Western Carolina University hired a new athletic director this week who will face the daunting challenge of turning the college’s losing football team around.
The official announcement will be made on campus Wednesday morning with an appearance by the new AD.
The new AD will face the tall order of rebuilding the football program — something that his predecessor failed to do and by all accounts is the reason he isn’t there anymore.
Sports has seen a renewed emphasis under Chancellor David Belcher, who pledged to improve the athletic department when he took over this summer.
“Athletics is a front door or front porch to the institution,” Belcher said last month during a kick-off for the athletic director search. “Athletics provides visibility for the university, it grounds students in the institution, and it is a way to keep in contact with donors and alumni.”
Belcher called the hiring an “important decision.”
A 15-member search committee culled through 75 applications for the athletic director position during the month of November, a recruitment process aided by the hired consulting firm Collegiate Sports Associates.
The search committee narrowed the field to seven candidates for interviews. Their top two finalists were passed along to Belcher last week, who made the final pick. While names have not been released by the university, the Asheville Citizen-Times and WLOS have reported that Tom Kleinlein, the deputy athletic director at Kent State, and Randy Eaton, Maryland’s senior associate athletics director for new revenue, facilities and operations, were finalists.
Belcher then held a conference call meeting of the WCU Board of Trustees Monday morning to get approval for the salary, benefits and contract being offered for the new AD. While the choice of who to hire is Belcher’s, the contract terms must be approved by the trustees. The salary will be $160,000 with a five-year contract until June 2016.
After the meeting, Belcher formally extended the offer, and it was accepted.
Job No. 1 for the new athletic director will be hiring a new football coach. It might not be as easy as it sounds. Since 2001, WCU has sent three football coaches packing before their contracts ended for losing too many games.
The most recent causality was former coach Dennis Wagner, forced out just before the last game of the season. The assistant head coach met a similar fate.
In four years, Wagner won only eight of the 36 games the team played. This season was the worst, however. Wagner won just one game this year — a statistic that ultimately brought the athletic director down as well.
Former Athletic Director Chip Smith was blamed at least in part for the football coaches’ failures — or at the very least for keeping the coaches around despite their poor showings. In his seven years at WCU, Smith twice supported extending the contracts for coaches who were later fired. And in both cases it cost the university, which had to pay out settlements for terminating the coaches’ contracts.
While WCU is paying Wagner $300,000 for the two years left on his contract, the negotiated settlement is less than the full amount his contract called for — a compromise both sides felt was in their best interest.
During the athletic director search process, Belcher said he wanted someone who could “hire, retain and mentor excellent coaches.” But it will also take financial savvy and a good PR face.
WCU is running a $400,000 deficit in its athletic program this year, fueled in part by declining attendance at games, declining sponsorships and even fewer sales of programs and souvenirs.
“We need someone who can build a strategically designed budget, who can manage very carefully the limited resources we do have while also playing a major role in bringing new resources to the table,” Belcher said. “We must grow our resources, in partnership with others, through fundraising, increased ticket sales and additional sponsorships.”
• Oct. 25: Athletic Director Chip Smith is fired after eight years in the position.
• Oct. 31: Assistant Head Football Coach Matt Pawlowsk is fired.
• Nov. 13: Head Football Coach Dennis Wagner is forced out, getting a $300,000 settlement for time left on his contract.
• Dec. 14 New athletic director is named.
• TBA: New head football coach named.
A press conference announcing the new WCU athletic director will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center. Check www.smokymountainnews.com starting at 11 a.m. for updates. A community meet-and-greet session will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at O’Malley’s of Sylva.
Western Carolina University students likely will shell out an additional $399 in tuition and fees to attend school next year, an increase in dollars that some on campus said will be hard for them to come by.
It’s likely to be most difficult for students such as Kayla Damons. A Tennessee resident who transferred to WCU last year, Damons faces the daunting task of paying higher out-of-state tuition requirements.
Damons, a biology major, said she expects she’ll be some $30,000 in debt after gaining an undergraduate degree. A tuition and fee hike, she said, certainly won’t help ease that burden.
“It’s really kind of scary,” Damons said, taking a short break to chat from her job at the Mad Batter restaurant in Cullowhee, where she works to pay her way through school. “But then there’s nothing you can do about the cost if you want an education.”
It’s not just students who are worried. Mad Batter owner Jeannette Evans said she believes there’s a constant trickledown occurring in the local economy, and that a tuition and fee hike at WCU also won’t help local businesses such as her restaurant.
“It seems you have to do more and offer more just to stay at the status quo,” such as offering additional menu items and keeping earlier and later hours, the 14-year restaurant owner said.
This year’s expected increase follows campus-wide discussion on the issue among students, perhaps the first time that sort of direct budget participation by the student body has taken place here. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors must approve WCU’s proposed tuition and student fee hike, however, before it becomes policy.
With the proposed changes approved by the trustees, WCU’s total cost of attendance in 2012-13, including on-campus housing and the most-popular meal plan, would be $11,775 per year for a typical N.C. undergraduate, according to WCU spokesman Bill Studenc.
T.J. Eaves, student body president, helped broker something of a compromise on the proposed increase. Eaves and Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, co-chaired a campus committee on the proposed tuition and student fees.
The increase easily could have been steeper than the 3 percent eventually arrived at. And some trustee members said, for the long-term well-being of the university, that it should have been.
Severe financial constraints — WCU has seen the state cut more than $32 million since the 2008-09 fiscal year — have left the school scrambling to pay bills. WCU isn’t alone. The UNC system, because of budget cuts across North Carolina, authorized universities such as WCU to begin to “catch-up” with rates charged at similar-type institutions.
A study by the UNC General Administration showed that WCU is charging $1,360 less per year for tuition than the “least expensive quartile of peer institutions.”
Under a graduated plan approved by WCU’s trustees by a 9-2 vote last week, 15 percent of the $1,360 “catch-up” increase would be implemented in year one, 20 percent in year two, 25 percent in years three and four, and 15 percent in year five.
Two of the trustees urged the university to play catch-up over four years instead of the five agreed upon. Trustee Pat Kimberling said that would add an additional $48 to each student’s bill annually, for a $447 increase.
“The job of the Board of Trustees is to look after the long term well-being of the university,” Kimberling said. “The students who voted on this proposal will be gone … sometimes, in a custodial position, you have to make hard decisions.”
Trustee Carolyn Coward, who joined Kimberling in voting against the adopted recommendation, added that she believed “that we need to take advantage of this opportunity as quickly as we can, because we may never have this opportunity again.”
But Trustee Wardell Townsend said the board needed to show students they were willing to listen.
“The students are not just our wards, they are consumers. And they are paying for a product,” Townsend said, adding that by accepting the students’ compromise proposal, the trustees “tell the student body that they are truly invested and that we truly hear them. They spoke; we made the adjustment.”
And that, Townsend said, would result in a “true dialogue” among administrators, the Board of Trustees and the university’s students.
What went unsaid is that by adopting the student-forged compromise, the board of trustees would endorse a new method of leadership being instituted at WCU under new Chancellor David Belcher. He took over this summer with promises to build transparency and cooperation into the system by including all stakeholders in university issues.
After a five-week search, Western Carolina University has found its new director of athletics.
Randy Eaton, former senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland, was announced as the new director at a press conference Wednesday. Eaton will earn $160,000 a year.
“What impresses me most about Randy is his unwavering commitment to the student-athlete and the fact that he understands that the word `student' is the most important part of that hyphenated term,” said Western Carolina Chancellor David O. Belcher, in a news release. “That’s not to say that Randy does not want success on the fields and courts of play, because he shares the same expectations of excellence that I have for all of our sports teams. He has a passion for winning, and for winning the right way.”
Eaton, who will start effective Dec. 14, has acted as senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maryland and the athletics department’s chief financial officer since June 2008. He oversaw a $60 million annual operating budget and served as interim athletic director at Maryland in 2010.
He also has held positions at the University of Houston, Texas A&M University, East Tennessee State University, Ohio State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio and with the Ohio Glory of World League Football.
Laurie Oxford’s department is getting smaller; some of her former co-worker’s offices sit empty.
Oxford, an assistant Spanish professor at Western Carolina University, spoke at a public forum about university cuts Monday on how multi-level reductions have affected the Arts and Sciences department, which has eliminated several faculty positions and all of its Chinese classes.
“Wherever the money is, it’s not in Arts and Sciences,” Oxford said, half-joking.
Losing a person means more than simply having one fewer coworker.
“They mean considerably fewer class choices (and) in general, a much less effective program,” she said.
Oxford warned the audience of more than 200 students, politicians, professors, administrators and other community members that soon other departments will begin to look like the Arts and Sciences if states and universities continue to make sweeping cuts. WCU administrators must cut about $30 million from next year’s budget.
Larger class sizes, higher tuition, fewer course offerings and laid-off faculty members brought the crowd together.
The forum was part of a statewide, student-led “Cuts Hurt” movement that attempts to lay out what the decline in education funding really means. The approved state budget will cut more than $400 million statewide in higher education spending.
The budget cuts passed by the Republican-led General Assembly were “as extreme as they were unnecessary,” said Gov. Bev Perdue, in a video to attendees of the WCU forum.
Perdue vetoed the budget bill earlier this year, but the General Assembly overrode her veto.
“You’ve seen these cuts, and you understand the damage that has been done to the core of North Carolina,” Perdue said.
Like colleges and universities across the country, WCU has faced its own budget crisis and had to raise tuition and make across-the-board cuts in order to balance its budget. Last week, university administrators presented their recommendations for tuition and fee increases to its Board of Trustees. They had originally planned to raise tuition by 17 percent during a four-year period but changed those numbers after meeting with students.
“We heard you, and we went back to the drawing board,” said Sam Miller, vice chancellor of Student Affairs.
Instead, tuition will increase by 13 percent during a five-year period. When combined with fees, the total cost of attendance will increase by almost 7 percent.
“We think that it is still unfortunately higher than we’d like to do,” Miller said, tempering that sentiment by adding that the increase will help balance the budget and maintain academic quality.
Several students spoke during the forum about how tuition increases affect them.
Emily Evans, a single mother and senior at WCU, said she knew that university administrators were doing their best to minimize the impact of the budget cuts but bemoaned the need to increase already high tuition costs.
“When is the last time your Pell Grant went up?” Evans asked.
Students must take out more loans to cover the cost of education. Student loan debt in the U.S. will surpassed the $1 trillion mark this year.
“This is a big problem, not just for students like me,” Evans said.
Some students are forced to put their education on credit cards, which have high interest rates. Fewer students will ultimately graduate as college becomes tougher to afford.
“Anybody in this room could predict that those students aren’t going to finish,” said N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill.
Lawmakers have turned their back on education and that needs to change, he said.
“We have got to turn this state around. It’s going the wrong direction,” Rapp said.
Throughout the event, speakers urged students to register to vote and to create videos of themselves talking about why education is so important to them and how they have been affected by the cuts. The videos will be posted to the “Cuts Hurt” Facebook page.
“People will listen to you,” said Andy Miller, a WCU student and one of the event organizers. “Your voice matters and important, important people are listening.”
Individuals with an interest in the region’s past can now search two new online archives devoted to Cherokee culture and the evolution of travel in Western North Carolina.
Both sites are maintained courtesy of Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library.
“Travel Western North Carolina” includes images and commentary about 27 towns and communities in WNC over five decades. The site allows users to follow a route along footpaths and wagon trails in the 1890s, take a train ride in the 1910s, and drive by car along mountain roads in the 1930s.
Each “stop” includes a description of the community and excerpts from primary documents of the time, including newspapers, letters and guides. The site is online at www.wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections/TravelWNC.
“Cherokee Traditions: From the Hands of Our Elders” unites information about Cherokee basketry, pottery, woodworking and more and includes information about artisans and archival photos. The “From the Hands of Our Elders” pages grew from a grant-funded, multi-institutional project that also saw the creation of two guides to Cherokee basketry and pottery. The site is online at www.wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections/CherokeeTraditions.
Photographs and documents from the sites are accessible by searchable databases, making rare and unique research materials accessible to students, researchers, teachers and the public. Both new collections formerly were elements within Hunter Library’s “Craft Revival: Shaping Western North Carolina Past and Present” website, a research-based site that documents an effort to revive handcraft in the western region of the state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Anna Fariello, an associate research professor who headed the craft revival site’s creation and development, was responsible for generating much of the content in the “Cherokee Traditions” pages.
“I think this will be especially helpful to our students and researchers who want to look at authentic Cherokee material,” Fariello said. “The way I built this site, perhaps it could be added onto. It has the capacity to be expanded to include some of the other aspects of Cherokee culture that are focuses of WCU’s Cherokee Studies Program.”
Pages in the “Travel Western North Carolina” site – originally intended as context for the craft revival site – were created through research by George Frizzell, head of special collections, and illustrated with special collections documents. Frizzell wants visitors to the site to come away with an understanding that the WNC region changes and adapts like any other.
“I hope it shows people that this area changed with the arrival of new technologies, and that with the arrival of the railroad and automobile, the infrastructure was revised and revamped, and people acknowledged the impact on the economy,” he said.
Digitizing information serves a number of purposes, said Mark Stoffan, head of digital, access and technology services for WCU’s Hunter Library. Statistics show that the library’s digital collections are accessed by users from around the world. Increased digitization opens information to a broader audience. Digitization can help publicize collections – sometimes prompting gifts of similar materials – and helps protect originals from handling.
Constant reshuffling of the organizational structure at Western Carolina University — at least three such applecart upsets in just six years — led to a recent faculty resolution seeking some order to the chaos.
“This … is in response to past practices, or mis-practices, on campus,” said Sean O’Connell, a WCU professor who led a review of how other universities handle similar reorganizations.
WCU’s Faculty Senate passed an official request recently calling on administration to develop guidelines and to follow them when considering organizational changes.
The tone of the meeting — discussion lasted just 20 minutes — was in stark contrast to a two-hour debate that raged among the board’s members on the same topic last April.
That spring meeting came shortly after the College of Education and Allied Profession was shuffled about, however, resulting in the resignation of Professor Jacqueline Jacobs, a tenured faculty member. She resigned to bring attention to her contention that university administration failed to include faculty members in decisions concerning reorganization.
More than six months later, Faculty Senate opted in a 22-2 vote to ask the university’s administration to emphasize “shared governance,” and to “recognize the necessity of faculty knowledge and participation in academic decision making.”
This, according to the resolution, would mean “all reviews and deliberations about reorganization should be conducted in a collegial and constructive way. Any reorganization proposal should seriously consider disciplinary and interdisciplinary relationships and shall also investigate impacts on stakeholders in non-academic units.”
In plain English, the people who work at WCU want to have their views considered when changes are contemplated.
Faculty hope making their desire for inclusion clear in the form of a resolution will avoid what has happened in the past.
“I think it’s clear that if the new reorganization policy recently passed by Faculty Senate had been in effect last year, the reorganization of the College of Education and Allied Professions, which eliminated two departments and suspended the doctoral program would not have proceeded as it did, without any significant faculty participation,” Professor Mary Jean Herzog said in an email interview.
Herzog works within the College of Education and Allied Professions and was critical of how a re-organization within that college was handled.
“Faculty participation and voice may scare some administrators as well as some faculty, but it has been proven, over and over again, that when decisions are made that involve all the stakeholders, the institution earns dividends in student, staff, and faculty support,” Herzog said in an email.
Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, defended the reorganization, however. A university-level review of decision-making during the reorganization of the College “determined that appropriate processes were followed. … The institution has recognized the likelihood of other units needing to reorganize due to the economy and the lack of any university policy to guide those efforts. The resolution from the senate is the first step from one of the constituencies on campus to begin the development of guidelines.”
There’s no word on when, or if, the university’s top leadership will embrace the resolution as future policy when it comes to reorganization.
Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher told faculty members late last month that he has authorized a “thorough” salary analysis to review who gets what and why in the form of pay at the university.
“This is to be prepared for that time when we do get money again,” Belcher said. “I’m worried about the salaries.”
Belcher noted a salary study at WCU has not been done in several years. Salary increases also have been nonexistent as North Carolina struggles with the economic downturn.
English Professor Elizabeth Heffelfinger asked if the study would include information previously gathered about possible inequities at WCU in what women and men are paid.
“I want this to be as comprehensive as possible,” Belcher said in an affirmative response. The study would include all faculty, staff, and administrative positions.
Western Carolina University’s Division of Educational Outreach will sponsor the seventh annual Dulcimer Winter Weekend beginning Thursday, Jan. 5, and continuing through Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Methodist Assembly’s Terrace Hotel at Lake Junaluska.
Participants can select from more than 50 classes offered for the mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer, and new for this year, the guitar. Mountain dulcimer instructors will include Anne Lough of Waynesville, Joe Collins of Shelby, and Larry Conger. Collins and Conger are both former national champions on the dulcimer.
The early registration fee of $149 is available until Tuesday, Nov. 15, and the fee will increase to $199 after that day. A non-participant fee of $40 allows accompanying guests to attend jam sessions, nightly events and a Sunday morning singing.
Reservations for accommodations should be made directly with the Terrace Hotel. The cost of a single occupancy room for three nights is $207 per person and the cost of a double occupancy room for three nights is $258 per person. A meal package that includes eight meals is available for $82. To book a room or meal package, call 800.222.4930.
Complete class descriptions, a full schedule and online registration are available at dulcimer.wcu.edu.
Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher this week fired C. Joseph “Chip” Smith, the director of intercollegiate athletics.
Belcher announced that Fredrick Q. Cantler, WCU’s longtime senior associate athletic director for internal operations, has agreed to come out of retirement to serve as interim director of athletics.
Cantler, who retired in March after 33 years in athletics administration at WCU, will serve as interim director of athletics as the university conducts a national search for a permanent athletics director, Belcher said.
“With Fred’s wealth of experience, including a previous stint as interim AD, I have the greatest confidence in his ability to keep the athletics program moving forward during this time of transition,” he said. “Fred brings extensive knowledge of athletics budgeting and NCAA compliance issues to this assignment, and I am grateful to him for his willingness to assume this responsibility.”
During his career as a sports administrator, Cantler helped develop the Catamount women’s soccer program from scratch in 1999. Two years later in 2001, the program captured the first of its three Southern Conference tournament championships. Also, the Catamount baseball team won both the regular season and tournament titles in 2003 and won the regular season in 2007, advancing to the NCAA regional tournaments.
Western Carolina University will host a screening of the movie “The King’s Speech” followed by a discussion focusing on stuttering, including treatment, self-help groups and other resources for people who stutter and their families, on Sunday, Oct. 23.
The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is hosting the event, which is free and open to the public, at 2 p.m. in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center. The discussion will be led by David Shapiro, WCU’s Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and author of “Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom.”
The movie is an Academy Award-winning historical drama inspired by the true story of King George VI and how speech therapist Lionel Logue helped him gain control over severe stuttering and deliver critical radio addresses during World War II.
“‘The King’s Speech’ reminds us that everyone has a voice, that every burden is lightened when it is shared, and that there is no replacement for the strength gained from human interaction,” said Shapiro. “Indeed, when people gather with a common focus and shared purpose, willing to learn and grow together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
The event is being held in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day. Shapiro also is participating in the 2011 International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference. His paper, “Stories of People Who Stutter: Beacons of Hope, Portraits of Success,” is posted on the conference website at www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad15/papers/shapiro15.html. Shapiro is answering questions posted in an online forum, which is open through Oct. 22.
Dr. Shapiro will host a discussion after the movie as part of International Stuttering Awareness Day.
The author of the newly released second edition of Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom admits that his tome is a textbook for students in communication sciences and disorders and a reference work for speech-language pathologists. But to Western Carolina University Professor David A. Shapiro, it is not just a scholarly work, it also is a love story.
The book draws from Shapiro’s 35 years of experience as a speech pathologist in its examination of ideas and practices for assessing and treating people of all ages who stutter. He refers to working with people who stutter as a joy.
“Helping someone visualize dreams and work toward achieving them is such a special and empowering experience,” he said. “It is the birthright of every person to be able to use speech and language freely and to enjoy communication freedom.”
Stuttering Intervention is winning fans from the speech pathology profession.
“This book captures, better than anything I have read over the past 50 years, the unique sensitivities and deep feelings experienced by many people who stutter,” said David A. Daly, professor emeritus of speech-pathology at the University of Michigan and author of books on treating fluency disorders, particularly cluttering. “In my opinion, Dr. Shapiro’s understanding of the problem of stuttering and his thoughtful organization and presentation of the vast research and clinical information on this topic is unparalleled.”
WCU’s first Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor, Shapiro is internationally renowned for his work in communication sciences and disorders and has engaged in teaching, clinical service and research across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.
After being asked at conferences and in courses to identify where others could read more about the ideas he was sharing for working with people who stutter and their families, Shapiro felt compelled to write the book’s first edition, which was released in 1998.
Throughout “Stuttering Intervention,” Shapiro weaves real and instructive stories from his clients’ challenges and successes in communication and life and his own experience as a person who stutters with information about a range of topics. These include concrete strategies for evaluating and treating stuttering in clients from preschool children through senior adults, background about fluent and disfluent speech, historical and theoretical perspectives, and the personal impact stuttering can have on people’s lives. Shapiro shares international perspectives that cross disciplines and cultures and provides guidance about how to cultivate knowledge, empathy and understanding of stuttering and people who stutter.
For Shapiro, the bonds formed with his many clients and their families have been lasting. They keep in touch over the years, apprising him of special moments in their lives such as graduations, weddings and new jobs, all of which are possible or even more meaningful because of their ability to communicate independently.
“It is hard to imagine the challenges people who stutter incur on a daily basis as well as the joy that communication success brings,” said Shapiro. “Success is more than fluency. It is life-altering and freeing in many ways.”
In response to the invitation issued in the book for readers to contact him directly, Shapiro has received and responded to messages from people throughout the world. “If I don’t respond,” Shapiro said, “I didn’t get the message.”