Education

Students want more say in planning for UNC system future

Posted September 26, 2012 10:18 a.m. EDT

— Students are calling for more input in the University of North Carolina system's future, saying the panel appointed to oversee strategic planning lacks a diversity of opinions and provides no avenue for public input.

A group calling itself North Carolina Student Power Union delivered a letter Wednesday to the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions that outlines its concerns.

The 27-member committee includes only one student, one faculty member and one employee, the group says, adding that those groups should be "meaningful participants" in planning for the 17-campus system's future.

"(The committee) is overwhelmingly made up of white men, many of whom are corporate executives and conservative politicians who have well-documented agendas of opposition to creating a robust public education system in our state," the group states in its letter.

They single out Raleigh businessman Art Pope, who bankrolls several conservative causes "that have a thinly veiled mission to dismantle public education and public services."

"We find Pope’s appointment to this committee disappointing and his qualifications for directing the future of the public higher education system in our state absent," the group states in its letter. "Some of Pope’s closest associates also serve on this advisory committee, raising very serious questions about the vision for public education in our state that this group will issue."

The group asks the panel to replace Pope and others they see as hostile to public education with members who represent students and others closely tied to UNC. They also want the panel to hold town hall-style meetings across the state to gather more public input about the future direction of the system.

"The decisions being made will have a profound effect on hundreds of thousands across the state, and for generations to come," the group states in its letter. "The committee will not be able to make decisions that best embody the hopes and needs of the people of North Carolina without developing a critical and truly open process for gaining public input."