A Conversation on Education: University President James Weinbrick on New UNCW Colleges Dorian Cromartie on Rachel Freeman’s Struggles

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Our first guest today is UNCW Agent James Weinbrick. After serving as dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology for nearly a decade, he moved to the position of Provost at UNCW in the summer of 2020 — as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Winebrick, the largest of the university’s four colleges, was restructuring the UNSW College of Arts and Sciences. UNCW officials plan to separate the two colleges this summer, creating two new colleges.

Some faculty members have expressed concerns about this—especially in the humanities. These professors fear that the separation of faculties may mean that the sciences can get more financial support than the arts.

In a way, it’s part of a broader tension–felt by universities across the country–between two visions of higher education–one that sees college as an institution for workforce development, and one that takes a more philosophical approach, seeing college as a place of exploration and personal growth. Add to that the state’s political climate and growing concern about student debt and it’s a complicated time for higher education in general and for UNCW. But there are also a lot of good events, including the advancement of UNCW as a doctoral and research institution.

Next, we’ll sit down with Dorian Cromartie, a military veteran and recent school board candidate who volunteered at Rachel Freeman Elementary—a school named after his grandmother.

Unfortunately, the school is going through a hard time. Over the past year, we’ve documented a lot of staff turnover, including principals, teachers, and staff. This, combined with the pandemic, has led to a breakdown in student behaviour. Most employees were reluctant to speak on the record, for a variety of reasons that we’ll go into. But at least half a dozen current and former employees who worked at the school described a similar situation — and it’s not good. “Chaos” is a word few people use.

Cromartie had seen it himself. He joins us for a candid conversation about what’s going on and what can be done about it.