Time to take a fresh look at “Our University”

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ELIZABETH CITY — In a recent meeting at City Council Chambers, state legislator Rep. Bob Steinburg-R Chowan, may have opened up old wounds when he suggested the name of our university should be changed to UNC–Elizabeth City.

Instead of receiving the suggestion in a positive light, Jeanette Evans, President of the ECSU National Alumni Association, has not only stated her opposition, but she has used code words that suggest a different and more divisive tone.

Evans’ remarks differed from a statement by Harvey Walker Jr., Chair of the ECSU Board of Trustees. He stated that he favored anything that will help the school become sustainable and provide a quality education.


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ECSU has asked the Legislature for $6 million just to keep the doors open. One might think that anything to improve enrollment would be considered. Instead, Ms. Evans seems willing to maintain the status quo.

As the Legislature considers the funding request, lawmakers likely will ask what the University is doing to help itself. And when they hear the response, how should they respond? Should they provide the funds that are requested, potentially throwing good money after bad? Chancellor Stacey Franklin Jones is attempting to make the structural changes that are needed. However, in the meantime, she faces difficult challenges.

Time is of the essence here. Last year, the issue of allowing the University to close was on the table. And, were it not for the efforts of Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, the outcome would have been hugely different. Now, a year later, we are back in the same position.

Steinburg brought up the name change issue as a means of capitalizing on the UNC name, perhaps growing enrollment as a result. He has said before that ECSU “would close over his dead body.” But school officials must do more than just go to the Legislature for a hand-out. When another university in our State, changed its name a few years ago, its enrollment quadrupled.

Perhaps the same thing will happen here! Then any stationery and uniform change costs will look miniscule by comparison. These costs should be seen as an investment in the future of the University, not as a scapegoat for inaction.

ECSU is at a crossroads, and one of these days, in the near future, if nothing is done now, we will pass this fine institution with dismay as we remember its past, not celebrate its future.

And what will happen to Elizabeth City? We can roll up the sidewalks. ECSU has been a vital element in the economy of this city, but if it is continue, it cannot continue to lose money.

So, as Elizabeth City and the University are joined at the hip, we must take a fresh look at the alternatives for the future of “Our University.”

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