From left: David Weinstein, Chancellor Meadors and Marc Basnight
UNC Pembroke rolled out the red carpet for North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight on November 10 for a day-long visit to the state's fastest growing university.
"I came here to see how we are going to get to 6,000 students in here," Sen. Basnight said. "Your chancellor (Allen C. Meadors) is fantastic, and I met with faculty and reviewed construction projects."
The long-time leader of the state Senate also toured COMtech, a nearby high-tech education and incubator, and listened to UNCP's plans for constructing a biotechnology training center there. Sen. David Weinstein, who represents Robeson County, made the official invitation and Chancellor Allen C. Meadors hosted the visit.
Chancellor Meadors said "Senator Basnight is a champion for North Carolina. His presence on our campus was a testament to his interest and support of education in our state."
Mike Decinti with Basnight
In a 30-minute interview with WNCP-TV, UNCP's broadcast studio, Sen. Basnight showed why he is viewed as an energetic and visionary leader for North Carolina.
On the subject of rising college tuition, he endorsed a "sliding scale" tuition plan that charges tuition according to a student's ability to pay.
"Chapel Hill has adopted this idea, and we already utilize a sliding scale for income taxes," Sen. Basnight said. The challenge that faces North Carolina, he said is "to find room for every student who wants a college education."
Sen. Basnight said the North Carolina Senate is solidly behind education in the state, and he noted that the Tar Heel State still boasts some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.
As the interview turned to the economy and jobs, Sen. Basnight became very serious about a cause that has concerned him for many years.
Weinstein and Basnight
"I view myself as a servant of the people of North Carolina," he said. "All of us dream of a better North Carolina."
Sen. Basnight said he is concerned about the loss of 180,000 manufacturing jobs, especially in rural and urban areas of the state, which seem to be falling behind.
"We have to create one North Carolina," he said. "If anything bothers me, it is that the rural and urban areas are being left out."
"We need to bring good paying jobs," he said. "To bring jobs, we have to have a trained workforce, an educated workforce. That's why we support the universities the way we do."
Sen. Basnight is a small business owner from Manteo on the Outer Banks. Although he grew up relatively poor with six brothers and sisters, "There was always enough." He said his family was rich in civics lessons.
"My mother told us to be involved in our community," he said. "My father encouraged us to vote, and at a very young age, I campaigned for JFK (John F. Kennedy)."
Weinstein, Basnight, Neil Hawk, VC for Business Affairs, Gervais Oxendine, Board of Trustees Chair, and Jackie Clark, VC for Enrollment Management
Sen. Basnight shared a few political reforms he would like to see, including longer terms in the General Assembly, session limits and caps on campaign spending for elections, down to the county commission level. He said these changes would energize state politics and open the political system to more candidates.
"Four-year terms would mean we do not have to campaign so often or raise money every year," he said. "These kinds of ideas should be thrown out for people to debate."
In politics, he said you have to be "cautious," but also "bold and visionary - You have to make a statement."
And Sen. Basnight practices what he preaches. Although he said he has no ambition to run for higher office, many observers already rank the man from Manteo as the state's most powerful political leader.
The 30-minute interview program will air on WNCP-TV's cable channel six on Time Warner's local cable system. Prof. Mike Decinti is the host.