Affairs is among the many organizations using these talented students to support our UNC Olympic coverage. We can’t wait to share their work with you on UNC.edu.

 

MC VanGraafeiland
UNC-Chapel Hill Media Manager

 

Safety and Campus Security – Moving Ahead with “One Button”

July 11, 2016

In late June the University tested its emergency sirens and emergency communication notification procedures, which is called the Alert Carolina System (ACS). The well-publicized test, which was a success, verified that newly installed ACS equipment and software were working properly.

This is all part of the Initial Emergency Notification Automation project, called the One Button solution, which has streamlined the activation of the outdoor warning sirens and automatic distribution of mass text messages, emails and social media posts.

Now, with the simple press of a single button, the previous 15-plus minute process required to activate all systems and notifications has been reduced to less than two minutes. Follow-on communications, to provide additional updates, will still be crafted and sent depending on the specifics of the situation.

The system improvements, led by Information Technology Services (ITS), were well described by Matthew Mauzy, the overall project leader and IT manager at the ITS control center, in a recent Daily Tar Heel article.

In brief, the benefits of the One Button solution are:

  • One Button minimizes the opportunity for human error in the initial activation of the system.
  • The improvement ensures siren activations are immediately accompanied by explanatory text and email messages.
  • The creation of an infrastructure to support additional notification methods, including desktop alerts and beacons, which are under evaluation and consideration.

The One Button solution is part of the University’s ongoing commitment to campus safety and emergency readiness. Thanks to One Button, Carolina is more prepared should the Alert Carolina System need to be activated in the future.

 

Michael John
UNC-Chapel Hill Media Manager

 

 

 

Media Swarm to Zika Awareness Event at Student Union

July 1, 2016

It was all about mosquitoes at the Pit yesterday, when Chancellor Carol L. Folt hosted a Zika awareness event outside the Student Union.

Experts across campus fielded questions from several broadcast and print media, who came to inform their viewers and readers about the most up-to-date research and information about Zika.

If you are taking count – and we are! – reporters from WNCN, Time Warner Cable, The Herald Sun, AP Raleigh, Daily Tar Heel, The Gazette and WCHL covered the event.

And there was no shortage of people to talk to!

UNC Global, Environment, Health and Safety, UNC School of Medicine, Health Sciences Library and the Campus Health Travel Clinic talked to students, faculty and staff about issues that are at the forefront of people’s minds: pregnancy concerns, Zika prevalence around the world, what Carolina has done to prepare should there be a case on campus, and everything from how to apply mosquito repellent and make your home and yard safe to how to report standing water on campus.

Love it when our campus pools its experts and incredible resources to help serve the public!

Inside the Student Union, there was standing room only for presentations by public health experts, featuring Dr. Colleen Bridger from Orange County, Dr. Randall Williams from the Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Aravinda de Silva from UNC School of Medicine. Chancellor Folt moderated questions from the audience, which turned out to be a huge success.

I never asked my science-related question (I’ll be sure to track down our speakers one way or another), but I will ask this: How were our speakers so engaging while packing all that practical information in five-minute presentations each? Incredible.

And if it weren’t enough to hand out free bug spray at the event, Chancellor Folt handed out free ice cream after the presentations. Not the most usual combination, but one that made for a great event.

We have lots more to share, so be sure to buzz back next week!

See you soon!

Thania Benios
Health & Sciences Editor

 

 

 

Clarification Regarding the Student Stores RFP Process

October 15, 2015

Bradley Ives, Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Enterprises, writes to clarify several points in the Daily Tar Heel article, Faculty Executive Committee Discusses Student Stores’ Fate, published on Oct. 12:

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The article states that in Monday’s faculty executive committee meeting Vice Chancellor Fajack and I both mentioned several ways that Follett could increase the UNC Student Stores’ profit that goes toward scholarships. I want to reiterate that we have made no decision about whether to outsource, much less have we focused on one potential firm. We are conducting a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, in which any party – including the existing staff of Student Stores – may submit a proposal. Accordingly, we are conscious of referencing specific firms and instead only speak in general terms about potential bidders.

Of most concern is the statement attributed to me, “Ives said cuts in personnel are likely if the store is privatized, but it would help to reduce costs.” In my recollection, that is not a complete representation of what I said. When asked how an outside firm could make more money, I responded that they could, among other things, save costs by providing certain services – such as marketing, human resources and accounting – centrally. The article did not include my follow-up statement, which was that our staff currently providing those services will be retained in the new service delivery center we are creating in the Division of Finance and Administration.

As we work through this process, treating our employees fairly is one of our main concerns, along with increasing funds to support need-based scholarships and continuing to provide a high-level of service to campus.

 

 

 

The College Scorecard: What does it mean for Carolina?

September 21, 2015

The White House recently released the College Scorecard online.  We’ve received a fair amount of requests for our comments about the new website, and our Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions, Stephen M. Farmer, has penned the following about it:

“We’ve worked hard at UNC-Chapel Hill to help students and their families understand what they can expect of us – not just the support we’ll provide them and the amount we’ll ask them to pay, but also the experiences they’ll have in their classes and far beyond.

“The scorecard is brand new, and we’re still exploring it.  But we welcome any tool that helps students see us and other schools more clearly, so that they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about their education.

“We hope that students won’t stop with the scorecard.  Statistics help, but so does experience.  We think students can learn important things about our community by talking or corresponding with us or by visiting when they can.  Getting to know people can make the data in the scorecard come alive.

“We support this effort to help students and their families see us more clearly, just as we appreciate the changes in the FAFSA that will make it easier for students to apply for aid earlier.  We are on the side of students, and we want to help them get to where they need to be, even if their paths lead them away from Chapel Hill.

“For this reason, we’re glad to be the headquarters for the Carolina College Advising Corps, a public service of the University that places recent Carolina graduates as college and financial-aid advisers in high schools statewide.  Through this program, this year we’re serving 53,000 student at 64 high schools – not necessarily to recruit them to UNC-Chapel Hill, but to help them complete admissions and financial-aid applications and enroll at schools that will serve them well.”

Why is College Access and Affordability So Important?

September 14, 2015

The economics of higher education are strange and arcane, but Adam Davidson does yeoman’s work untangling the mess in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine. He explains how different colleges and universities try to balance tuition, financial aid, and broader institutional goals.

College occupies an odd niche in our economy, existing as both a public good and a private investment. That’s especially true at competitive public universities like Carolina, where the cost of an education is heavily subsidized by state taxpayers, but tuition can still be a challenge for many families.

“If colleges and universities were just another consumer good, like cars or clothes, we wouldn’t worry so much about their cost,” Davidson writes. “But higher education is both an individual and a public concern.”

At Carolina, we take that public concern seriously. As state and federal investments in higher education have stalled, shifting more of the burden to individual families, UNC has made a very conscious effort to maintain access for all qualified students, regardless of income level.

In blunt terms, that has meant both limiting tuition increases and making sure the shift toward individual investment affects those families most able to bear the cost. Like many of the country’s top-tier private universities, we spend an enormous amount of our own funds on financial aid, effectively discounting the individual cost for low- and middle-income families so that Carolina remains affordable for students at all income levels.

The success of that policy is reflected in the economic diversity of our student body and the consistently low debt burden for our graduates. Even as the Great Recession created a sharp increase in economic hardship — 37 percent of UNC students had financial need in 2009; 43 percent do today — student borrowing has remained flat. Only 40 percent of UNC undergraduates take out loans, compared with 70 percent nationally, and the average debt at graduation is just over $18K, compared with more than $28K nationally.

And that’s with a student body that is among the most economically diverse of major research universities. Almost 20 percent of undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college, and 22 percent are eligible for federal Pell Grants. Those numbers, along with some of the highest graduation rates in the country, led the New York Times to name Carolina the third most economically diverse top college in the nation, and the first among public universities.

That kind of commitment is expensive. Carolina spends tens of millions annually on grants and scholarships for needy students, money that could have been spent on other programs or projects. We choose to make affordability a priority, both because we care about the public mission of the place and because it’s an investment in quality.

As Davidson points out, top-tier private schools like Harvard and Williams and Stanford have aid policies similar to UNC’s not solely out of a sense of fairness or public good, but because it brings in the best talent. “If an elite school… insisted on admitting only students willing to pay the full freight, they would soon find they weren’t so elite,” he writes.

Accomplished students are drawn “by the prospect of studying with the best students and teachers.” Need-blind admissions — assessing applicants only on talent and accomplishment, not on their ability to pay — enhances the quality of the student body, and therefore the quality of the whole university.

“Most of the top-tier private schools say they won’t factor in an applicant’s ability to pay when considering admission and promise that everyone admitted will be given the financial aid necessary to attend,” Davidson points out. UNC is the rare public institution able to make a similar promise, and that’s a huge part of what keeps us among the best universities in the country.

Financial aid is not only a public trust at Carolina; it’s also a competitive advantage.

 

Eric Johnson

Assistant Director for Policy Analysis & Communications
Scholarships and Student Aid at UNC Chapel Hill

 

A Letter Regarding English 72: The ‘Literature of 9/11’ First-Year Seminar

September 11, 2015

Today, we remember 9/11 across the University.  It is a solemn day that has affected the canvas of our nation in many ways.  Recently, as many know, a first-year seminar course entitled Literature of 9/11 came under scrutiny.  Provost Jim Dean penned an email to concerned people who wrote to the University.  It provides some facts that we gathered over the past week that we’d like to share more widely.

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Thank you for sharing your concerns about our First-Year Seminar, English 72: “The Literature of 9/11.” Chancellor Folt was also troubled when she first learned what was being reported about this class. She immediately asked me to investigate and gather the facts.

Here is some of what we’ve learned:

  • The original Internet article was a blog post written by a new first-year UNC-Chapel Hill student who has publicly acknowledged that he isn’t enrolled in the seminar and didn’t read the books on the course list. We respect his right to express his opinions. However, the article was misleading and inaccurate.
  • This first-year seminar is not required and has been offered every year since 2010. New students choose to take this popular course. Twenty-five students registered for this fall’s seminar – one more than the normal limit – from a total first-year class of about 4,000 students.
  • The readings cover a broad range of materials providing different opinions including the perspectives of residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, and excerpts from the non-partisan 9/11 Commission Report. The full list includes national and international prize-winning books and best-sellers, as well as a book made into a movie. I encourage you to visit http://lit911.web.unc.edu/schedule/ for a full description of the seminar and materials.
  • Students who have taken the course say it does not attempt to indoctrinate them. For example, one student posted this online comment: “the entire course was in the style of ‘this is what this certain people believe/ how they responded’ and not ‘this is what you ought to believe.’ In no way did I come out of the class feeling pushed to believe the US was imperialistic, nor feeling in any way sympathetic toward terrorism.
  • Other students and alumni have raised their own concerns about the accuracy of the original article. This comment is representative: “As someone who took this class at UNC, I strongly disagree with this article. The class would be more aptly named, “The Cultural Impact of 9/11,” and considering the class as I took it in 2011, much of this article is untrue.” 
  • The faculty member is in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and has taught this same seminar five previous times. He is highly rated by his students in end-of-semester course evaluations. More specifically, they cite how he treats all students with respect and effectively encourages them to participate in class.

Chancellor Folt and I share your horror over the tragic events of 9/11. The Carolina community lost several members on that day, and our campus came together to honor them by creating a memorial garden to permanently celebrate their lives. On a personal level, I recently visited the 9/11 Shrine and Chapel in the Pentagon, and was moved to tears thinking about the innocent civilians and military men and women who lost their lives there that day.

Over the past several years, the University has significantly strengthened support for the military. We currently enroll the largest number of veterans since post World War II and have many active duty and retired military members involved in our campus programs. Faculty teach more than 60 courses exploring military history, and our ROTC program is strong and well respected. We recently launched the UNC Core program to provide an online option for service members at in-state tuition rates. They can take general education requirements online and transfer the credits to any UNC system university. The Kenan-Flagler Business School teaches executive development programs for senior leaders from all military services to accelerate transitions to new executive leadership roles. Those are just a few highlights from a rapidly growing list of programs and initiatives now focusing intensely on supporting members of the military. We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made on this front, and are encouraged about future opportunities to do even more.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns. I hope you find this information reassuring.

Sincerely,

James W. Dean, Jr.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost