Local News

N.C. students, staff voice concerns over Easley controversy

Posted May 20, 2009 11:34 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2009 6:57 a.m. EDT

— Some students and staff are closely watching and asking questions about the controversy surrounding Mary Easley's job at North Carolina State University.

On Tuesday, federal investigators subpoenaed the former first lady's employment records back to 2002. The subpoenas order N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger, Provost Larry Nielsen and the university's custodian of records to appear before a federal grand jury Thursday morning.

"I think students see it as somewhat of a public embarrassment,” said Jim Ceresnak, student body president at N.C. State.

Ceresnak says he thinks Easley should step down, and then everyone could start to move on.

"It is frustrating, because I feel that this isn't what we need to be focused on right now,” Ceresnak said.

Some faculty members say they were kept out of the loop as the controversy surrounding Easley began to unravel.

"It is disappointing that there has been virtually no communication with the faculty,” said Jim Martin, chair of the university's faculty senate.

The university is taking its first step to move past the scrutiny. Earlier Wednesday, former Lt. Gov. Bob Jordan was chosen as the new chairman of the school's trustee board.

Jordan succeeds McQueen Campbell, who resigned last week amid questions about his role in the university's hiring of Easley. Jordan will serve out the rest of Campbell's term, which ends July 14.

Campbell denied playing a part in Easley obtaining a high-paying job at N.C. State four years ago, but he said his departure was in the best interests of the university.

Campbell was the second high-ranking N.C. State official to resign in two days over questions about Easley's job. Provost Larry Nielsen, who hired her, also stepped down.

Easley began working as a part-time instructor at N.C. State in 2002. Since 2005, she has served as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer, developing a speakers program and teaching a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

Last year, she received an 88 percent pay increase, to $170,000 a year. N.C. State officials defended the move, saying she had taken on additional duties, such as directing pre-law services at the university and serving as a liaison to area law firms and law schools at other universities as she developed a dual-degree program.