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Roper: ECU review will determine facts

William Roper
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William Roper


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, May 23, 2019

An operational assessment to examine ECU’s finances and identify efficiencies will provide to all stakeholders a complete and accurate understanding of fiscal challenges faced by the university, the UNC System president said Wednesday.

Dr. William Roper addressed the process during his report to the UNC Board of Governors at its regular meeting. The system is conducting the review following the resignation of Cecil Staton as chancellor on May 3. Roper appointed Dan Gerlach, former president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, as interim chancellor.

Officials have said the reviews are conducted routinely in conjunction with leadership changes. It comes at ECU amid reports of declining revenues and a projected deficit of $28 million by the end of this fiscal year.

“The idea is for us to have an objectively verified, agreed upon set of facts and figures about the current state at ECU and going forward,” Roper said. “The expression you may have heard is we are all entitled to our own opinions but we are not entitled to our own facts. We want to have one set of facts we can work from.”

The auditing and accounting firm Cherry Bekaert was hired to conduct the assessment, Roper said. He clarified that the assessment is different from what he had previously termed as audit and said that his office has received assistance from State Auditor Beth Wood

“I have had the opportunity to get the sound advice and guidance of the state auditor, and among the things we’ve discussed and agreed upon is we would have Cherry Bekaert, the outside audit and accounting firm, to help us with this process and we are looking at doing this at other institutions in the UNC system,” he said.

Wood reported during the meeting that audits conducted by her office of all 16 institutions in the UNC System for the 2017-18 fiscal year have been completed. She said the audits resulted in clean reports for all 16 institutions.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting:

■ Dr. Sy Atezaz Saeed, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at ECU, was named the recipient of the 2019 Oliver Max Gardner Award. He is the ninth faculty member from ECU to receive the award since its inception in 1947.

Saeed was recognized for his work in bringing psychiatric care to rural North Carolina through the use of telemedicine. He is director of the Center for Tele-psychiatry at ECU and as the founding director of North Carolina Statewide Tele-psychiatry Program (NC-STeP), a state-funded program covering over 60 hospitals in North Carolina.

“Health care in all of its forms is so critically important to North Carolina, and Dr. Saeed is an accomplished leader in the field of behavioral medicine,” Roper said. “His steadfast commitment to improving mental health practices, to research and to serving the greater good and people of this state exemplify the spirit of the O. Max Gardner Award.”

The award is the highest honor the UNC System confers on faculty. It was established by the will of former Gov. O. Max Gardner to recognize faculty who have “made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” The winner is selected by the Board of Governors and receives a $30,000 stipend. All faculty members across all of the UNC System’s 17 campuses are eligible.

■ Adam Schmidt, a Winterville resident and senior majoring civil engineering at North Carolina State University, was sworn in as a ex-officio member of the Board of Governors. Schmidt is president of the Association of Student Governments. He will serve on the board’s Educational Planning, Policies and Programs Committee and the Strategic Initiatives Committee.