Group planning for UNC system future draws criticism

Posted October 4, 2012 4:22 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2012 6:44 a.m. EDT

— Criticism of a panel tasked with overseeing strategic planning for the University of North Carolina system continues to mount, with faculty members joining a recent call by students for more input.

The UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions consists of 10 university leaders, eight business leaders, seven members of the UNC Board of Governors, four state officials, one student and one faculty member.

"I'm concerned that it should be more open to the views of the citizens of North Carolina," said Altha Cravey, vice president of the American Association of University Professors chapter at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Cravey, an associate professor of geography, also said that the planning process has created distrust among university faculty.

"It seems like it is going on behind closed doors," she said. "It seems like a very closed process rather than an open process, and it is such an important institution."

Last week, a group calling itself North Carolina Student Power Union criticized the advisory group, which UNC President Tom Ross and Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans put together to chart a course for the 17-campus UNC system over the next five years.

"Our biggest concern really is that we want to ensure that our values and our principles are really being put forth," Zaina Alsous, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and one of the organizers of the group, said Thursday.

The student group called for the removal of Raleigh businessman Art Pope from the advisory panel, saying the conservative causes he finances are hostile to public education.

The students also said the panel should hold town hall-style meeting across the state, much like the UNC Tomorrow planning group did several years ago. Cravey said faculty members also want more public feedback in the new panel's operations.

"We first and foremost need to be soliciting public input, and we need to be hearing from the voices of the people who really, day to day, make our universities work," Alsous said. "In our opinion, that’s the students and the faculty and the staff.”

Ross and Hans are committed to working with the student, faculty and employee representatives on the planning committee and expect them to funnel ideas from the groups they represent to the panel, UNC spokeswoman Joni Worthington said.

The committee doesn't have plans to hold public forums, however, Worthington said. A website will likely be used to gather feedback from people outside the university community, she said.