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


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:


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.




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.


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 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.


James W. Dean, Jr.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost