Moving Board of Governors meeting doesn't deter protesters

Posted April 15

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— Protesters on Friday again forced the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to halt its monthly meeting.

More than 50 protesters held signs and chanted on the Chapel Hill campus before 9 a.m., when the meeting was scheduled to begin, and about 20 moved inside when UNC President Margaret Spellings began to speak. Their shouting and chanting slogans forced Chairman Louis Bissette to recess the meeting.

"Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like," the group chanted as board members left the meeting room.

"I particularly don’t like the rudeness and lack of common decency a number of these protestors have, but I understand it – I’m a big boy," Bissette said. "These people out there aren’t advancing their cause. They’re out there screaming, screaming vulgarities. It would be a lot better, it seems to me, if they came in and said, 'These are our issues, and we’d like to talk about it with you.'"

Femi Shittu, a senior at UNC-Greensboro, said the protests are the only way the students will be heard.

"I think it’s the only way to get our points across and be heard because we are shut out in the decisions made for us," Shittu said. "If there were other alternatives and people were more communicative, we’d be receptive, but they’re not."

Bissette noted that the Board of Governors will begin including a public comment period during their meetings next month, which he said he hopes will lead to more dialogue and fewer protests.

About 40 law enforcement officers were at the meeting as a precaution, but no arrests were made. After a while, the protesters left voluntarily, and the meeting resumed.

The Board of Governors had been scheduled to meet at UNC-Asheville, but the meeting was shifted to Chapel Hill because even larger protests were expected in Asheville against House Bill 2, which sets North Carolina's discrimination policy, and Spellings, who has been a target for criticism since she was chosen last fall to lead the school.

"To the protestors who have devoted their time and energy to criticizing me, I say, 'I hear you.' What I ask from you is that you hear me and this board," Spellings said. "(The demonstrations) too often have served to distract us from the mission rather than elevate it."

As she has several times in the past week, Spellings expressed concern over House Bill 2 and the impact it has on the UNC system.

"The chancellors tell me we are great risk of losing faculty, students," she said.

"I don’t think the impact of it has been good for our state," Bissette said of the law, adding that the universities still have to abide by it.

"The university system, we didn’t have anything to do with this," he said. "Yet, somehow we’ve been thrust into the middle of this thing. I think it’s unfair. We’re here trying to do our job and educate people, and to be placed in the middle of things like it’s something we did, when we didn’t, I think it's unfair."


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  • Matt Nickeson Apr 16, 8:53 a.m.
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    I don't disagree. It was really my intention to state that they should only be treated as such but I can se how it reads as such. My point, more clearly stated, is that the university should have an obligation to give them something of value for the money that they pay. Not being prepared for the workforce is not value.

    Your second point I would disagree with. Academia has not done a spectacular job in managing itself. Just look at the spiraling cost of tuition and low graduation rates. Those non-graduates are the ones that have the true problem with student debt and most of them should never have been accepted to a university to begin with. Unfortunately school administrators are running wild in a continual bid to grab more and more federal dollars. And it is certainly not the professors who benefit from this as indicated by stagnant wages, bigger class sizes, and less tenure tracks. Maybe someone from the outside is what's needed.

  • Karen Grigg Apr 15, 4:12 p.m.
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    The problem with strictly defining a college education in the context of a customer service experience, is that colleges with that model often carry it to such an extreme that faculty are often pushed to give every student passing grades no matter what because "they are paying customers". We do the workforce no favors by sending along graduates who shouldn't have their degrees. You want a lousy civil engineer who should have never graduated building your bridges? Certainly, you want your students to benefit from their experiences in your college, but, unlike a retail environment, you cannot operate on a "costumer is always right" premise. Otherwise, you might as well just hand out diplomas like candy. I wouldn't try to be a CEO of a software company; not sure why we would want someone who doesn't understand academia running the entire UNC system.

  • Christian Knott Apr 15, 3:44 p.m.
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    Yes indeed collage should be TOTALLY FREE! It seems to work for many European nations as well as Free Healthcare. What ms.Spellings did while on the board of phoenix was aggressively court poor communities to register, more or less steal the government funds that support the poor and make phoenix money at the expense of taxpayers everywhere. Nice job if you can get it.

  • Michael Bawden Apr 15, 3:28 p.m.
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    Christian Knott should be excited about Ms. Spellings. Apparently, while at Phoenix, she created a whole lot of democrat and independent voters. They will ALL be voting for the democrat that forgives their debt. Since Bernie Sanders is all for FREE college what is the beef about Ms. Spellings creating debt? College does not seem to cost much according to the democrats. I thought the UNC was supposed to be a bastion for free speech and the exchange of ideas. I did not know you were REQUIRED to speak. That would be a first. Firing a President of a University for NOT saying something. Obviously, Mr. Knott wants UNC to be the University of KNOTT.

  • Christian Knott Apr 15, 3:26 p.m.
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    The first thing the woman did when appointed secretary of education under Bush was threaten to pull ALL funding from PBS if they showed a lesbian couple on " postcards from Buster" because "children watch those shows". Guess what? Children have lesbian mothers sometimes, and gay fathers sometimes and her comments PROVE that she is a homophobe. She never has once apologized. Why trust her?

  • Scott Mace Apr 15, 3:26 p.m.
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    Understand that I have NO qualms with them expressing their opinion. What I am trying to get through to you is that if you say your piece, and still don't get your way, it does NOT give you license to be brats. Louder/more obnoxious does not make for a more correct or more convincing argument.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 15, 3:00 p.m.
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    I don't personally have a stance on Ms. Spelling. I do understand the ire at the way she was brought in but that didn't really have anything to do with her. It has brought up some questions in my mind though.

    Was she a member of those boards or the chairperson? What was her voting record? Was she pushing detrimental policies or working against them? I don't know the answers to those questions but would be interesting to find out.

    As for the "consumer" and "customer" terminology": I don't find this untoward at all. Aren't students really these things to a college or university? They are paying for a service? Shouldn't they expect to be treated as a customer to some degree?

    Finally, I haven't heard her say anything at all disparaging towards the LGBT community and if anything she has gone very much out of her way not to engage the issue in any form.

  • Christian Knott Apr 15, 1:55 p.m.
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    ms. spellings sat on the board of the disgraced University of Phoenix during the school's devolution from a provider of working adult continuing education programs into a money making machine whose sole criterion for admission was eligibility for federally funded student loans. University of Phoenix students owe more than $35,000,000,000 in student loan debt, the most of any US college! She sat on the board of Apollo Education which paid millions in fined for hard sell tactics to students who had no ability to take a college class. She refers to the students at UNC as "consumers" and "customers". When asked about her stance on protecting LGBT students on UNC campus, she replied " I have no comments about those lifestyles". She needs to GO.

  • Bill Brauner Apr 15, 1:23 p.m.
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    If you had said this to me years ago, I'd probably agree with you.

    But we live in a time now where it's commonplace for the voice of the public to go unnoticed.

    If the government can pass discriminatory laws out of fear, not fact, than yes, people can and should do what they deem necessary.

    I'm not condoning people to act out of legal boundaries or malicious intent, but if you aren't being heard, speak louder (whether that be literally or through actions.)

    People are upset and frustrated with the way things are being handled. Maybe, if the recent passing of HB-2 had not just taken place, this would have been a different situation.

    As I said previously, regardless of my own personal opinions, I'm happy that people are educated enough about matters to speak out. I'd rather have that than a population that doesn't care and just accepts whatever comes our way.

  • Matt Nickeson Apr 15, 1:21 p.m.
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    Acting well within their rights? It seems more of a gray area at best. I am not a lawyer but to my understanding disrupting a public proceeding is a Class 2 misdemeanor as spelled out in NC General Statute 143-318.17. This would only be the case if the presiding officer had directed them to leave the meeting, which, to be fair, I don't know whether she did or not. I am sure though that if she had that would have become another source of screaming outrage against her.

    To demonstrate outside a meeting is one thing but to not allow a public meeting to take place at all is quite another. Don't we need to actually have meetings, and therefore discussions, for civil public discourse to occur? Recourse to the protesters complaints is currently being pursued, and stands significant chances of being successful, in both the political and legal realm so their voices are being heard without this type of infantile tantrum.