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Mary Easley: Fighting dismissal

The latest from West Raleigh: Mary Easley is not taking her firing well.

Easley on Monday, through her attorney, gave notice to N.C. State that she will appeal her recent termination.

And thus, the saga continues.

Read more about it here.


NCSU/Easley situation: bad for fundraising

The Mary Easley mess has complicated life for N.C. State's fundraisers.

At least, that's what can be gleaned from some of the many letters and e-mails contained within last week's massive document dump. NCSU is releasing hundreds of pages of documents related to the controversial hiring of the state's former First Lady as a federal investigation into her husband's dealings continues.

If you want to read through these hundreds and hundreds of documents, go for it. Here's the link.

 In reading through some of this, I've been struck by the damage being done to fundraising as the details of Mrs. Easley's change in pay and job description last year emerge. Clearly, some NCSU alums are less than thrilled with their university.

In one exchange, NCSU's development chief, Nevin Kessler, writes a letter to an alum disenchanted with the university for soliciting money from him while at the same time giving Mrs. Easley her new job and a salary of $170,000. In it, Kessler explained the process by which Mrs. Easley received her expanded job duties, emphasizes NCSU's desire to remain affordable, and finishes with a pitch for the alum to change his mind about giving to the university.

"Unrestricted alumni support is what helps balance affordability and quality at N.C. State," he writes. "I hope you will agree that the university merits your financial support."

In another e-mail, we find another angry alum explaining why he's putting the checkbook away. Here's the whole letter, sent to Ann Horner, who directs NCSU's annual giving initiative.

"I received your letter asking for my 2008-2009 gift," the alum wrote. "Simply stated, if NCSU can afford to give Mary Easley an $80,000 salary increase it no longer needs my support. As a three-time NCSU graduate I have always taken great pride in The School and cannot overstate my disappointment in this matter."

"That the Chancellor of NCU would give such a rich reward to the wife of a sitting governor has lowered my respect for the chancellor and, sadly, for The School as well."


The ones left out of that Nielsen speech

Another too-long yet interesting letter about the N.C. State situation:

 A few letters, most recently by Prof. Phil Doerr on June 19, have been written in reaction to Larry Nielsen's speech to the N.C. State "faculty," from which the N&O printed excerpts on June 6 [read them here]. The speech is stunning on many levels, but it is most likely the most stunning to the "other faculty" who do not have a work situation even close to the reality about which Nielsen waxes so poetically.

Nielsen's speech addressed only the Tenured or Tenure-Track Faculty.  However, an increasingly greater number of faculty on college campuses across the country are Non-Tenure Track "contract" Faculty or Adjunct "class only basis" Faculty.  Even these two "other" levels of faculty are quite different.    

Non-Tenure Track (NTT) faculty teach higher courseloads, those courses with larger enrollments, and courses at less optimum times than the Tenure Track faculty.  Though fringe benefits (like health care and retirement) are included, the pay is greatly reduced ostensibly because of the lack of research requirements.  However, there are NTT faculty with Ph.D. and post-doctoral degrees who do engage in research and do participate in levels of service just as the Tenured and Tenure-Track faculty do, some out of a commitment to the profession and some out of the distant hope that they may be considered for a tenure track opening one day, though this rarely happens.  

Adjunct faculty are in the worst position of all.  They are hired as "temporaries" for certain classes on a class-by-class basis.  Some people teach a class or two because they like the university environment and it's some extra income.  But for those Adjuncts who try to use the position as a tenuous stepping stone to more permanent or full-time work, cobbling together a living wage with NO fringe benefits is very difficult.  Recall that the first number thrown out to the inquiry by Easley's assistant was only $4,000 per class.  Again, several Adjunct faculty with Ph.D. and post-doctoral degrees engage in research and service in hopes of one day landing a coveted permanent position (though often Adjuncts are overlooked in the permanent hiring process).

For both the NTT or Adjunct faculty, the pressure to perform and never get into any disputes with other faculty, staff and students is extremely ever-present.  There is no sacred principle of academic freedom to hide behind as with the Tenured faculty.  Indeed, these "other faculty" can be gone in a moment for little or no reason.   

It's interesting that the public thinks that the faculty of college campuses are liberal leaning, and yet a great number of the faculty (in the 40 percentile at NC State before the recent round of budget cutting ousted the underpaid adjunct faculty without concomitant cuts in staff) are treated as piecemeal, temporary wage earners in the knowledge industry. Many faculty rail against work conditions in foreign countries while doing nothing about the plight of other educational professionals on their own college campus!  And while it varies college to college on campus, the NTT and Adjunct faculty are clearly made aware of their lowly status by the Tenured faculty and the administration.

The N&O owes a service to these "other faculty" to set the record straight to the public on the extreme divisions in the priviledges of the Tenured/Tenure-Track faculty and the Non-Tenure Track and Adjunct faculty, the latter who — in Nielsen's own words — DO get evaluated routinely, not "every five years or so" where peers say, "Cool, go for it"; DO NOT enjoy "an incredible level of job security . . . and the promise of lifelong employment"; DO NOT get to "follow lines of inquiry and creativity without a close look to the bottom line," because as the recent budget cuts show, these faculty ARE the bottom line!

L.M. Green

The other 99 percent of NCSU faculty

A couple of more letters about the N.C. State University situation that didn't make it into the paper:

 With the media spotlight focused on regrettable events involving a handful of high-level administrators, it is easy to lose sight of what the other 99+ percent of us are doing at N.C. State, “the people's university." Among the UNC system universities, N.C. State is unique in its mix of education, research, extension and engagement, which reaches all 100 counties of this state.

With an enrollment of nearly 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students (the largest in the UNC system), N.C. State is integral to our economic recovery. During times of economic downturn, even more North Carolinians turn to N.C. State for a professionally oriented and well-rounded education, or for advice from top researchers and extension specialists on how to improve the economic and technical competitiveness of their businesses.

The entrepreneurship of N.C. State's faculty brings hundreds of millions of dollars of research funding into the state that supports students, advanced equipment, development of leading edge practices and technologies, and transfer of new knowledge into the classroom.

In the face of budget cuts nearing $100 million, we are facing difficult decisions in every department within every college about how much we need to cut back on our programs and employees, at precisely a time when our state needs us the most. The pending budget cuts will turn back decades of investment by the state in making N.C. State a flagship university. N.C. State needs your support.

H. Christopher Frey
Professor, Environmental Engineering
N.C. State University

It is an outrage that James Oblinger and Larry Nielsen could be coming back to N.C. State as teaching professors drawing exorbitant salaries. I would not want my children to be taught by unethical professors and apparent liars. If N.C. State brings these two back to teach, or for any other reason, then they surely have no shame.

Robert Jones

Where are the NCSU students? One speaks out

One N.C. State University student says the situation with Mary
Easley's job and the resignations of the chancellor and provost is all the more galling because of how the state's budget cuts are affecting the students. Find more letters about NCSU under the letters tab above or click here.

Oh, the ire over the Easley hire and resulting fire

Lots of letters this week on the situation at N.C. State. Here are several online-only comments. Look for more letters on the subject on tomorrow's editorial
page and in Sunday Forum this week.

Mary Easley breaks silence, says little

Embattled former First Lady Mary Easley broke her silence today, sort of.

She just released an open letter that really doesn't say much. Will she step down from her N.C. State University post, as campus officials want her to do? It doesn't say. Will she fight for her job? No mention.

What does she think about the last few days at NCSU, during which Chancellor James Oblinger resigned as e-mails revealed the extent to which Easley's husband, former Gov. Mike Easley, played a role in her hiring?

No idea.

We have learned that she supports N.C. State.

She writes in part: "I urge all of the North Carolina State family to now focus on the best welfare of the students and be mindful of the great tradition of the university system in North Carolina. I will continue to fully support this outstanding institution."

Open the attachment below to read the entire, three-paragraph letter.

Gov. Easley played role in wife's hiring at NCSU

New documents released today from N.C. State show that while he was Governor, Mike Easley played a role in the hiring of his wife, Mary Easley, at NCSU.

The documents trace e-mail communications between James Oblinger, the NCSU Chancellor who resigned just this morning, and McQueen Campbell, an Easley family friend and NCSU trustee. The e-mail string also includes comments from Easley advisor Dan Gerlach and others.

Read more here.


Attorney says 'no connection' of conspiracy

Excerpts from Mary Easley and her attorney Marvin Schiller's press conference Thursday, May 21, 2009 at Schiller's office in Raleigh. (Staff video ... more

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