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Student Government President's speech puts CFCC board on the defensive

CFCC President Jim Morton giving a presentation during the Personnel Committee.
Rachel Keith
CFCC President Jim Morton giving a presentation during the Personnel Committee.

Cape Fear Community College Board Chair Pat Kusek is stepping down. She said the likely replacement for her board seat is New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Rivenbark. At the bi-monthly meeting, members discussed year-end accounting and policy changes, but the discussion turned heated when the President of the Student Government Association stood up to speak.

CFCC President Jim Morton reported student enrollment is up 2% for both summer and fall. He also said that their year-end fundraising campaign netted close to $2 million dollars.

After his presentation, members went into a closed session to discuss Morton’s evaluation. When they returned to the open session, they said they rated his performance as ‘favorable,’ but wanted to share ‘valuable feedback’ with him.

Then came time for PJ Eby, the president of the Student Government Association, to give her final report. Eby expressed concerns that the CFCC Board was disconnected from the faculty and staff. She added that her own bi-monthly reports weren't given the full attention of the board; Eby noted that board members were often on their phones, eating, or talking to one another, going as far as to allege that some of them didn't know her name.

“These students have concerns, questions, and needs. My job is to bring them to you so you can understand and apply them. I look around and see a roomful of genuine people, but they are here to rub elbows with each other. In my humble opinion, the last person you should be worried about is anyone sitting next to you," Eby said.

Eby also said that the board takes credit for the work of students and faculty. She closed by asking the board to have a different relationship with the next SGA president.

"I ask that you hear the next SGA President out, that you respect them and get to know them," Eby said.

When she finished her speech, Board Member Jimmy Hopkins said he and his husband have personally helped several students at the college.

“So the only advice I would give you going forward is — God knows what you've done at 18, incredible — to never generalize. Don’t ever put everybody in one bucket, because quite honestly, you don’t know who we talked to," Hopkins said.

New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who’s also a board member, said, “So I hope that we all have the courage that she did to say what she needed to say, to really think about what was said, not take it the wrong way but to just listen and receive. And I think if we do that we will all come out better.”

[Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify SGA President PJ Eby's concerns.]

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR