Class transition

ECU students change classes while following COVID-19 protocols during the first week of the fall semester.

East Carolina University Board of Trustees (BOT) committees held their first regular meeting of the fall 2020 semester on Sept. 10 where they discussed athletics, enrollment and university finances.

Athletics Director Jon Gilbert spoke on the state of athletics funding during the Athletics and Advancement Committee meeting, led by chair Fielding Miller. ECU Athletics revenues were short by $2.9 million as of June 30, according to Gilbert.

As of Sept. 10, Mandy Cohen of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has denied families of student athletes to attend games in the stadium this year, according to Gilbert. He said as of Sept.10, 18 student-athletes are in isolation due to COVID-19, with the number of cases currently trending down.

ECU Athletics COVID-19 testing procedures will test athletes three times a week, with an antigen test each Friday before games per the AAC protocol. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) is assisting in funding with the antigen testing, according to Gilbert.

“We budgeted a net loss in revenue this year, so obviously I’m concerned. This would be what I call a year of survival given where we are from a revenue standpoint,” Gilbert said.

The Advancement and Athletics Committee entered a closed session put forth by Fielding Miller.

Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said at the Advancement Committee that he has received requests to examine names of buildings and rename them, similar to how Aycock Hall was renamed Legacy Hall due to the controversial past of former Governor Aycock.

Mitchelson said he believes a strong collaboration between institution administration and its board is essential. He said the BOT would have to name an Ad Hoc Committee to examine building names that remain on campus.

Chair of the ECU BOT, Vern Davenport, is also heading the chancellor search committee which aims to have a new chancellor for ECU’s campus by spring 2021.

“Let’s take a look at our history and make a determination on where we draw the line and what is acceptable and unacceptable. This is a tough, emotional, political subject. Let’s focus on this holistically, make a decision and move on from it,” Davenport said.

For the Audit, Enterprise Risk Management and Ethics Committee, Acting Provost Grant Hayes reported that ECU ended the freshmen recruitment cycle with the most applications in University history. ECU exceeded 20,000 applications for the first time this fall.

“Total enrollment was up a half a percent as compared to last year with the final count of 28,798. The third highest enrollment in the history of the university. The graduate enrollment counts for the total enrollment headcount increase. The fall 2020 first time freshman cohort was 4,144 and that was down a half a percent from last year,” Hayes said.

Transfer students are up .5% and the freshman 2019 cohort retention rate is at 84% for the fall, according to Hayes. ECU opened undergraduate applications on Aug. 1 and 572 applications have been sent in, according to Hayes.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Virginia Hardy spoke about housing contracts and student counseling. There were 5,030 students living on campus before ECU switched to all online classes which is just under 89% according to Hardy. There are now 708 students on-campus leaving the residence halls at 14% occupancy, according to Hardy.

“There was about a 14% increase in the number of who used counseling last year in the first two weeks versus this fall in the first two weeks,” Hardy said. “We are contributing that to students actually like doing it online, doing it virtually, they don't have the quote stigma of walking into the facility that they are able to do it online.”

There are more students who are stressed because they aren't able to do the activities on campus that they thought they would have been able to do, according to Hardy. ECU will continue to provide services to students who are experiencing depression and anxiety, according to Hardy.

Stephanie Whaley, director of undergraduate admissions, discussed the recruiting and admissions processes during the University Affairs Committee. She said since many high school students weren't able to take the ACT and SAT exams, the University of North Carolina (UNC) System will allow universities to give applicants the ability to waive the standardized test requirements for one year.

“Back in the spring, the Faculty Senate approved a new GPA requirement for new transfer students. A cumulative GPA of 2.0 will be required moving forward, which puts us in line with other UNC system institutions and their admissions requirements for transfer students,” Whaley said.

Although the decision to waive the standardized test requirements is temporary, the GPA requirement for transfer students will be perpetual, according to Whaley. ECU should be expecting more applications to transfer being sent in but also expect more admitted transfer students with the change transfer requirement, according to Whaley.

The Advocacy Ad Hoc Committee chair Scott Shook discussed the committee’s advocacy goals, which include advocating for local, state and federal policies that are consistent with the UNC System Office and ECU BOT priorities.

“The advocacy committee is responsible for collaborating with the UNC system office as well as key stakeholders, internal and external constituents. The committee shall make recommendations to the full board regarding any required board approval,” Shook said.

Davenport said what he hoped the end goal of Shook’s committee would be, mentioning the importance of a focused and intentional dialogue with groups that have an interest in ECU.

“I don’t think our focus in advocacy has been current and timely with the issues of the day. We need to organize that, be thoughtful and intentional again. This committee is ultra important at this moment given everyone is dealing with the financial implications of COVID(-19), the changes in higher education that are going to happen as a result of COVID(-19),” Davenport said.

The Finance and Facilities Committee headed by chair Bob Plybon gave a general review over ECU finances. Fall revenue from auxiliaries is $25 million less than the original targets, with the biggest loss being in housing and dining.

Senior investment professional for UNC Management Company, Anegla Moss, who is also a member of the ECU BOT and an ECU alumnus, said the majority of the $25 million comes from refunds.

“$14 million of that comes from refunds for housing and dining. More distance education students means less student fees because they pay less,” Moss said. “It’s going to be a tight year, but very doable. I’m grateful for the discipline we have exercised over the entire campus.”

The committee discussed ECU Police Department’s (PD) response to gatherings in response to COVID-19. ECU PD has been the primary source of breaking up mass gatherings off-campus, instead of the Greenville Police Department (GPD), according to ECU PD Lieutenant Captain, Chris Sutton.

According to Sutton, ECU PD responded to twenty mass gatherings the first weekend after classes commenced, with the largest crowd topping 300 people. The second weekend, ECU PD responded to more gatherings but with no crowds larger than 200, with the crowds being less than 100 on the third weekend.

Sutton said he is pleased with these trends and thinks the initiative by ECU PD to curtail these gatherings and educate students has been successful.

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