GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - District maps previously approved by a North Carolina state court will stand during this election season as the U.S. Supreme Court shoots down Republican lawmaker efforts to toss the maps out.
The ruling was 6 to 3 from the Supreme Court which ultimately allows the state to move forward with the May 17 primary election date.
Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch voted to take the case, but Justice Kavanaugh said the appeal was too close to the election for federal courts to change the lines.
Under the approved voting lines, Republicans are expected to win seven congressional seats and Democrats are expected to win six. One seat in the Raleigh area is likely to be a tossup, making the state nearly evenly split along party lines.
Senate Leader Phil Berger has spoken against the decision hinting that while Republicans will now turn their focus on the 2022 elections, they aren’t ready to put this ruling and this case to bed.
ECU political science expert Peter Francia says he wouldn’t be surprised to see this case approach the Supreme Court again.
“There has to be some consideration to timing when we’re talking about elections. There’s only so much time that maps can be drawn and these considerations can be made,” said Francia. “So, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for Justice Kavanaugh to say that more time needs to be taken and that it’s appropriate to settle this matter after the 2022 election.”
Under a conservative leaning court, Republicans would count on Justices Kavanaugh and Coney-Barrett to shift their opinions.
“Obviously not everyone is going to agree with Justice Kavanaugh on that, but I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that at all,” said Francia.
The map in use for this upcoming election period will only be in effect for this year.
While it will likely pull the state closer to the middle of the party spectrum, these lines are more favorable to Democrats than the previously Republican passed lines of last year.
Francia says this is typical of the leading political party of each election season and while the majority party is going to want to have the lines fall in their favor, they will always have to abide by the state and U.S. Constitutions at the end of the day.
Is it time to put the back and forth of these redistricting maps in the past? Francia says just for a while.
By deciding not to see this case today, the Supreme Court can be expected to revisit it in the future, it just won’t be before North Carolinians hit the polls this year.
Justice Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion reaffirms the stance he took in the Alabama redistricting case last month: Federal courts cannot rearrange state election laws in the period of time close to an election.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The newest class of East Carolina University Pirate alumni have turned their tassels and are entering the workforce as laborer shortages from the COVID pandemic increase their need.
Minges Coliseum is a place many of these graduates have been before to cheer on the pirates.
But Friday, the spotlight was on each of them as they are the first class to walk together to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance during a graduation ceremony in two years at ECU.
More than 1,800 graduates walked together for Friday’s fall commencement ceremonies.
“I love ECU. I love mathematics,” said Zanquavia Minor minutes after receiving her Master’s in mathematics education. “When COVID hit, it was a challenge but being able to finish my classes online just made everything easier. I did it!”
From undergraduates to doctorates, ECU’s Chancellor Phillip Rogers addressed the class of 2021.
One student has been seeking this diploma for almost 30 years.
“I graduated today-- 50 years old and I graduated today!” said Diana Cantrell.
With family support every step of the way, these graduates have pushed through learning online to hybrid to in-person.
They pushed through each change in the pursuit of their degrees.
“It’s been a struggle but we made it and I’m just so, so proud of her,” said Chrystal Allen, who as of today has put her third daughter through college.
Now on the other side of that struggle, her daughter, Kayla, said, “It really feels good. It makes me feel optimistic thinking about it. A year ago, it didn’t seem like this is possible.”
Reflecting on the way they learned and persevered was a reminder of how different their experiences have been from traditional graduates.
“It was really different seeing walking to and from class seeing campus completely empty,” said John Rice Vancoutran. “There was no one walking around, going to the dining halls, or just hanging out in the quad because of COVID restrictions.”
With guidance from their professors and advice from their elders, the class of 2021 was able to stay on track.
“Education is the key and I’m very proud of them and I hope this is the future that we have to go on,” said Wilbert Norfleet, whose nephew was seen in a purple cap and gown. “Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to an education.”
These Pirates are now ready for their next adventure.
“It feels great because I feel like I’m making a contribution,” said Cameron White. “I’ve decided that’s what I want to do.”
ECU required masks for all guests and graduates.
The commencement was split into two gathering times to reduce the volume of people inside the arena. That decision was based on the RSVP submissions from each graduate, as tickets were not required for guests to attend.
Both commencement events were live-streamed via ECU’s website for family unable or uncomfortable attending in-person.
The graduates didn’t walk the stage and get their diplomas by hand, but that is not a pandemic precaution. ECU says it is the most efficient way to honor so many students.
Eyes now turn to the Spring Class of 2022 commencement events. Soon-to-be graduates are still awaiting official word from ECU on those plans.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Students of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine and College of Allied Health Sciences’ Department of Physician Assistant Studies worked together to participate in a mass casualty simulation on Saturday.
The future healthcare professionals split up into teams and rotated through different stations of the Inter-professional Trauma Emergency Assessment & Management (I-TEAM) agenda.
For this year’s main event, students triaged a simulated boiler room explosion in the middle of a hurricane.
“We have some standardized patients come out, we have the theatre department give them fake wounds, and they act out this disastrous scenario,” said Alex Doherty, ECU Emergency Medicine Interest Group President. “We have to come in as students, triage them, evaluate their injuries, and figure out how soon they need help.”
Students also participated in skill set labs including decontamination, airway support, and hemorrhage response.
Each team was eager to get the hands on experience after spending last year away from in-person learning due to the pandemic.
“Last year during COVID, they didn’t have the event as a first-year student,” said Doherty. “So, this is the first time I’m seeing this in action as well.”
After the drama of the simulation and the interactive lessons of the skill labs, second year P.A. student Cole Deazer said, “I’m so excited to go start working with real people.”
This year’s simulation event was the third annual training session for Brody students. In years prior, the medical school partnered with the ECU College of Nursing and held the event on its own.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - On this day, 123 years ago, historians estimate that between 60 and 100 people were racially targeted and murdered in Wilmington in what they call the only known, successful coup d’état in United States history.
So, why are many North Carolinians unaware of the details of this historic event?
ECU historian Dr. Karin Zipf says it wasn’t until college that she, a North Carolina native, even heard about the horrors of November 10, 1898.
“I was shocked. This was such a huge thing in North Carolina history and nobody ever talked about it,” said Zipf, “and what teaching the Wilmington coup does is it unearths and reveals the damaging effect of white supremacy.”
After the election year of 1898, biracial fusionists were elected into government. In response, Alfred Waddell led a ‘Take Back the City’ campaign rooted in white supremacy and racism.
Waddell led a mob of 2,000 others that took to the streets of Wilmington; they set fires, destroyed black businesses, and murdered crowds of innocent people fleeing for their lives.
“Those families then went off into the cemetery and huddled in that cemetery around their dead in order to escape the terror of the mob,” said Zipf.
But the violence did not stop there.
Waddell then gathered a crew of men to disrupt the aldermen in an emergency council meeting and complete what is said to be the only occurrence of its kind in American history: a successful coup.
Waddell and his men held the aldermen at gunpoint, forcing their resignations from power. They then transitioned that governmental seat to themselves, finishing their hijacking with a “vote” to make Waddell the new mayor of Wilmington.
Over a century later, archeologists work to uncover and identify the remains of the victims. This is work that Dr. Charles Ewen of ECU’s Department of Anthropology is very familiar with.
“We can tell by archeological methods how the person was, what sex they were, sometimes what race they were,” said Ewen. “Then, you can go back to the historical record and see who that might match up with.”
This year, the remains of Joshua Halsey, a target of the mob’s attack, were identified. On Saturday, he was given a proper burial and funeral.
The city of Wilmington dedicated a memorial structure and public park to the memory of the massacre’s victims in 2008. Each year, they host commemorative events to educate more people.
“And now, it’s not common knowledge,” said Zipf, “but I think a lot more people know about it than previously.”
An assumption she hopes only grows to reach more people as the anniversaries continue.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With only 88 black and white keys, Dr. Keiko Sekino is able to change a student’s entire concept of classical piano performance.
“Just a few minutes ago, she said I was playing a little bit too loud and that never would have happened two years ago,” said ECU student Sheleise Melendez. “I was so quiet and just really tense.”
Sekino’s work with students at East Carolina University began 15 years ago. Her ability to touch hearts inside of the classroom and on the stage caught the eye of regional Steinway piano dealer Paul Hopper of Hopper Piano Company in Raleigh.
It is precisely why he chose her to nominate for the Steinway and Sons Teacher Hall of Fame.
“Keiko is, she is absolutely a top-tier educator,” Hopper said. “She’s a top-tier pianist. And although it can be difficult to choose the right one, we are confident that she was the right one.”
Whether she is playing alongside her student or alone, Sekino strives to bring new meaning to the music she performs.
“This intersection of music and people is really what interests me the most and that means even if we are playing music that was written hundreds of years ago, when we’re playing it, it has to come to life on that day in that time.”
Earlier in October, she received an email from Hopper.
Thus began an incredible journey for the piano professor, which included a trip to New York City to accept her award and tour the Steinway factory.
“It was such an amazing experience to be able to join all these other amazing teachers across the country and also to be recognized in this region for the work that we get to do at the School of Music here at ECU,” said Sekino.
Her impact on students is clear to see.
“She’s definitely opened me up to just a whole new world of music. She’s awesome!” said Melendez.
Sekino is an honored educator, but she comes with her own list of impressive accolades.
She received her Doctor of Musical Arts from Johns Hopkins University and additional degrees in economics and arts from Yale University.
“Music education has been a cornerstone of our historic company since the late 1800s, and today is no different,” said Gavin English, president of Steinway & Sons Americas. “These teachers foster passion, creativity, and discipline in the next generation of piano artists. Their work deserves the highest praise.”
Sekino’s name joins 44 other educators in a commemorative wall display inside of the Steinway factory.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Congressman Greg Murphy brought together local government leaders and environmental science experts to hear about current threats to the east’s coastal regions and plan for possible outcomes.
The conference was the first meeting of what will become an annual convergence on the topic.
“The fact that we have all of the representation... county commissioners, our legislatures at the state, our congressional representatives... in one room, listening, and hopefully acting on what we’re doing, it doesn’t happen very often,” Dr. Reide Corbett, dean and professor of ECU’s Integrated Coastal Programs said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Corbett presented to the summit attendees on rising sea level threats and how active legislation needs to be custom-fit to the needs of each area.
“We need to look at it spatially and across different time scales,” said Corbett.
The event was hosted by Congressman Murphy.
He said there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to tackling coastal conservation, but there is a need to act soon to save our waterways from further damage.
“We brought together, really, a brain trust of people to identify the problem and deal with it and then implement plans to take care of things in the future that deal with flooding and waterway management.”
Congressman Greg MurphyNext, Murphy says there will need to be policy sessions, meetings with environmental agencies, and hard decisions made in the best interests of our coastal areas.
“This is about learning and learning from each other and learning from a lot of smart people in the room, but it can’t end today,” said Murphy. “It has to end up with legislation. It has to end up with policies. It has to end up actually affecting the way that we live in Eastern North Carolina.”
With an emphasis on human intervention to climate-driven disasters, the summit hopes to spark changes from which the communities along the Eastern shore of North Carolina can benefit.
Every story you see here is written, filmed, edited, fronted, and day-turned by Maddie. As an MMJ with WITN, she really does it all!