UNC System President Margaret Spellings visited Pembroke to thank volunteers for providing local assistance after Hurricane Matthew. She talked to students and employees about relief efforts and visited the Care
Resource Center, which is operated by the Office for Community and Civic Engagement. The office runs a food bank and organizes volunteers to staff it. Spellings also brought donated supplies from other schools in the UNC system. She praised UNC Pembroke for helping out, even in the face of its own damage and loss of utilities for days, “it’s terrific to see a community to come together as this one has an aftermath of Hurricane Matthew I mean they’ve made a ton of progress in a short period of time. UNCP has probably, you know about 2 million dollars worth of damage. Governor McCrory has asked me to serve on the recovery commission and I intend to take what I’ve learned today back to that meeting on Tuesday morning. So I’m proud of y’all here in Pembroke and you know we’re here for the long haul.”
Much of Robeson County is still recovering from the flooding damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. Despite the rumors, the levee in Lumberton did not actually break, though the Lumber River did overflow its banks in numerous locations. Many homes in the area were flooded by knee-deep water or higher. Emergency shelters were set up in county schools that also had no power. Estimates were as high as 2,000 people being displaced. The campus reopened on Monday, and Chancellor Cummings used the opportunity to make a formal address to employees and to any students who had returned ahead of Tuesday’s classes. He was joined by Student Body President Logan John. The Chancellor made a point to raise spirits despite the challenges Hurricane Matthew left. He ended his speech by reminding attendees about UNCP’s mission and how it relates to this disaster, “In closing, we talk a lot about our mission— about changing lives through education. Over the past 11 days, the lives of many of our students and employees have been profoundly—profoundly impacted. For them this is a critical time, for them their lives, their frame of reference now forever for the rest of their life will be before the storm, and after the storm. This disaster has the potential to derail dreams, to derail visions, to derail ambitions. UNCP can not allow that to happen and we will not allow that to happen because this is where people come to vision, this is where people come to dream and where dreams come true. We are going to stand by you people, we are going to make this happen.”
Damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew left the UNCP football without a practice or game field for a week. It took days for the flood waters to be absorbed or to evaporate, but by that time players were staying in an out-of-county hotel and living off of fast food. Undaunted, staff in the program found workarounds, even though they themselves had trouble getting to work. It may be cliche say it took a team effort, but Coach Richardson praised that initiative and was grateful for assistance.
Fall Break was already scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but the ongoing power outage and flooded roadways and parking lots meant the entire week of classes and activities was canceled, including online classes. The phone lines for campus police were restored by Monday. Chancellor Robin Cummings provided this update on Tuesday, October 11:
“In an effort to facilitate information sharing, we have created a website to house frequently asked questions pertaining to academic and student affairs questions. You can submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions and answers will be posted at uncp.edu/askuncp.
Emergencies should be directed to Campus Police at 910.521.6235 or 911.
At this time, if anyone needs counseling services, please contact campus police and they will be able to connect you with a UNCP CAPS counselor.
This afternoon we have fewer than 80 students remaining on campus. We assure you all students will be taken care of and have access to food and water.
Again, if you are leaving campus, we urge you to be off the road by nightfall as conditions can quickly become dangerous in the dark. Adhere to any local curfews. The Lumber River continues to rise, which presents transportation challenges. Access to campus from I-95 is still limited at best. UNCP is still accessible from the west; please check NC DOT for road closures before leaving. Information is available at the following link: https://www.ncdot.gov/traffictravel/
Remember, ALL UNCP STUDENTS ARE BEING FED ON CAMPUS WITH OR WITHOUT MEAL PLANS. The dining hall will be open Wednesday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
UNCP appreciates the outpouring of generosity from fellow universities and state institutions, including NC State University among many others. In addition, we have received offers of support on behalf of UNC President Margaret Spellings and Governor Pat McCrory.
While the safety and security of our students is our top priority, our thoughts and prayers remain with the people of southeastern North Carolina who have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew, particularly those in Lumberton, which has been especially hard hit. The university is engaged in ongoing communication with authorities to determine how we can continue to assist. Last night, the university prepared meals for National Guard and emergency operations personnel. And today I had the opportunity to interact with UNCP students volunteering at an emergency shelter at Purnell Swett High School.
True to UNC Pembroke’s core value of service, many of you have asked how you can help those in need. We encourage you to consider donating to the American Red Cross, UNCP Care Resource Center or directly to the Robeson County Emergency Operations. Detailed information about these giving opportunities was sent in a separate e-mail and will be posted on how you can help.
As for campus operations, at this time, we know utility crews are working to repair main hubs of power to Robeson County. We do not have a definitive estimate at this time on a timetable for restoration.
In addition, many of our faculty and staff continue to face hardships. We have heard many stories of our employees in heavily impacted areas of the region who are facing personal challenges associated with the loss of utilities, downed trees, and flooding at their homes. We want you to know we are fully in support of you and your families.
We will continue to update the campus community as additional information is available.
The campus safety office is reminding students that so-called hoverboards are banned from campus. This includes possession, storage, operation, and charging of hoverboards indoors. The ban applies to all of the campus community, including faculty, staff, students, and visitors in all campus buildings. The batteries of various hoverboards have been blamed for fires that destroy property and put lives at risk.
The intersection of Prospect Rd. and Saint Anna Rd. is now a permanent 4-way stop. The North Carolina Department of Transportation decided the traffic volume, along with a history of accidents made the change crucial. The all-way stop is a low-cost form of intersection control. The DOT expects a decrease in both the amount and severity of vehicle collisions. Students were alerted to the change in an email at the start of the semester.
Governor Pat McCrory was on campus briefly at the start of the semester to tout the NC Promise legislation that he signed over the summer. The law will make tuition at Pembroke and 2 other state schools only $500 per semester for in-state students. The law will also freeze tuition at all UNC system campuses, so that students will pay the same price for 4 years. McCrory’s visit was part of a statewide tour of campuses to discuss college affordability. The law goes into effect in fall of 2018. McCrory noted that the state will have to make up the difference in lost revenue for UNCP to continue operating.
Right before the semester started, university employees had to attend 2 days of professional development. Faculty, staff and administrators learned about new priorities, plans for the coming year, and accomplishments from last year. Administrators announced the new braves preferred vendors program and raffled-off door prizes. Employees learned they would need to complete Title IX training for sexual assault complaints. There were also breakout sessions on both days about workplace harassment. Before breaking for a boxed lunch, Dana Moore-Lopez from campus recreation, entertained the crowd with a humorous take on getting exercise, for employee wellness.
The search for a new dean for the College of Arts and Sciences has concluded. Dr. Jeff Frederick from the Department of History has been appointed to the position, formerly held by Mark Canada, who took a provost job in Indiana. Frederick joined the UNCP faculty in 2003. Chancellor Cummings made the announcement at the April Board of Trustees meeting. Frederick will take over from interim dean Dr. Meredith Storms on June 1. Frederick has chaired the history department for a year, and recently won a UNCP teaching award.