UNC System President Tom Ross spoke to Charlotte’s WFAE in a story posted online today. In it, Ross (pictured right) says elimination of duplicated programs might be key to saving system funds in the face of the state’s $3.7 billion budget shortfall:

But what we want to look for is unnecessary duplication; that is places where there is there’s a duplication of programs, and perhaps that may lead to the elimination of some programs, or it may also lead to better collaboration among programs that could end up being more efficient and more effective. And so we hope that we’ll be able to save some dollars, and I should point out that looking for unnecessary duplication is not a short-term fix for our current budget crisis. This is really more of a long-term analysis that will help us plan for the universities’ futures

I agree. There’s tons of duplication. The system could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars by centralizing and consolidating their information technology systems. Why on earth does each separate campus operate on entirely different IT systems for holding student records like health and immunization forms, transcripts and high school records. Consolidating systems like these and eliminating staff at each of the 16 university institutions overseeing these disparate systems seems a no-brainer.

A consolidation of record-keeping systems would also speed up transfer processes for students seeking to shuffle from one campus to another, a process that should never have been as painstakingly difficult and long as it is now.

And, we shouldn’t forget: Stop spending money on ridiculous, unnecessary things like “clickers.”

Statesville attorney and Democratic National Committee member David Parker was elected Saturday the new chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Parker takes the helm after abysmal performance by his predecessor David Young, especially on LGBT issues. In contrast, Young’s predecessor, Jerry Meek, often reached out, spoke with and worked together with LGBT constituents.

If Parker’s live-blog with Durham-based blogger Pam Spaulding is any indication, North Carolina Democrats have elected a fine leader who truly values the participation and contributions of LGBT party members:

Pam Spaulding:
Since PHB is a blog focusing on LGBT issues, there are huge ramifications for LGBT North Carolinians because of the outcome of the midterms in our Gen Assembly. A question from reader HunterC:What I’m most interested in is for political operators to recognize that in 2011 in North Carolina, embracing LGBT issues is not toxic. What will you do to get through to candidates and the political machinery that NC in 2011 has moved past LGBT items as wedge issues? Even US Senator Richard Burr — A NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN — acknowledged the “generational change” after he voted to repeal DADT.

David Parker:
We are already seeing LGBT issues being used as a wedge: I got a mailing yesterday addressed to 5 million Senior Christians saying that Obama’s signing the Hate Crimes Bill was tantamount to criminalizing Christianity becuase the Bible speaks against homosexuality and is therefore outlawed.

This approach is just to arouse anti-gay passion and we have got to stand firmly against it and stand firmly for individual dignity also … it is my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God. I will support the issues of personal dignity and the adoption of the Dallas Principles as well. They make sense across the board. LGBT issues are universal issues and should be treated as such.

Read Pam’s full interview with Parker…

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N.C. GOP, is this the week for jobs?

Despite all the high-minded, feel-good rhetoric last fall about creating new jobs and saving the state from a budget crisis, one would be hard-pressed to find any evidence last week that GOP leaders in the North Carolina House and Senate were gung-ho about tackling what they’ve described as the number one legislative agenda item.

Newly-elected House Speaker Thom Tillis even wore and passed out to other legislators rubber bracelets that read, “Think Jobs” on the opening day of the new legislation session last week. He told his colleagues to snap themselves with it if they found themselves thinking about anything other than the economy.

From the list of introduced bills in both the House and Senate last week, the North Carolina taxpayer is left wondering: Exactly who’s paying for the doctor visits resulting from the bruises and lacerations from too much bracelet-snapping?

Out of 26 bills introduced last week, not a single piece of House or Senate legislation dealt with jobs, the economy or the state budget, which, by the way, faces a $3.7 billion shortfall this year. What GOP leaders did have time to do, apparently, was start in earnest their attacks on the poor, undocumented young people, community college students and public education.

Republicans’ election into the majority was clearly prompted by economic issues; the people spoke firmly. Voters want legislators to deal with pressing issues like job creation, the reversal of a downtrodden economy and the creation of a state budget that solves gaps while maintaining much-needed human services.

For all their usual talk about “mandates” from voters, Republicans sure did prove themselves uncaring last week. Legislators return to Raleigh this evening and tomorrow to start a new week doing the people’s business. Perhaps this week will be their turn-around: Lay off the social agenda and get to work for the people.

Update (01/31/2011, 8:14 a.m.): Why even get my hopes up? Carolina Journal: “NCGA Preview: Week of January 31. Health care, property rights, and charter schools top agenda.”

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For the life of me, I’ll never understand why some people believe the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech grants them a carte blanche right to say or do anything they like without the least bit of criticism or negative feedback from other citizens.

The recent brouhaha over Chick-fil-A’s sponsorship of an anti-LGBT seminar in Pennsylvania has the LGBT blogosphere, mainstream media and Christian media in a frenzy. Some college students have even organized to get Chick-fil-A thrown off their campuses. The seminar isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A has sponsored or supported conservative, right-wing causes. The anti-gay, evangelical views of the company and its leaders have been well-known for an awfully long time. I guess some folks just got tired of it, found the right blog to on which to speak out and hit the news cycle at just the right time.

In a New York Times piece by Kim Severson, however, a conservative Chick-fil-A customer and supporter says the corporation has every right to say or think anything they please. Continue reading this post…

Interesting data points,courtesy UCLA’s Williams Institute, for a story I’m working on, set for publication in QNotes‘ Feb. 5 print edition…

Ranking of metropolitan areas with population above one million by the percent of same-sex couples who are raising children under age 18, American Community Survey (2005-2009).

Rank Metropolitan Area % of Same-sex couples raising children under age 18 Same-sex couples raising children Same-sex couples not raising children Total Same-sex couples
3 Raleigh-Cary, NC 29.5% 571 1,365 1,936
36 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 18.9% 840 3,613 4,453

An important side note: It’s important to remember that data sets like these do not accurately reflect the entire LGBT population. In this case, the numbers are a reflection of same-sex couples and excludes single LGBT people. Further, the American Community Survey and U.S. Census do not count total numbers of LGBT citizens or residents. It’s a shame really, since all we have to go by regarding total LGBT population in this country are numbers like these and other data sets extrapolated by groups like the Williams Institute (by far, the best and most in-depth). Some studies, like Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, found 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual (of 6,000 people nationwide between the ages of 14 and 94). That study also found that by age 60, 15 percent of men have had at least one oral, same-sex sexual encounter.

As many of you already know, I’ve returned to school to wrap up my B.A., having transferred my credits from UNC-Greensboro to UNC-Charlotte. I started back this month.

The transition has been easy enough. I’ve definitely learned great skills in the workplace which help me to manage my time, goals and expectations. And, this go ’round, I’ve found myself more committed to my coursework. After all, a few years of adulthood under your belt gives you an appreciation for just how much money you’re actually spending to achieve that degree you want so badly.

But no amount of time in the workplace can prepare you for the insanity and fiscal irresponsibility that seems to plague university administrations (and, admittedly, other unwieldy, behemoth bureaucracies as well) around the world.

I thought I’d share, certainly for the laugh factor, though here I primarily offer, with the letter below as all the evidence I need, an argument outlining a severe lack of judgment, a waste of both student and faculty time and a waste of student and taxpayer dollars.

What in the world ever happened to simply taking attendance, requiring students to take notes and complete papers and administering exams?

Geez.

January 25, 2011

UNC Charlotte Students,

Over the past decade, instructors at UNC Charlotte and across the country have been using “clickers” in their classrooms with increasing frequency. Clickers are instructional tools that elicit student interaction in real time by collecting and displaying student responses to questions posed by the instructor, either verbally or projected on a screen. The students respond by pressing a button on hand-held wireless transmitters, and receivers transmit that data to a computer. The clicker software tallies the responses, and the students and instructor can receive instant feedback in the form of histograms and detailed reports. Because each student transmitter has a unique signature that can be registered to its user, performance data can be tabulated to assess attendance, participation, and long-term progress.

As the technology has developed, a number of competing products have emerged. Five years ago, the university formed a committee of faculty, IT professionals, and staff from units that would be impacted by this technology and charged them with selecting a university standard for interactive classroom clicker usage and to plan its implementation. The selection of a single clicker for campus-wide use ensured that students would only need to purchase one device for all of their classes, and has enabled the Office of Classroom Support to provide the support necessary for increasing usage.

The Clicker Selection Committee recommended the Interwrite Personal Response System (PRS), which was the only product on the market at that time that met all of our goals (especially when it came to accessibility issues). About a year after this standard was approved and implemented, Interwrite was bought out by a company called eInstruction, which offers a competing clicker system called the Classroom Performance System (CPS). In the summer of 2010, eInstruction notified the university that they would no longer offer the PRS clickers after spring 2011. This created a number of problems, namely 1) new software would need to be installed across the entire university, software which still does not fix any of the issues that have plagued clicker users throughout recent updates, and 2) the new clickers would require new receivers for every classroom, which would be incompatible with the clickers currently in use.

Since it is now, regrettably, that students will be required to purchase new clickers, and that these new clickers will, in turn, require new receivers and new software, a new Clicker Selection Committee has been convened to examine the clicker technologies that have emerged since the initial recommendation. After careful consideration, the committee is recommending products from two leading companies: I

The committee is seeking your input and help in selecting the perfect UNC Charlotte clicker. On the afternoon of February 4th, 2011, both companies will be visiting campus and presenting their product to the faculty and students. The demonstrations will begin at 2:30 p.m. in room Rowe 130. Once attendees have listened to both demonstrations and asked questions, we will evaluate which clicker our university will phase into use.

Please RSVP to McKenzie Phillips at 704-687-8729 or mphill60@uncc.edu. You may also contact her if you have any questions, comments, or inquires about the afternoon agenda.
We look forward to seeing you on February 4th, and collectively making an important decision that will help move our university education standards to a new and higher level.

Thank you in advance,

Clicker Review Committee Members

Some jobs aren’t fabulous. Many don’t get praise or recognition. Folks who work in these jobs are often given nary a passing thought by most people whose lives would be dramatically different if not for the services these workers provide.

There’s lots of examples. The garbage man (and woman) is one. Honestly, how many people think about the people who collect your trash on a weekly basis — the shit (figuratively and literally) they have to deal with as they weave their mammoth trucks through small neighborhood side streets picking up your untouchables?

Another example might be those who work for your municipality’s sewage and water treatment system or those who work for portable toilet services. That hot dog you ate at the county fair was mighty tasty, but you drop it off at the portable toilet and you’re on your way happily ever after. Tell me, have you ever paused to think what a Porta-John employee’s work day is like, cleaning up after your bodily waste? I doubt most people have.

Unfortunately, journalists get a similar type of treatment. Though journalists are far from ignored — because they’re regular targets of public disdain and contempt — they do live in a world where their jobs are largely underpaid, under-appreciated and under-utilized (especially as traditional, print news-media companies continue to languish in a lack of innovation under the ever-continuing move to online news and entertainment).

Ultimately, public disdain for journalism emanates, I believe, from a collective, public ignorance that neither understands nor really much cares about the types of real, meaningful and important services journalists actually provide their local communities, states and nation.

Such is the case with a recent example from The Charlotte Observer. Continue reading this post…