Best-selling author Grisham to speak at Commencement

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Seventy percent of money appropriated to the UNC system goes directly to the academic core, Bowles said.

At last week’s Faculty Council meeting, Thorp said he fully supported Bowles’ response.

“He felt, as we do, that the governor’s proposed cut would have implications on the classroom experience for our students,” Thorp said.

He outlined several things directly affecting academics that could be in jeopardy, including class size, University library resources and the number of teaching assistants available for classrooms.

“These are things our society needs right now to produce the young people we need to get the economy going again,” Thorp said. “President Bowles and I are hopeful we can encourage the Senate to have a more favorable budget.”

Now that the governor’s budget has been released, the Senate and House each will develop their budgets, and a final conference report will work out a final budget proposal for the governor to sign.

“Even though we’re slightly nervous about the governor’s budget, we have absolute faith in Erskine Bowles and the position he can put us in representing our needs to the legislature,” Thorp said.

For current information, refer to


Emergency drill drew a coordinated response from UNC, local agencies

Carolina’s Outdoor Education Center (OEC) and its 20 acres of wooded green space give University groups and outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to learn by doing.

It provided an ideal location to do just that during the University’s April 21 emergency drill, isolated as it is off Country Club Road but still only a 10-minute walk from campus.

The drill, held between about 8:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., included the assistance of outside consultants from Graham-based EnviroSafe Consulting and Investigations Inc. Actors portrayed shooters, hostages and victims to simulate the University’s response to a shooter on campus.

Kevin Dull, EnviroSafe president and chief executive officer, said the University’s emergency exercise was a success. He complimented the many law enforcement agencies from Orange County that were involved for the seamless way they handled the exercise.

“This was a very important safety drill for our campus,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said at a media briefing after the drill. “What’s important here is that we are going to protect the campus, whether we’re having a drill or a real emergency.”

Director of Public Safety Jeff McCracken said the drill began when campus police received a 911 call from a callbox about incidents at the center. Officers arriving on the scene found several people lying on the ground, apparently wounded by gunshots. The campus was then notified that a drill had begun, as they would be notified to take shelter in a real emergency.

In the drill, officers engaged in a firefight with a shooter, who was killed in the exchange. Police then found a radiological substance on the shooter and summoned campus environmental health and safety officials to neutralize
the substance.

As the scenario unfolded, four victims were involved, including one who was fatally injured and others who were sent to UNC Hospitals for treatment. A second shooter barricaded himself in a building and took hostages. Eventually, after negotiations led by Chapel Hill Police, the shooter released the hostages and surrendered.

Carolina’s Department of Public Safety led the response, which also included the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, Chapel Hill Police and Fire departments, Orange County Emergency Services and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The University posted a message about the drill by about 8:50 a.m. to the Alert Carolina Web site ( and sent a text message to people who had registered their cell phones for emergency notices. The text message was delivered to 80 percent of the more than 41,000 registered cell phone numbers within three minutes, with 95 percent of the text messages delivered within four minutes.

Not all of the emergency sirens sounded, however. Those near the Administrative Office Building and Hill Hall sounded as planned, but those near Hinton-James and Winston residence halls and on Mason Farm Road did not.

“One reason we conduct a drill like this is to test all our emergency communications,” McCracken said, “so this helped us pinpoint potential problem areas.”

The sirens have already been examined by the vendor, and another test will take place soon to ensure that they are working properly.

Overall, the drill went well, McCracken said. “The response to the shooter and hostage situations by all the law enforcement officials involved went according to established protocol, and all the agencies worked together very well.”

Most drills include an element of surprise – either by plan or by accident – and last week’s exercise was no different.

A student journalist with recording equipment was walking on the perimeter of the drill site and was stopped by a Chapel Hill Police officer participating in the drill.

Will Gorham, a senior majoring in journalism and mass communication and managing editor of the campus radio program “Carolina Connection,” was briefly detained while the officer called in the incident, and he was released.

Gorham maintained that the University’s instructions about media coverage of the drill had not been clear. McCracken said the officers acted appropriately and did what they would do during a real emergency.

University and EnviroSafe officials will analyze how participating units fulfilled their roles to help Carolina officials learn from the drill and improve emergency plans. EnviroSafe is under contract with UNC General Administration to conduct drills on all UNC system campuses.


Scenes from the Drill The April 21 emergency drill conducted at the Outdoor Education Center gave University and local law enforcement agencies an opportunity to practice their joint response to a crisis. In the drill, officers engaged in a gunfight with one shooter and negotiated the release of hostages with another. Actors portrayed the shooters, hostages and victims. Bottom left, Lt. Col. George Hare and Chief Jeff McCracken from Carolina’s Department of Public Safety directed the University’s actions as the situation unfolded.

’Shots Fired’ focuses on personal safety

If someone wielding a gun walks into your building, would you try to: a) get out of the building right away; b) find a safe place to hide; or c) confront the person?

The correct answer actually depends on the circumstances. And key to quickly evaluating the situation and determining the best response is a survival mindset – one in which you take responsibility for your personal safety.

That was the message Officers Robert Moore and James Ellis from the Department of Public Safety gave last week during a training session for a dozen people from the N.C. Institute for Public Health, part of the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The training, Shots Fired on Campus, is part of Carolina’s ongoing campus safety efforts. It is based on a DVD called “Shots Fired: When Lightning Strikes” that was produced by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety. The training is available for any campus group that requests it.

Since April 2009, Public Safety has conducted about 20 sessions for faculty, staff and students. The goal is to train 50 groups by the end of this year, said Lt. Angela Carmon, Carolina’s crime prevention officer.

“It is so important for people on our campus to think about safety issues long before an incident occurs,” Carmon said. “That way, everyone will know what to do in an emergency and avoid the panic and confusion that often occurs when people are unprepared.”

Public Safety is not trying to turn the campus community into Ninja warriors, Moore said. “We just want people to pay attention to things that are out of the ordinary and have an idea about how they would quickly get out of harm’s way in order to survive.”

That can be as basic as being observant when you walk into a room or across campus.

“Typically, incidents are over in a very short time,” Moore said, “so reaction time is very important.”

For instance, most people do not know how a gunshot actually sounds, he said. “It isn’t like in the movies; it’s more of a popping sound. And if you aren’t sure, it’s better to assume that what you hear is a gunshot and act quickly,” Moore said.

What you should do

The first step is to assess what is happening and get out of the room or area right away if you can, he said. If you are walking outside, keep walking and find protection.

Once out of harm’s way, call 911 to let the police know what is going on.

If you are unable to get out, you should hide out – but not in a place in which you could be trapped, Moore said. Lock the door, be quiet and mute your cell phone.

Make sure you spread out so everyone is not gathered in a small space. That makes it too easy for a shooter to target a lot of people, he said.

And if you are in the same room as a shooter, you might have to confront the person, Moore said.

“That’s a last resort, but if it’s what you decide to do, you’ll have to become more aggressive than ever,” he said. “Throw things at the shooter, yell, whatever it takes. The key is to have total commitment when you act. Tell yourself, ‘I will survive.’”

When law enforcement officials arrive on the scene, be compliant and calmly provide details, he said. “Police are trained to look at a person’s hands,” Moore said. “Raise your hands, spread your fingers and drop to the floor. Don’t run toward the police officers.”

If you are in a hostage situation, he said, you should not be aggressive. Instead, be patient and compliant and let the
police negotiate.

Why training is important

The training is designed to help people be prepared, not fearful, Carmon said.

It is analogous to airline passengers being told about emergency exits and oxygen masks before the plane takes off – not because the pilot expects to crash, but because people can react more quickly when they know beforehand what to do.

To request training from Public Safety, contact Carmon at
966-3230 or For information about the DVD, refer to


The Shots Fired on Campus training teaches that if you hear something that even remotely sounds like it could be gunfire, assume it is and act accordingly. At that point, the emergency siren instructions to stay where you are do not apply. You should adopt a survival mindset and follow the “get out, hide out or fight it out” steps outlined in the training. See the story above for details about the training.


State Health Plan changes are focus of community meeting

State employees in North Carolina face some dramatic changes in the State

Health Plan.

On April 16, during a spring community meeting organized by the Employee Forum and held in the FPG Student Union, employees heard details about how these changes could affect them and what action they should take by the end of this month to remain in their current plan.

Brian Usischon, senior director for benefits with the Office of Human Resources, began his presentation by saying, “Health care is not where we would like it to be in terms of the benefits you get for your money.”

Insurance costs impose financial hardships for many families, he said, and from an institutional perspective put Carolina at a competitive disadvantage with many of its peer institutions to attract and keep faculty and staff.

Of the 12,200 active University employees currently enrolled in a health plan, about eight out of 10 are enrolled in employee-only coverage, primarily because dependent and family coverage is so expensive, Usischon said. Employee-only coverage is free to employees for both the PPO Standard (80/20) plan as well as the PPO Basic (70/30) plan.

And of the total number enrolled, all but 500 are enrolled in the PPO Standard (80/20) plan. This month, the 11,700 employees who wish to remain in the 80/20 plan must go online and actively select it.

Usischon said he was pleased that 6,700 employees had already enrolled in the first two weeks of April, but that left 5,000 employees who must act by April 30 to avoid remaining in the 70/30 plan.

Both the requirement to enroll online – and to re-enroll to stay in the 80/20 plan if already in it – are firsts, Usischon said.

In past years, employees already in the 80/20 plan who wanted to stay there were required to do nothing. This year, in response to last fall’s legislative action, all employees with health insurance have automatically been enrolled in the PPO Basic (70/30) plan.

To be eligible for the 80/20 plan for the 2010–11 plan year, which begins July 1, employees and covered spouses and family members must either be non-smokers or smokers actively participating in a smoking cessation program, Usischon said.

People in the 80/20 plan will be subject to random testing after July 1. Employees or their spouses who are contacted for testing will be asked to provide a sample of saliva in a cup, with results provided immediately, Usischon said. People who test positive for nicotine have the right to retake the test immediately or request a second test by supplying a blood sample, he said. Dependent children are not required to be tested.

If a person tests positive, he or she will be moved back to the 70/30 plan, and any out-of-pocket expenses applied to the deductible balance will be forfeited.

Premiums for dependent and family coverage will increase by 8.9 percent for the new plan year, the same percentage increase that went into effect this year.

For information about the State Health Plan, refer to

For the 2011–12 plan year, employees who are obese – those with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 – also will be excluded from the 80/20 plan, Usischon said. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

In the 2012–13 plan year, the BMI standard will become more stringent, with a BMI of 35 or lower required to remain

eligible for the 80/20 plan.


Jackie Overton, vice chair of the Employee Forum, introduces speakers at the April 16 community meeting sponsored by the forum and the Office of Human Resources. Discussion focused on changes in health care and the state budget.

Food for thought

Ammerman researches impact of
locally grown food on public health

The colors of the fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables bring the Carrboro Farmer’s Market to life every Saturday, transforming the drab gray concrete into a bright mosaic. People arrive at the market every weekend to buy produce, from mustard greens to aged cheeses.

Among the weekly visitors is Alice Ammerman, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, who believes in buying locally grown food. Ammerman won a grant to research the relationship among public health issues, food sustainability and environmental degradation.

“I go to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market almost every week, participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and grow lettuce, spinach and peas in my front yard in the spring,” Ammerman said.

Growing up in a family that revolved around farming and gardening led her to appreciate the value of homegrown food and sparked her interest in nutrition. “I love food – including growing and preparing it, and the important social and cultural role it plays in our life,”
she said.

As an undergraduate at Duke University, Ammerman majored in comparative area studies with a focus on Africa, which she said first alerted her to global issues related to food, nutrition and agriculture. After graduating magna cum laude in 1976, she then earned her master’s degree in public health at Carolina in 1981 and, after working in the field of nutrition, her doctorate in public health nutrition in 1990.

When Joan and Dennis Gillings pledged $50 million to the school of public health three years ago, it enabled Ammerman and her team to explore how the changing agricultural landscape in North Carolina affects the environment and food systems.

Part of the gift established Gillings Innovation Labs that seek to accelerate solutions to public health problems. Selected from dozens of proposals, Ammerman’s project, “Linking Local, Sustainable Farming and Health,” was one of 14 funded in 2008.

Ammerman described her team’s research as blending the public health and agricultural perspectives, bringing an entrepreneurial perspective to public health and studying the impact at multiple levels. One focus of the work is the link between obesity rates and people’s access to locally grown food.

Ammerman said her research and that of others suggests that children exposed to more local or homegrown food and family meal times are more willing to try new foods and may be less likely to become overweight.

But many low-income families find it hard to afford locally grown produce because of its price. Organic produce from local farmers is often expensive, particularly in communities where the demand is high, she said, sometimes giving farmer’s markets a boutique feel.

One of her team’s goals is to integrate food stamps into farmer’s markets to make nutritious food more available to poorer families.

“We need to facilitate more use of electronic benefit transfer systems (like credit cards for food stamps) in farmer’s markets, food co-ops etc., involve low-income groups in community gardens and distribute ‘gleaned food’ left over from mechanical harvesting more effectively,” Ammerman said.

She also hopes to educate children about sustainable food systems through a “Seeds to Sales” program, which will teach third- to fifth-graders to grow and market produce.

Ammerman said her focus on childhood obesity came from a sense that food habits form early. “It’s much harder to reverse than prevent obesity, but it requires a family and societal approach,” she said.

The shifting agricultural landscape in North Carolina could actually benefit the production of locally grown food. With the elimination of tobacco price supports, many tobacco farmers are making the switch to food production on a smaller scale for local markets. However, the transition is not easy.

Ammerman’s research team hopes to use this momentum to set up local food systems in a number of rural counties. This “farm to fork” system of local production, distribution and consumption aims to help people susceptible to chronic disease and obesity have easier access to healthy food.

Although Ammerman and her team are passionate about their work, they keep a realistic perspective. “This is not a not a time to be self-righteous,” Ammerman said. “We can all do the best we can to move things forward one step at a time. Collaboration and understanding diverse perspectives is essential.”

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rebecca Seawell, a junior who is double majoring in history and journalism and mass communication.

Human Resources workplace literacy initiative starts in May

The workplace literacy initiative for 2010, sponsored by the Office of Human Resources, will start next month. The program is designed to address gaps in general literacy and computer literacy among University employees and will feature a general literacy class and a computer skills class.

Both types of classes will be held on campus during work hours, with specialized training personnel provided by the Orange County Literacy Council.

To accommodate workers on all shifts, classes will be held at a variety of times. Each class will last for six weeks, meeting for 90 minutes twice weekly. Classes are considered work time.

Information about classes will be available 7 – 9 a.m. and

5 – 6 p.m. at the Cheek-Clark Building on May 4 and at the Bull’s Head Bookshop noon – 2 p.m. on May 5. Information about literacy programs sponsored by the Campus Y and books for sale at the Bull’s Head will be available on May 5 as well.

The general literacy class, “Reading and Writing for Opportunity,” focuses on fundamental literacy skills and is geared for employees with a wide range of skill levels, from the pre-literate level to the beginning high school level.

The classes are learner-centered, based on the goals set by the students. Some of the reading topics include reading comprehension, fluency, making sense of unfamiliar words and phonics. Some of the writing topics include sentence and paragraph structure, capitalization and punctuation, and creative business writing.

The computer skills classes are designed for employees

with little or no computer experience and cover topics such as using the mouse, typing on the keyboard, navigating and searching the Internet, checking University pay stubs and using University e-mail.

Basic computer classes will be offered first, and intermediate classes will follow later in the year.

The first six-week class series will begin on May 18 at the Cheek-Clark Building:

n “Reading and Writing for Opportunity” – one class during the third shift, 6:30 – 8 a.m., and one class during the second shift, 5 – 6:30 p.m.

n “Basic Computer Skills” – one class during the first shift, 8:30 – 10 a.m., and one class during the third shift, 6:30 – 8 a.m.

For information, call 962-2550 or e-mail


Faculty Council

endorses contextual
grade reporting

Issues of academic quality and academic freedom took center stage at the April 23 Faculty Council meeting.

Now that the legislative process has begun to determine next year’s budget, Chancellor Holden Thorp talked about the impact of significant cuts on academics (see related story on page 1).

He also discussed the new Academic Plan, the statement of Carolina’s objectives and priorities that serves as a roadmap for the future.

“We’re excited to hear from the campus community what you want us to work on and what you want our to-do list to be,” Thorp said, referring to the 18-member steering committee for the new plan, led by Bill Andrews from the College of Arts and Sciences and Sue Estroff from the School of Medicine.

“I’m ready to get my marching orders,” Thorp said.

Estroff described the goals of the new Academic Plan, which aims to balance “informed aspiration with the tyranny of pragmatism.”

The steering committee identified six main themes: creating transformative educational experiences; recruiting and retaining top faculty; finding new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration; promoting inclusivity and diversity; enhancing scholarship with real-world applications; and extending a global presence.

“This is not your usual plan,” she said. “It isn’t like a term paper; it will become a working document we use as the basis for negotiation and discussion. What’s going to make this plan work and not just be another report is you.”

The subcommittees examining the themes have been asked to produce up to five concrete, feasibility-tested ideas by fall, she said.

Also in the fall, the campus will be engaged in broad discussion. In the meantime, people can send ideas to Thorp recently recorded a video about the Academic Plan, which is posted at

Council members also approved the “On Enhanced Grade Reporting” resolution in which the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) proposed a new system for contextual reporting of undergraduate grades.

The proposed system is intended to make it easier to interpret grades on individual transcripts by providing specific information about each course section and to provide ongoing information about departmental and campuswide grading practices.

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