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A year later, it's time for another deep dive on CFCC: Finances, firings, and faculty morale

On this episode, we're joined by WHQR's own Rachel Keith to unpack her most recent investigative series looking at issues at Cape Fear Community College — and at the administration of President Jim Morton.

Cape Fear Community College — it's home to hundreds of dedicated faculty and thousands of hard-working students. But over the last four years, there’s been a cloud over the college.

In 2018, the CFCC Board of Trustees hired Jim Morton as college president, without conducting a job search — over the objection of several college trustees, including County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who wanted a formal search to be conducted.

Morton was hired despite the fact that he didn’t meet the required qualifications of previous postings for the position: Morton didn’t have a doctorate, and hadn’t met the required time in college administration.

What Morton did have, according to the trustees who voted him in, was business experience, having served for 15 years as the finance director of Wilmington International Airport. The chair of the board at the time called CFCC a quote “100 million business" — and Morton intended to run it that way.

After Morton took over, the climate at CFCC began to sour – according to dozens of current and former employees who have spoken to WHQR and other news outlets.

In 2020, WECT investigative reporter Ann McAdams dropped a bombshell report, with on-the-record allegations against Morton and his administration, including harassment, intimidation, and retaliation — in short, a toxic workplace.

Last year, WHQR’s Rachel Keith filed her own series of investigative reports, with new allegations about the toxic workplace under Morton — and the administration’s attempt to quash a faculty survey that showed the effect of that toxicity on the college’s staff.

Now, Rachel has filed a new series of reports. Once again, we’re hearing about the toxic workplace at CFCC – employees who feel ignored and disrespected by Morton’s administration.

We’re also seeing how, for some, Morton’s focus on the business of higher education seems to come at the cost of the human side. Morton’s focus on the college’s financial health is important, of course, but it seems to be part of an environment that is increasingly unwelcoming for faculty, staff, and even students.

Rachel Keith's three-part series:

And, for an even-deeper dive, an even-expanding list of the coverage of issues at CFCC can be found here.

Editor's note: During the original live broadcast of this episode we stated that the September 22 CFCC Board of Trustees meeting was not live-streamed. That was inaccurate: while several people did have trouble accessing the stream, the meeting was apparently broadcast online live. However, CFCC still does not archive meeting videos — unlike many other local government entities. Still, we apologize for the error.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.
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