A UNC system committee crafting strategy for the state’s public universities hasn’t met yet, but some students have already complained about the panel’s makeup.
A group called the N.C. Student Power Union sent a letter to the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions, asking for greater student and public input into the planning process. The 31-member committee, which holds its first meeting Wednesday, is largely composed of leaders from higher education, business and government.
“Currently, this committee includes only one student, one faculty member and one worker,” the letter said. “Students, faculty and staff make the UNC system what it is. We should be meaningful participants in the planning of the future of our University system.”
The student group says the UNC committee “is overwhelmingly made up of white men” who do not mirror the socio-economic makeup of North Carolina. Further, the students say the group includes corporate executives and political leaders who have presided over budget cuts to the state’s public universities.
Peter Hans, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, appointed the group along with UNC system President Tom Ross. Hans said he hopes to gain thoughtful ideas from committee members and encourage their support of the university system.
“We’re looking for feedback from state government and the business community about how the university can adapt to rapid changes in North Carolina and spur the economy forward,” Hans said.
Among the education leaders on the panel are five UNC chancellors, UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday and N.C. Community College System President Scott Ralls.
Other members include GOP leaders in the legislature – House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger. Business representatives include retired GlaxoSmithKline executive Bob Ingram, AT&T North Carolina President Cynthia Marshall and Lew Ebert, president of the North Carolina Chamber.
The student group specifically questioned the appointment of another businessman on the panel – Art Pope, CEO of Variety Wholesalers, a key Republican donor and sometime critic of the university system.
Bryan Perlmutter, an N.C. State University student and member of N.C. Student Power Union, said the student group includes some who staged an Occupy Wall Street-style protest during the UNC Board of Governors’ tuition vote in February.
He said the fact that the strategic committee includes only one student is “unacceptable.”
“We’re going to organize to make sure students get a seat at this table and faculty get a seat at this table,” Perlmutter said.
Besides more representation on the panel, the student group calls for town-hall style meetings across the state to gather public input, as well as the removal of members who have “well-documented connections” to organizations that oppose public education, though it doesn’t identify any by name. The student group’s letter asks for a meeting with the UNC committee by Oct. 12.
The UNC panel will meet for several months. A report is due to the UNC Board of Governors in January.