The Feb. 28 news article “UNC board closes 3 centers” reported on the protests that disrupted the Board of Governors meeting in Charlotte. These protests were not spontaneous but rather a planned action by a number of student and faculty groups responding to a review process that has systematically excluded our voices.
Members of the UNC-CH Board of Governors Democracy Coalition – including faculty from UNC-CH – members of the N.C. Student Power Union and students from N.C. Central University and UNC Greensboro traveled to the meeting to make sure that our voices were heard.
Students, faculty and other groups have lobbied in a variety of ways duringthe board’s review process for the centers. We flooded social media and delivered over 2,500 signatures in support of these centers and institutes. Students and community members have attended board meetings and held one-on-one meetings with board members, including Jim Holmes and John Fennebresque, to voice our concerns. But the board clearly has not listened.
Despite strong opposition from students and faculty, the board unanimously approved the recommendation to cut three centers whose work is inconsistent with the ideological agenda of the N.C. General Assembly, and it also approved recommendations that would limit the advocacy work of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC-CH.
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At the meeting, students, faculty, and staff protested the exclusion of our voices, and the board used police to remove speakers and ultimately moved to a room too small to accommodate the public.
Similarly, the puppet masters of the board in Raleigh used their power to try to scare UNC faculty like Gene Nichol and Ted Shaw in order to reduce their accountability to the system constituents.
Silencing advocates for North Carolina’s people of color, its poor or its disenfranchised doesn’t make those people and their needs go away. On UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, we strongly urge Chancellor Carol Folt to find a way to continue the important work of the poverty center and to protect the advocacy functions of the Civil Rights Center. She should also work with NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White to prevent the closure of the Center for Civic Engagement and Social Change, the work of which was similarly threatened by the board.
A commitment to academic freedom and, more important, a commitment to the people of North Carolina demand no less.
Board of Governors Democracy Coalition, UNC
The letter was also signed by Olivia Abrecht and Emilio Vincent, who are also members of the coalition. All are students at UNC-CH. The length limit was waived.