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UNC system leaders want universities removed from gun bill

Update: UNC system President Tom Ross issued a statement expressing concern about House Bill 937, which would loosen the state's gun laws.

Part of the bill allows holders of concealed carry permits to keep guns in locked vehicles at college and university campuses.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our students and employees, and every UNC campus has a trained police force charged with promoting the safety of all people who come onto our campuses," Ross said in a statement.

"All UNC chancellors and chiefs of police believe allowing guns on campus would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff, and faculty, but also campus visitors, including parents, siblings of students, and summer camp participants. Vehicle break-ins are one of the leading crimes on college campuses, and even guns brought lawfully onto campus, as contemplated by this bill, could fall into the wrong hands and result in serious injury or death.

“In addition, a number of UNC campuses house early college high schools, middle schools, or summer camps for younger children. The presence of these young people further heightens our concerns about the safety risks that come with guns getting into the wrong hands. Moreover, when responding to an armed robbery or active shooter incident, our officers would often be hard pressed to distinguish between a criminal suspect and well-intentioned bystanders with weapons drawn, particularly in the heat of the moment. The potential for tragedy far outweighs any potential benefit or convenience to concealed-carry permit holders. We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision that would allow guns to be brought onto UNC and other college and university campuses.”

Earlier Monday, UNC-Chapel Hill Director of Public Safety, Chief Jeff McCracken released a statement saying it's a bad idea to relax restrictions on guns.

"While intended to promote safety, this legislation allowing additional guns on public campuses actually would make colleges and universities less safe," his statement said.

Morning Memo: UNC-CH gets new chancellor; McHenry won't challenge Hagan

UNC-CHAPEL HILL TO GET FIRST WOMAN CHANCELLOR: As first reported by The News & Observer, UNC system officials will name Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, as the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female. She will succeed Holden Thorp, who is stepping down by July 1 to become provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Full story.

McHENRY WON'T CHALLENGE HAGAN: N.C. Congressman Patrick McHenry took his name out of the crowded field of potential challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces re-election in 2014. Polls put McHenry in the top half of Republicans. "I'm grateful for the good numbers, but I think I've got a better opportunity to make a difference here in the House," McHenry told the Mountain Xpress in Asheville. "I want to end the distraction about this potential Senate run so I can get back and focus on the work that I need to be doing to help get this economy going."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Much more N.C political news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: Senate moves with speed, Muslim remarks put GOP on the spot

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In a metaphor for this legislative session, the Senate is moving fast to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on some highways. The full Senate is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday, a day after it passed a committee and a week after it was filed, AP reports. The Carolina Panthers incentives bill also won approval in committee Wednesday and heads to the floor. Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The House is expecting a longer-than-normal day with a busy calendar, including a measure to limit the N.C. Lottery's ability to advertise and sell games. It starts at 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, House committees will consider a wind energy bill and IT changes requested by the McCrory adminsitration.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the UNC system Board of Governors meeting in Pembroke -- where he will surely face questions about the budget cuts he proposed -- before making an economic development announcement in the area.

HOW WILL GOP REACT? As AP reports, an American-Islamic group wants national Republican leaders to repudiate comments by a North Carolina legislator who compared Muslim prayer to terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that bigoted comments must be rejected if the GOP wants to reach minorities. State Rep. Michele Presnell of Yancey County did not respond to messages seeking comment.

***The Dome Morning Memo sets the stage for the day in North Carolina politics. Get more news and analysis below.***

Cut will be nearly 18 percent at UNC-Chapel Hill

University budget cuts will vary significantly across the UNC system, ranging from 8 percent at the School of Science and Mathematics in Durham to nearly 18 percent, or more than $100 million, at the state's historic flagship, UNC-Chapel Hill.

N.C. State University will take a 15 percent reduction, while N.C. Central University will see a 14 percent cut.

The UNC Board of Governors' budget and finance committee acted this morning to allocate $414 million in cuts for the current fiscal year enacted by the legislature. The budget law ordered that the reductions not be made across the board, a method that could have resulted in a 15.6 percent reduction for each campus.

The system instead used six criteria to determine how to dole out the cuts, taking into account differences among the campuses.

Those criteria included performance factors, such as student retention and graduates produced, plus financial factors such as tuition, percentage of low-income students and the availability of other sources of revenue on a given campus. Also, campuses with fewer than 6,000 students received special consideration because they aren't large enough to operate with economies of scale.

Those were factors the UNC leaders thought were important in tough economic times, said UNC President Tom Ross.

Ross said he was proud of the unity among chancellors who lead the individual campuses. He said budget turmoil across U.S. public higher education had led to infighting and fragmentation in other state systems.

"I'll tell you they're not all happy about this but they all understand it and they're all supportive of it because they support the system," Ross said. "I think it's going to be hard to cut the amount of money that they're being asked to cut on every campus but they're going to do it wisely and well, I'm sure, and they understand the reason for the allocations."

He said campus layoffs were under way now and many had occurred earlier in the year to prepare for the certainty of cuts.

UNC bulks up - on staff

This decade has been good for associate vice chancellors at UNC-Chapel Hill. Their numbers have nearly doubled, from 10 to 19, and the money paid to them has more than tripled, to a total of nearly $4million a year.

The university now admits that some of these people were in jobs that were not vital. They represent the rapid management growth in the 16-campus UNC system that has added tens of millions of dollars to annual payrolls.

Now, with a tough economy and sinking tax revenues, UNC officials and state lawmakers say these jobs need cutting first.

A News & Observer analysis of university payroll data and similar work done by the UNC General Administration shows that many of the 16 campuses have expanded their bureaucracies at a big expense. Administrators are among the best paid people on the campuses, typically earning $100,000 or more. (N&O)

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