East Carolina University Faculty Senate met on Oct. 5 and discussed an ECU admissions decline, the ongoing Brewster Building investigation and sexual assault prevention for campus.
Chancellor Philip Rogers said ECU divisional leaders have planned for the possibility of budget reductions of 10% since the start of his term as chancellor in March. He said there were many unknowns amongst the ECU leaders about the final enrollment numbers at the time around March, Rogers said. He said there were campus operations that experienced significant losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They (ECU divisional leaders) were doing this (budget reduction) out of an abundance of caution given a variety of external and internal factors that were at play in and around East Carolina University,” Rogers said.
Rogers said with the enrollment decline in the 2021 fall semester, the university needs to come together to prepare for a reduction scenario in advance of the 2023 fiscal year. He said institutional leaders will begin developing plans to combat the reduction scenario this year in order for it to be effective by July 1, 2022.
It’s too early to know the exact amount the university will have to reduce the budget to prepare for the expected enrollment decline, Rogers said. He said the university is funded by student credit hours that are completed. Rogers said ECU’s overall student credit hours dropped to more than about 4% according to the Census Day Report when compared to the 2020 fall semester.
Rogers said he doesn't think the university will need to leverage the 7.5% budget reduction target. He said he will ask institutional leaders to begin a planning process in the coming weeks and months for a 3% to 5% permanent reduction pending final enrollment numbers.
“Hopefully the final target number will come in even lower than that 3% number that we want to begin planning around,” Rogers said. “We want to be good stewards of our resources and begin planning now so we can have good strategic conversations about this in the next couple of months.”
Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor of environmental health and campus safety, said during the 2019 health hazard evaluation, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) went above the normal indoor air quality assessment due to the pancreatic cancer concerns associated with Brewster Building.
Since then, Koch said the university has had the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and an industrial hygiene specialist perform walkthroughs of Brewster to test the air quality and HVAC system. He said the NCDHHS and the industrial hygienist found nothing different from when the university did the assessment in 2019.
Koch said the Brewster investigation is a two-track process. EH&S is working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and NCDHHS on investigating the building track and Paul Berry will work with NIOSH and NCDHHS on the case study of the building, Koch said.
“We’re looking at typical air quality parameters which all were normal and then we did some additional testing just to see if we could find anything in that due to that cancer concern,” Koch said. “And we’re concerned like the people in the building. We just can’t find a connection with anything in the building at this time.”
Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity LaKesha Forbes and Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Virginia Hardy both discussed reports the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) has received of sexual assaults on campus for the first six weeks of the academic school year.
Forbes said during the beginning of the school year with students returning to campus, there’s an increase in sexual assault cases which is referred to as the “red zone.” Over the last five years, the most sexual assault reports OED received during the first six weeks of the school year were during the 2019-20 school year with 20 reports. During the current academic school year, Forbes said there have been 13 reports.
“Typically we are looking at respondents that have been identified as ECU students although we do receive reporters where perhaps maybe the respondent is not affiliated with ECU in any kind of way,” Forbes said.
Hardy said the “red zone” occurs between the beginning of the academic year until around the Thanksgiving holiday. She said it’s a crucial time on college campuses when statistically more sexual assault cases occur. She said ECU provides various educational programs focusing on sexual assault preventative measures.
Pledge Purple Week, which will take place between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5, is an educational program that focuses on ending power-based personal violence such as sexual violence, harassment, bullying and hazing, Hardy said. She said this year ECU will have the Pledge Purple Ambassadors who are ECU students who volunteer to be trained on sexual violence and educate other ECU students about the meaning of Pledge Purple.
“Our (ECU) Women’s Gender Office is working a lot with partners across the campus. This year they're going to do something called ‘Love shouldn't be scary,’ which is partnering with the Center for Family Violence,” Hardy said. “It's an educational event on intimate partner violence.”