LEADERSHIP FAILURES PAVED WAY FOR MISGUIDED SILENT SAM DEAL: How could anyone – much less the president of one of the nation’s foremost pillars of public higher education and academic freedom and the chairman of its board of governors – think it is a good idea to pay the Sons of Confederate Veterans a dime to do anything? Did anyone in the discussions of the Silent Sam settlement ask: What does this settlement say about the moral fiber of this University? What message does this send to our students and alumni? Was the atmosphere so insular, the perspectives of the now-famous gang of five negotiators (UNC Board members Jim Holmes, Darrell Allison, Wendy Murphy, Anna Nelson and Bob Rucho) so inbred that they couldn’t see past merely making a problem go away? As is now quite evident, it is just as important to address HOW to make a problem go away.
SILENT SAM DEALS NEED OFFICIAL REVIEW: So the board members offered money to stop the SCV protests and the full board approved the deal. Indeed they may well have paid more, but under state law any payment over $75,000 would need the approval of state Attorney General Josh Stein. Thus, $74,999. This payment confirms two things. First, the board knew the settlement with the SCV — a settlement filed immediately after the lawsuit — might be legally suspect. It’s unclear whether the Confederate group has legal standing to sue for possession of Silent Sam since it has no clear claim of ownership. But the board wanted the lawsuit to stand. It would end demands to put the statue back up on campus and it would mollify Silent Sam’s supporters since the statue would be in sympathetic hands and erected elsewhere. Second, the negotiators and then almost all of the board endorsed an effort to conceal the deal by keeping the payment to the Confederate group from being scrutinized by the attorney general. That subterfuge deserves a review by the attorney general for misappropriation of funds.
NC'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION; STAND FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND DEMAND TRUTH: We offer advice for the state’s 10 Republicans – Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Virginia Foxx, George Holding, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Mark Meadows, Greg Murphy, David Rouzer and Mark Walker. Don’t whine, obfuscate or rationalize. Spare us the talk about process, Hunter Biden or the “deep state.” Acknowledge the facts. Trump did try to bribe the Ukrainian government with a promise to release millions in foreign aid if Ukraine announced an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump did obstruct Congress in its effort to learn the truth of what happened. After that, make a decision. Do Trump’s actions rise to impeachable offenses? This isn’t simply a yes-or-no proposition. Explain why – in detail – so North Carolina voters will fully understand the reasoning. No dodging. Clearly and unequivocally answer: Why Trump did the right things; why what he did was wrong but not impeachable; or what he does deserves impeachment.
JEFF FLAKE: THE PRESIDENT IS ON TRIAL. SO ARE MY SENATE REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES: We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power. Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.” Personally, I have never met anyone whose behavior can be described as perfect, but so often has the president repeated this obvious untruth that it has become a form of dogma in our party. And sure enough, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that “the president did nothing wrong.” My colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when an equal branch follows that president off the cliff, into the abyss of unreality and untruth. If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.
HOW YOUR PHONE BETRAYS DEMOCRACY: Within minutes, with no special training and a little bit of Google searching, Times Opinion was able to single out and identify individuals at public demonstrations large and small from coast to coast. By tracking specific devices, we followed demonstrators from the 2017 Women’s March back to their homes. We were able to identify individuals at the 2017 Inauguration Day Black Bloc protests. It was easy to follow them to their workplaces. In some instances — for example, a February clash between antifascists and far-right supporters of Milo Yiannopolous in Berkeley, Calif. — it took little effort to identify the homes of protesters and then their family members. Granular surveillance is still new. But some experts argue the window to define our cultural values around tracking citizens may be closing. Mr. Tsui, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, argued that there are three current competing visions for the internet built by China, the United States and the European Union. China is moving fast and breaking things, including civil rights. The E.U., with its focus on privacy, is making a moral point around surveillance and consent. And the United States, with its powerful tech companies, is caught in the middle, trying to weigh ethical concerns while still pushing forward on innovation for fear of being left behind by China. If China pushes forward, skirting human rights via technology, and the United States follows, Mr. Tsui argued that America could see an uptick in using surveillance, data and artificial intelligence to manipulate and change behavior and direct outcomes. “I hope we don’t end up there,” he said.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DR. MARY HASKETT: HOMELESSNESS STRIKES COLLEGE STUDENTS, TOO: Homelessness among Wake County residents has received much-needed attention over the past month My research team collected data on homelessness among students at N.C. State University and found a shocking 9.6 percent, more than 3,000, had experienced a period of homelessness in the preceding 12 months, a rate higher than most institutions nationwide. Common experiences included sleeping in outdoor locations such as parks, alleys, and train/bus stops. Sleeping in vehicles and couch surfing are other survival strategies. As the temperature drops, I am increasingly concerned about our students and those on other Wake County campuses who are faced with sleeping outside. Given the scale of college student homelessness, higher education leadership must take initiative by acknowledging the challenge and pursuing critical partnerships with community entities. In turn, resources and expertise at local universities should be utilized to address growing rates of homelessness among all of our citizens.
SALLY GREASER: MORE EDUCATION FUNDING IS NEEDED: One need look no further than “Whistle’s sound lifts hopes” (Dec. 15) to see how N.C. education spending has shortchanged public schools students in two of the state’s poorest counties. At one school, Northampton High, nearly 90 percent of students are behind when they arrive. The four-year graduation rates at both schools is lower than the state average — 78 percent at North Edgecombe High, 72 percent at Northampton. Despite Republican lawmakers taking credit for increasing overall education spending since they took over the General Assembly in 2010, it is apparent they are unwilling to spend what is required to guarantee access to a sound, basic education for all school age children in our state. And yes, money goes a long way toward achieving the desired outcomes.
KAREN LAUTERBACH: INSTEAD OF CHILDREN HIDING UNDER DESKS, LET'S TRY GUN CONTROL: On a recent visit to California I learned that our grandson will be participating in active-shooter drills in 2020. He’s 19 months old. His favorite words are ball and book. I couldn’t imagine how an active-shooter drill for toddlers would work, so I turned to Google. I was dismayed to find numerous links about active-shooter drills at preschools. One site recommended telling toddlers that animals had escaped from the zoo, and they needed to hide to be safe. Is this what we want for our children? To teach them to be afraid and ready to scurry into dark corners on command? Shouldn’t we instead be creating safe environments for them so they can learn and flourish? This month is the seven-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. Rather than becoming numb to continued school shootings and incorporating active-shooter drills into all levels of curriculum, we need to enact better gun control laws. Immediately. We owe it to our children and our grandchildren.