Director responds to water-quality testing center closing

An e-mail written by Environmental Quality Institute Director Steve Patch challenges several assertions made by the UNC-Asheville administration regarding the closing of the on-campus water-quality-analysis center. In a July 13 statement, the university announced the closing, citing the need to cut its budget. Patch contests numbers supplied by the university as well as the claim that the center does not satisfy the school’s core mission.

See the full text of that e-mail message below.

Note: In the Xpress story referenced below, we stated that the $350,000 UNC-Asheville claimed to be saving by closing the Environmental Quality Institute would be on a per-year basis. In fact, communications from UNCA officials did not indicate those were annual savings.

staff writer Brian Postelle

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Response to Provost Fernandes’ Statements in “Troubled Waters”

As Director of the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI), I was very disappointed that UNCA decided to close EQI. I disagree with that decision but I understand that difficult decisions must be made in times of financial distress.  However, I was dismayed to read comments from Provost Fernandes in the article “Troubled Waters” in the August 12-18, 2009 Mountain Xpress, that implied that EQI has been subsidized with state funds and that educating students is not central to our mission. The reality is that EQI has always been completely self sufficient financially and has always made a valuable contribution to the university’s core mission of educating undergraduate students.

I strongly disagree with the statements concerning the supposed “savings” from closing the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI). It is stated that “state funding is involved in the center’s operations, including provision of infrastructure, lab space, overhead costs, administrative oversight and the salary of the faculty member who directs the center on a half-time basis.” First, EQI has recently been paying the university an average of $44,000 per year for its infrastructure, space, overhead and oversight costs. Second, the cost of teaching the one class of release time per semester for me to act as the center’s director has always been paid for from EQI grant funds, not state funds. In EQI’s 20-year existence, the university has only spent about $100,000 remodeling our space. The university is now planning to remodel all of Rhoades Hall, which is where we were located, at an estimated total cost of $9 million.  That project would have required EQI to move into a remodeled laboratory in Rhoades Hall despite the fact that we were content to remain in our old space in the building.  The UNCA facilities staff has told us that the extra cost for remodeling a laboratory for EQI compared to remodeling it for another purpose would be a one-time cost of $280,000. I do not know the basis for the statement that closing EQI “will save the university $350,000 per year.” I can only assume that it is an exaggerated estimate of a one-time cost that was incorrectly understood to be a yearly cost.  While the university will clearly not be saving that amount from closing EQI, it will obtain a windfall by taking control of EQI’s reserves worth about $170,000, our cutting-edge scientific instrumentation, and our $50,000 endowment fund in addition that we have built up over the years to support scholarships for our research students. In summary, the university has been profiting financially from EQI for years. Instead of investing that profit in remodeling a laboratory for EQI, the UNCA administration has decided to close EQI. 

I also disagree with the statement that “UNCA’s core mission of educating undergraduate students was not integral to the work of either center”. In the past 5 years, 14 EQI students have earned distinction as undergraduate researchers. Almost all of our recent EQI graduates have had their research published in peer-reviewed journals or are in the process of getting it published, which attests to the quality of the research experience we have been providing our students.  In the past five years we have spent over $150,000 of money generated by grant funds on student scholarships and salaries. The experiences that students receive from working in our laboratory and making presentations to national audiences make them more competitive for employment and graduate school positions. In addition to receiving academic credit, interns in our Lead Poisoning Prevention Program get hands-on job training from working in the community. Additionally, use of the EQI laboratory was going to play a central role in the freshman colloquium course I am teaching this fall titled “Assessing Environmental Toxins.” I believe that EQI’s record of contributing to UNCA’s mission compares quite favorably to the four centers that have not been cut by the UNCA administration.

The article did a good job of explaining the significance of the Volunteer Water Information Network and its research on stream water quality but did not discuss the role EQI has played in reducing the national exposure to common environmental toxins. A few examples follow.

Our research collaboration with Clean Water for North Carolina on lead in drinking water played a critical role in the EPA negotiation of the phase-out of lead in water pumps, reduction of lead content in kitchen faucets, and in the composition of the 1993 Lead and Copper Rule, which has dramatically decreased lead concentrations for US municipal water users. For example, since that Lead and Copper rule was passed, 90’th percentile lead concentration for residents on municipal water in Asheville has decreased from about 15 ppb to less than 3 ppb and in Hendersonville it has decreased from about 40 ppb to less than 3 ppb.  Our research on exposure to arsenic from chromated-copper-arsenate (CCA) lumber was used by the EPA to negotiate a ban on CCA for residential use in 2004.  To our knowledge, we published the first paper on lead in children’s jewelry in 2005, which helped guide the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to create strict rules for lead content in children’s products in 2008. Our research on mercury in hair, which was featured on CNN, has helped to inform pregnant women about the danger of eating too many servings of fish that are high in mercury as well as informing all citizens about one of the consequences of our energy choices.  In recent studies to be published in the Journal of Environmental Health and in Science of the Total Environment, our student researchers have found that arsenic from CCA-decks can be tracked into homes and that there is a potential for toddlers playing inside the house, especially near the entryway, to be exposed to that arsenic. 

Unfortunately, due to the closing of EQI, we will not be able to follow up on that potentially important line of research at UNCA. More locally, EQI’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has assisted numerous families in reducing the exposure of their children to lead around the home and has been the driving force behind dramatically increased blood lead testing rates in Buncombe and Henderson Counties.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the UNCA students, faculty, and staff and all of the funders, collaborators, and volunteers that we have had the pleasure of working with over the years. Working together we have accomplished some great things.

Steve Patch
Director of the Environmental Quality Institute

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42 thoughts on “Director responds to water-quality testing center closing

  1. AvlResident

    Odd that the reporter did not interview Mr. Patch, as director of the EQI, when he wrote the original story.

  2. Rob Close

    yes, that seems to be against the very basics of good journalism. why print a 1-sided story? can the editors justify this? how about interviewing some alumni who participated? how about some actual work?

    UNCA’s closing of the EQI is disgraceful. they can consider this alumni as no longer interested in making any further donations. especially the claims that it isn’t serving their core mission. that’s just ridiculous.

  3. Robert Burkhardt

    I think it is common knowledge that the university relishes it’s “Big frog” feeling to Asheville’s “Little Pond” atmosphere-was this a political decision,some kind of personal grudge or leverage play of some kind-who knows-WE won’t apparently,because the Asheville Citizen Times would merely ask UNC-A “What would you like us to say in the story?”,and it would appear that the Mountain Express does not have the teeth for this either.A pity.

  4. Scott Walters

    Be careful about engaging in wild conspiracy theories about big ponds and the like. The fact is that your legislators, who instead of raising resources decided on draconian cuts, targeted “centers” specifically for closure. UNC Asheville has very few such centers, but EQI is one of them. I am truly sorry that EQI was cut, but blaming the Provost for state directives is misplaced anger.

  5. AvlResident

    There are, or were, over 270 centers and institutes at UNC schools. According to Mr. Walters, “The fact is that your legislators, who instead of raising resources decided on draconian cuts, targeted “centers” specifically for closure.” Does that mean that all 270 centers and institutes have been closed? Did the legislature and/or Mr. Bowles tell each campus which institutes to close?

  6. Disgruntled Alum

    Because of the increase in the number of “centers” in recent years the UNC General Administration directed each campus to examine their centers and make a determination regarding each. There was no “requirement” to cut centers, particularly those such as EQI which are self funding. Closing the EQI and Mossbauer Effects Data Center was a local decision.

    Since 1999, the UNCA administration has grown over 100% while the number of faculty and students have grow at a small fraction of that. To really save money UNCA should consider reducing the number of administrators

  7. Scott Walters

    AvlResident — I don’t know all the details — for instance, I don’t think it was Bowles who issued the directive, but rather the legislature as part of the tax bill — but regardless, no, all 270 were not closed. However, each campus had to respond to that directive in some way. Furthermore, each campus had to take steps to cut 10% from, in UNC Asheville’s case, an annual budget that is taken up almost entirely with salary. Unlike some of the larger universities in the state, the operating budget portion of UNC Asheville is EXTREMELY meager, so cutting 10% is very challenging. The Chancellor, in collaboration with the University Planning Council of the Academic Senate, established priorities for the entire budget process when all this began to happen last year and which, basically, made the highest priorities for UNC Asheville to protect as many jobs on campus as possible (and the number eliminated on UNC Asheville’s campus was minimal compared to other campuses across the state, thanks to the stewardship of everyone on campus), and protecting the central part of UNC Asheville’s mission, which is delivering the undergraduate curriculum. There is absolutely no doubt that what EQI did was important and valuable in many ways, but a financial crisis combined with a legislative unwillingness to raise additional funds means that important and valuable things had to be eliminated. Other options would likely have meant eliminating jobs, which I doubt anyone wants to see happen. Budget cuts of this scale are very painful. Would that the legislature would be as generous in times of plenty as they are harsh in times of want.

  8. Scott Walters

    Disgruntled Alum — First of all, the reality is that capital funds and operating funds are separate, so how much is being spent on a residence hall is irrelevant to the cuts in operating budget. UNCA has no ability to use capital funds to cover operating costs.

    The complaint about the size of the administration… well, let me say that when I arrived on campus in 1998 as Chair, nearly forty departments reported to a single administrator, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. It was a ridiculous arrangement that made it impossible to plan, assess effectiveness, or accomplish anything at all. It was a model of administration that might have been appropriate when UNCA was a small college, but unworkable for one this size. Since then, Dean were added, which has helped a great deal. It has allowed professors to teach, instead of taking on all the burdens of administration.

  9. Mitchxout

    3 Million or more for the chancellor’s residence? Is there no oversight for large expenditures? Is she going to have her own golf course?

  10. Ed Smith

    EQI and Mossbauer Effect Data Center were specifically targeted for being cut. The cut is a directive — from State Legislature and the President. Some $350K or more in state funding is being saved by the cut of EQI and Mossbauer. Well worth it, in my opinion.

    It is a valid question to ask whether EQI and Mossbauer should have been cut while the new mansion for the Chancellor is going up. Is research a priority or is the Chancellor’s comfort more important?

    Also, one could suggest that the Channy move into the house on the Rhoades property, thereby saving the cost of building a new residence (to the tune of $3 million bucks)!

  11. Scott Walters

    Mitch and Ed — As is the case above, the Chancellor’s residence — which was built because the previous residence was structurally unsound and threatening to collapse when there were large groups of people there — is being built with private donations contributed specifically for that project, not public funds. Furthermore, the lion’s share of that house is devoted to public space for university activities, not living space for the Chancellor. All universities provide a residence for their Chancellors, because a large part of their job involves raising money for the university, which requires a suitable place to do so. Finally, the Rhoades property was donated long after the residence was under construction.

  12. AvlResident

    One comment says, “There was no ‘requirement’ to cut centers, particularly those such as EQI which are self funding. Closing the EQI and Mossbauer Effects Data Center was a local decision.”

    Another comment says, “EQI and Mossbauer Effect Data Center were specifically targeted for being cut. The cut is a directive—from State Legislature and the President.”

    Is this what to expect from “citizen journalism,” contradictory opinions, not authenticated information? Concern is not whether the EQI is closed or open but lack of serious and timely reporting on what happened and why.

  13. Disgruntled Alum

    Scott,
    The former Chancellor’s residence was not structurally unsound. It was deemed to be too small, and with inadequate parking, for the types of events Chancellors must host. I agree with that conclusion, but thought the new residence should have been delayed until other projects were fully funded.
    Second, yes there is a difference between operating and capital funds, but I never mentioned a residence hall as you suggest. As a member of faculty you should review the chart of accounts to understand how much latitude the administration has in transferring funds.
    Third, the administrative positions you champion were, in many cases, funded at the expense of faculty positions. Compared to other campuses of similar enrollment UNCA is very top heavy administratively.
    Finally, to AvlResident,read the bill which came out of the State Legislature, as I have, and form your own opinion regarding the actions mandated.

  14. Disgruntled Alum

    AvlResident,

    I agree with you on the need for serious and timely reporting on events at UNCA. However, before criticizing comments made here read the funding bill which came out of the State Legislature, read the comments of the UNCA administration, or better yet call Erskine Bowles and ask him what directions the sixteen chancellors were given regarding ‘centers’ on their campuses.

  15. Scott Walters

    Actually, Disgruntled Alum, when Jim Mullen was Chancellor, it was found that the floor in the large central room sagged when there were larger gatherings. I remember him specifically telling me that when the opening faculty meeting was held there, there were issues. And yes, it also was too small — not as a residence, but as a meeting place. And the parking was horrendous, too. As far as funding the “other projects,” I’m not certain to what you are referring, but I suspect you mean the Zeis Building, which SHOULD have been funded by the bond issue, and SHOULD have been built within budget — but that is more an issue with the previous administration in conjunction with the science faculty.

    Sorry about the residence hall comment — I misread.

    From my experience, most universities of a certain size have Deans — I’ve never been at one that didn’t. The bigger a university becomes, the more the administrative burden has to be covered by a larger group. UNCA is no longer a 1500-student university, as much as certain people would like to pretend that it still is. And most administrators come from the ranks of the faculty — that is the usual route. At some places, it is called a “faculty development opportunity,” rather than being seen as some sort of heinous kidnapping of people and resources. But yes, a university is allotted only a certain amount of “positions,” and most of the administrative positions come from those lines. Fact of life. But I would be happy to entertain documentation of how “administratively top-heavy” UNCA is compared to other universities. I confess I am a skeptic.

    As far as operating and capital funds, as a former administrator myself (I have been an Asst Dean, Chair, and Programn Director), I am pretty well-acquainted with state funding and the strict rules about how money is used. Yes, there is some wiggle room, but the walls between personnel and operating, for instance, is pretty solid; so is the wall between capital and operating. It certainly isn’t as permeable as some people would like to make out.

  16. Dazed&Confused;

    Does any of the UNCA people reading this discussion see the irony in no one replied to Dr. Patch’s email to unca_forum and all the comments are happening off campus? Perhaps everyone is busy with the start of fall semester but equally likely is the employees at UNCA have seen what happens when you disagree with Chancellor Ponder (or lack the protection of tenure as Scott Walter has). There was a time when people at UNCA – both faculty and staff – could voice his or her opinion but until Anne Ponder leaves, those days are over.

    The truth is the legislature was trying to save state money and EQI was not state funded. What was gained? Nothing and now good people – who were generating funds to pay their salaries – will be unemployed.

    Dr. Ponder’s leadership style doesn’t allow for dissension. Don’t believe me? Ask any close friends you have at the Dean level or on UPC. They will tell you she insists on her plan or it will not happen (Masters of Climatology anyone?). What about the Board of Trustees? Glad you asked because it is not any different with them. The survey they did on her job skills was a joke. How many of you were called into the GROUP interview and asked to give your true feelings on the chancellor’s job performance? Did anyone see the survey results? Why not publish the actual numbers?

    Folks, more cuts are coming within the next month. Likewise, the 2010-2011 budget has additional cuts. Chancellor Ponder received $1,000,000 of new money from the legislature (how?) and can do the right thing by reversing her EQI decision and also by not implementing new cuts. Further, she could put all the financial cards on the table and ask the campus where the cuts should be made. There are many, many bright people on campus other than Anne Ponder and Christine Riley.

    Inclusion: What a Concept.

  17. Ed Pones

    Scott:

    Your information has been much more helpful to understanding this story than the reporter’s, frankly.

    I’d like to know Anne Ponder and Christine Riley’s rationalization for supporting some Centers over others. For example, strong support from the Center for Creative Retirement but not much relevance to undergraduate education. Why support Creative Retirement and cut Environmental Quality Institute?

    Can you help me out here since the Chancellor is not?

    Ed

  18. Scott Walters

    I love anonymous broadsides, Dazed and Confused — so courageous. Here’s a hot news release: I am not the only person who is tenured at UNC Asheville. So the lack of discussion MAY reflect not FEAR, but rather a sense that we are in a hard situation, that the cuts made are PRESERVING jobs (compare us to other universities who have cut many more than we have), that the decisions are based on PRINCIPLES, and those principles reflect valid priorities. The FACT is that Chancellor Ponder has kept the university well-informed, taken questions and responded forthrightly, and made public the principles by which the budget will be cut, which were developed with campus input and are published on-line here: http://www.unca.edu/news/budget052009.html.

    Dr. Ponder’s leadership style is based on principles and data, unlike previous administrations which were based on cronyism, arbitrary decisions, and a lack of vision. Furthermore, the idea that she should “put all the financial cards on the table and ask the campus where the cuts should be made” is patently absurd. Check out the job description for the Chancellor: those are decisions that are HER job. That’s why we hired her. Managing a budget, especially in times of crisis, is not about votes. For God’s sake, the university isn’t a candy store with a handful of employees, it is a huge state agency. She has consulted a wide variety of faculty and staff leadership people, considered their information, and made decisions. That’s what her job is.

    I’m not certain what you are getting at questioning the million dollars new money that UNCA AND SCHOOL OF THE ARTS received, but if you listened to the report AT ALL you know that that million has been used to reduce the overall budget cut to 3% – 4%, thus SAVING many jobs. In other words, Chancellor Ponder has ALREADY done the right thing with that money.

    We are in the midst of a serious budget crisis, one that is requiring fast action with each change that occurs at the state level. The idea that every decision will be taken to a community-wide campus vote is absurd. Leaders lead.

  19. Scott Walters

    Ed — My impression is that the university’s support for the Center for Creative Retirement has also been cut. However, I believe that CCR is its own entity that has a connection to the university, has a degree of university support, but is an independent organization with its own budget. I don’t think it is a “center.”

  20. AvlResident

    Not familiar with university issues, interested in getting good journalism, good coverage on public matters. But now curious about Mr. Walters, apparently Chancellor Ponder’s spokesman (?) and Dazed and Confused. Is this another situation like Mission Hospitals? How is general reader to understand if the journalists don’t give us in-depth reporting?

  21. Piffy!

    Well said, Scott. Too bad these guys don’t understand simple math or how budgets work. I wonder how many times you will have to respond with the same information before they get they are waaaay off?

  22. Scott Walters

    Not Chancellor Ponder’s spokesman. Just a member of the UNCA faculty who feels there is a lot of misconceptions out there about the budget and about UNCA. I’d like to emphasize that I have not commented on Dr. Patch’s article — I truly wish we were not in a situation where such cuts needed to even be considered. But the state budget crisis is very real, and unfortunately really difficult choices must be made. I know that each such decision is hard for everybody, including those who ultimately have to make those decisions. There are no Snidely Whiplashes in this process.

    As far as reporting is concerned, I have no comment.

  23. Disgruntled Alum

    Scott,
    As part of the process of evaluating faculty salaries UNCA usually ‘benchmarks’ itself against a group of schools deemed to be comparable both in terms of academic standards, and enrollment. In virtually every case those schools have smaller administrations than UNCA.
    Of course part of the problem is a proper definition of ‘administration’. Many positions labeled ‘instructional support’ are administrative in nature.
    For the sake of discussion let us use a specific position, that of University General Counsel. UNCA traditionally uses external legal counsel, and also has the legal staff of General Administration available for consultation. In fact, until 2003 many schools in the UNC system did not have General Councils on staff. Then in 2002-03 the Governor’s office needed to find positions for some appointees who were being phased out of other positions. Those campuses without GCs were instructed to create the position.
    Now, UNCA’s GC is highly qualified and a very fine person, but I would argue the school did not really need the position, and the funds used for that position would have been better spent on faculty positions.

  24. Disgruntled Alum

    Scott, Dazed& Confused,

    Scott, you support the current administration and I respect that position. Still,you cannot deny facts. There are serious problems on campus, and one of those is a morale problem. If there have been no missteps by Chancellor Ponder why was the UNC Board of Governors concerned enough to undertake their own investigation of her a few months ago? While the results should not be made public, make no mistake there was no clean bill of health.

    My final comment on all of this is I believe the closing of the EQI, and Mossbauer Effects Data Center have more to do with the death of Dr. Maas,and the retirement of Dr.Stevens than any directive from Raleigh. As with several past situations the administration could have avoided much controversy by being more direct at the outset.

  25. Scott Walters

    Disgruntled — Re: General Counsel: Maybe so. That was the Jim Mullen era, and as you note something mandated by the Governor’s Office. Sort of hard to fight that one, yes?

    If you define your terms broadly, so that it becomes almost impossible to actually compare other institutions (what do THEY call “administrative support” that is “actually” administration?), then we’re kind of in a pickle.

  26. Scott Walters

    Well, Disgruntled, I would say that there WAS a morale problem when Chancellor Ponder arrived, but that she was blamed for abuses perpetrated by the previous administration. In fact, her efforts and transparency has gone a long way to improve that situation.

    The BOG “investigation” was a state- mandated evaluation that is supposed to be done for every Chancellor during their fourth year, I believe. Just like faculty go through a reappointment process during their first years. Accountability is a good thing. If by “clean bill of health” you mean she has nothing to improve on, certainly not: any evaluation worth it’s salt has suggestions for improvement. But make no mistake: she was enthusiastically endorsed.

    Your hypothesis about EQI and Mossbauer are conjectures. There seems to be documentation in the form of newspaper reports about the budget that would contradict the personal nature of the action, but if you want to see the Chancellor as twirling her mustache, who am I to stop you. Except to refer to the aforementioned documents.

    As I’ve said before: the budget situation is painful. Our legislators made these decisions necessary — don’t blame the people who have to carry out their directives. In another budget environment, we wouldn’t be talking about this.

  27. Disgruntled Alum

    Scott,
    It is possible to refuse, others have, but it requires fortitude. You must be more than a careerist, and see yourself as the leader of a university, not just one of sixteen branch managers.

    As for the definitions: the other institutions were very clear, it was UNCA which was less than precise.

  28. Disgruntled Alum

    Scott,
    I am familiar with the evaluation process for chancellors, and this BOG action was very much a distinct activity.

    I did not in any way imply the decisions on EQI and Mossbauer were “personal”, only that the events I mentioned were primary factors.

    As for the previous chancellor I would quite agree. A number of President Broad’s chancellor hires around the system proved to be less than satisfactory. Part of the problem is the the hiring process, and another the rapid turnover in chancellors. Aside from Chancellor Highsmith with a tenure of approx twenty-two years, the average tenure for a chancellor is approx four and one half years. It is difficult for even an exceptional chancellor to accomplish much in such a brief time.
    Still, not every problem can be attributed to the previous chancellor, and Chancellor Ponder must accept responsibility for those which are the direct result of her actions. Much of what she has done has been kept from the faculty, and only the most senior staff. I know for a fact she has intimidated members of staff, and threatened their employment for doing what they are bound to do by State Code when it conflicted with her wishes.
    If you truly want to debate specifics I suggest we renew the conversation in a less public venue at some point in the future.

  29. Dazed&Confused;

    Scott Walter’s opinion should be respected.
    Students speak highly of him and he had well-reasoned comments on the committees we both served on.

    Perhaps he will take the time to answer the remainder of my questions:

    1. What did UNCA gain by eliminating EQI? Again, they were self-sufficient.

    2. Why did Chancellor Ponder insist on group interviews from the hand-picked list of people chosen to evaluate her performance?

    3. Please provide additional information on how she plans to use the new $1,000,000. Perhaps Scott has additional information that I haven’t heard.

    Now, it is my turn.

    There are other tenured faculty reading this. Yet they elect to remain silent. If there is so much support for Dr. Ponder, why is it she can only count on you to publically support her? The sound of one person clapping at one of your plays would ring hollow and the same is true here (Tom, it is time for you to chime in now).

    As for the morale problems going away, there is not any administrative department that doesn’t have issues with the way Dr. Ponder is leading the campus, and I suspect if you find faculty that trust you, you’ll find that extends to most academic departments as well (including Drama). Hardly a month goes by without someone being forced out. Of course, tenured faculty don’t have to worry about that but administrators and staff do.

    The morale issue even extends to the vice chancellors and administrators (whoever they are this month). You simply cannot call coming into a room with the cuts in hand and only allowing limited discussion as being great leadership.

    Ask how well respected the supervisors felt when they were told which employees would be cut/moved on the afternoon before the employees themselves were told the next morning. Discussion? None. The urgency was not there because the state budget hadn’t been passed at that point.

    And for the record, most of the other campus didn’t impose cuts ahead of time (though to be fair, President Bowles required them to have a plan).

    Scott has taught in the Humanities program, not I, but the campus shouldn’t deal with people in such an inhumane way.

    I was part of the all-campus survey from over a year ago in which Dr. Ponder’s approval rating was under 40% (if I remember correctly). If things are so great on campus, perhaps she’d like to do it again to see how much she has improved – right?

    As for me being anonymous, I still have family and friends on campus, and I have to protect their jobs.

    History will not be kind to Dr. Ponder.

  30. Jenny75

    Dr. Patch neglected to include in his letter the questionable ethical decisions that have been made by EQI over the years that reflect poorly on both EQI and UNCA. For example, EQI researchers recently traveled overseas and collected blood samples from native people. They were not properly trained to collect these samples, and did not follow UNCA guidelines for research on human subjects. This was a potential public health catastrophe that could have resulted in a significant lawsuit……preventing future lapses of judgment could end up saving UNCA and North Carolina taxpayers millions of dollars.

  31. Jenny75

    P.S. The information above comes from a tenured prof at UNCA. Maybe the reason other faculty aren’t posting on this page is that they support the closing but don’t want the reasons to be public.

  32. Scott Walters

    Dazed — Compare the number of people who have been “RIFFED” on this campus to those on other campuses, and see whether that answers your question about the $1M. When money enters the operating budget, it means that MORE cuts don’t have to be made, MORE jobs don’t have to be lost. Furthermore, by your own admission, you maintain your anonymity because others work on this campus, but apparently you don’t. I do. As does my wife, who is a member of the staff. Are there people who don’t like her? Sure — which is true of every person on this campus. Do people who work directly with her sometimes disagree with her approach or decisions? Sure — which is also true of all leaders. Leading is not a popularity contest, it is about leading through consistent application of principles. Those principles have been made public, and been applied with total consistency. Your complaints sound personal to me, and thus are impossible to refute. As a faculty member and a former administrator, I value the fact that I know what principles form the basis for decision-making on this campus.

    I cannot speak to the amount of money saved by EQI or how much it is self-sustaining. All I will say is that any rational leader would not, in the midst of a difficult year, add to its difficulty by eliminating a program if it didn’t help the crisis. Nobody invites controversy.

    This budget crisis has been very difficult for UNCA, given the small amount of operating funds that can be cut without touching personnel. Chancellor Ponder, from the get-go, said that the first priority was to save jobs, and she has done that very well. This is a humane Chancellor, a principled Chancellor. History willbe kind, even if individuals are not.

  33. Scott Walters

    Just to be clear: I don’t know anything specific about EQI, especially as far as what a previous writer has written, and I have never during this discussion said anything against EQI or Dr. Patch, who is a valued colleague and an excellent teacher. From what I do know, EQI does valuable work. My argument is completely based on the current budget strictures as put forward by the NC legislature and the UNC System administration. I have great admiration for Dr Patch and his efforts in EQI, and it is unfortunate that the current economic situation has forced these difficult decisions to be made. What I am saying is that the difficult decisions have been made in good faith, according to stated principles, and made in order to have as little negative impact on UNCA students as possible.

  34. AvlResident

    Could someone, preferably a MountainX reporter, please tell the unenlightened general reader what’s going on over at UNCA to provoke such a heated exchange between three or four people who have insider information? Mr. Walters appears to be the faculty leader designated by his colleagues to speak for the “in favor,” while “Dazed and Confused” and “Disgruntled Alum” appear to represent the “agin’s.” As with the Mission Hospital situation, the public, who may have some stake in these situations (taxes with UNCA, health care with Mission) are left puzzled. Where is Cecil Bothwell when we need him to get to the bottom of this?

  35. Dazed and Confused

    Let me explain my side of this (surprising civil) discussion.

    The situation at UNCA comes down to what kind of leader you respond to. I will not speak for Scott Walters but I suspect those on my side of this discussion look for a more inclusive leader. There are many intelligent people at UNCA, and Chancellor Ponder feels only she and Christine Riley are capable of making decisions.

    The first sign of a problem occurred with the exodus of long-term employees. That was followed by stories of people being coached before they were allowed to speak in meetings. Then Wilma Sherrill was hired part-time at $60,000 a year, auditors were on the campus (repeated), enrollment targets were/are consistently missed, Printing Services was redesigned and now it costs more for the campus to print, former board members and faculty now refuse to donate money to the university, multiple lawsuits have been settled by wrongfully-dismissed employees and the consultants – consultant after consultant was hired until Chancellor Ponder found one that agreed with her plan.

    Of late, a Vice Chancellor was hired at $100,000 a year for “communications”, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to renovate a dorm room – yes a dorm room! – for the vice chancellor of student affairs, $1,000,000 of university funds were used to buy the Rhoades house, and a new phone system was installed with over 1000 phones purchased at $200 each. Finally, no one can tell you how the student fees are spent.

    Now, EQI is shutdown and good, decent people have lost their jobs. UNCA is better than this.

    The amazing thing is all of this is public information. Newspapers take the press releases from UNCA and though UNCA spends over $35,000,000 of the tax payer’s money each year, no one will ask hard questions.

    I’m hopeful Professor Walters will respond with a list of accomplishments to justify the salary (over $220,000), the condo, the car, the utilities, the additional money now needed to finish Pisgah House, and the expense accounts Dr. Ponder costs the taxpayers each year.

    Most importantly, EQI was not state funded, and I’m still waiting for justification for the layoffs…

  36. Disgruntled Alum

    I agree with Dazed comments, but if anything they understate the problem. Much of this is kept private to avoid damaging the public image of the school. If all facts were made public it would be apparent to all the situation is much worse.
    The hallmark of this administration is lack of transparency. Facts which do not support her position,or might put her in less than a favorable light are changed, or omitted. Anyone not willing to support her in this is intimidated, and/or forced out.
    Only the tenured faculty have the power to resolve this. Until they ask tough questions, demand straight answers, and hold the chancellor accountable nothing will change.

  37. Disgruntled Alum

    AvlResident,
    Dr. Walters has not been designated by the faculty to say anything. His support of the chancellor is his and his alone. As for the media doing a bit of investigative reporting? It will not happen. Reporters who have shown an interest in digging deeper have been called off by the editors. The only public indication the house of cards has collapsed will be when Chancellor Ponder announces she is laying aside the burdens of administration to return to her first love, teaching.

  38. Eddie B

    I am wondering why AB Tech would accept the EQI and why Warren Wilson College would want to adopt it? It seems like nothing but a bunch of trouble without end.

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