As the UNC Town Hall meeting on race and inclusion began Thursday evening, a group of protesting students interrupted moderator Clarence Page to make demands of the administrators present, including Chancellor Carol Folt and members of the board of trustees.
“We have some demands for Chancellor Folt and the administration that are combating anti-blackness on this campus,” a protester said. “Right now we’re going to read these demands out and you’re going to sit here and you’re going to listen because we have things we need to say.”
A few of the demands included the immediate removal of Silent Sam, the firing of new UNC system president Margaret Spellings, and recognition of student athletes as university employees. The demand for the firing of Spellings received a loud ovation.
“Any future president must be decided collectively by students, staff, faculty and those living in North Carolina,” a protester said.
The protest lasted nearly half an hour, with Page attempting to intervene on one occasion, but he was ignored.
After their demands, the protesters began reading demands made by students at the University of Missouri and the University of Cape Town as a show of solidarity.
They also read demands made by UNC’s Black Student Movement from 1968 to illustrate how they felt UNC is still dealing with minority issues.
“Do these demands not sound very familiar,” said a protester after reading the document from 1968. “It is still happening here.”
Page, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune, said he thought the protesters did themselves a disservice by reading so many demands.
“They have a lot to learn about public relations,” he said. “They had a list of demands, that was just fine, but when they read the demands from the University of Missouri, (the University of Cape Town), North Carolina in 1968, I think that’s asking a lot of your audience.”
As part of the protest, the group exited the event and spoke to the media outside while the event continued.
“The reason that I participated in this interruption today was because as a black student here at UNC, I have witnessed the facilitation of conversation, I’ve witness the facilitation of meetings, but I haven’t witnessed the facilitation of action,” said UNC student Charity Lackey.
The event ended with a number of students, faculty and staff voicing their concerns about race and inequality.
Chancellor Carol Folt said she would be meeting with her team to figure out what to do moving forward.
A full list of the demands made by the protesters can be found here.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-town-hall-interrupted-by-protest/
UNC’s 222nd University Day was interrupted by Silent Sam protestors on Monday.
As the procession of faculty and students entered Memorial Hall for the University Day celebrations, students began chanting.
They chanted “tear it down, or we shut you down” and “that racist statue has got to go” – referring to Silent Sam – before exiting the building.
Chancellor Carol Folt addressed the protest before moving on with the ceremony.
“I think all of you feel like I do,” she said, “that universities are places where our students and our communities speak with real heart and voice. And I’m really glad they felt comfortable to come and we were all able to listen and hear their very important message.”
MORE: Protesters from the Real Silent Sam Coalition gathered in front of the Confederate monument on Monday morning. Listen below to a report from WCHL’s Blake Hodge:
The ceremony continued with remarks from UNC system president Tom Ross, who graduated from UNC in 1975, along with members from the board of trustees and the faculty.
“This marks my last University Day as president of the UNC system,” he said. “But you’ll be glad to know I didn’t come here to take a trip down memory lane or to talk about all that we’ve accomplished together in the last five years. More than anything I can here today to say thank you.”
Ross praised Folt, saying that her hiring was the decision he was most proud of during his tenure as president.
A number of current and former students and faculty were also recognized, including 2015 Nobel Laureate Aziz Sancar.
Perhaps the largest ovation was given to Chair of the Faculty Bruce Cairns, who suffered a heart attack on September 18. Cairns was treated at UNC hospital.
“Like countless others across this state,” he said, “I literally have this university to thank for my life.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/university-day-celebrations-interrupted-by-protest/
From Maria Palmer.
Last weekend I participated in the innagural WW Finlator Lectures in Faith & Social Justice at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. The church Bill Finlator pastored for 3 decades celebrated his legacy as one of the great American prophets of the 20th Century. Thank you, Pullen, for an inspiring weekend and for reminding us that we have so much work to do.
It is easy for us privileged Chapel Hillians to think that our actions are always consistent with the highest ethical standards. We don’t break the law. We recycle. We donate money to great causes. I am sure, many of us also pray for justice and for the poor on a regular basis.
But justice is NOT like the climate, something we can call “an act of God.” Justice (or injustice) is the result of our collective decisions. Bill Finlator reminded us that the Bible calls us to DO justice. When we fail to protect women and girls from sexual violence; when one third of our county’s residents are low-income and thousands are uninsured; when one in five children in Orange Co. are living in poverty, I think we may be failing to DO justice.
As we welcome Chancellor Carol Folt, I take hope. After all, UNC president Tom Ross has said she meets his criteria of “unwavering integrity” and somewone who will “always stand for what is right.”
What is right, Dr. Folt, is leading UNC and the community in doing justice. What is right, is paying UNC workers a living wage, what is right is protecting women—students and employees—against abuse and sexual violence. What is right is celebrating and thanking whistle-blowers, not harassing or firing them. They are the heroes who will make our University great. What is right is mobilizing the brain power of our expert Educators to close the achievement gap in our schools. What is right is giving the children of our lowest-paid workers access to the resources of our great university for tutoring, to attend summer programs and enrichment opportunities that bring wealthy children from across the US to our campus. What is right is giving poor children in our community the help they need so that they can attend UNC, not because they pulled themselves up but their non-existent bootstraps, but because the University refused to stand by while children of color are channeled into a permanent underclass. What is right, Dr. Folt, is to find a way to provide adequate health care and transportation for the workers in this community that will make it possible for you to do great things.
Chancellor Folt. Welcome to Chapel Hill. We expect great things from you!http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/welcome-chancellor-folt/