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Students: BoG Is “Micro-Managing” UNC-CH Policies

CHAPEL HILL – About a dozen students rallied at the Board of Governors meeting Thursday, upset over two policies passed by system leaders. Students say they won’t let the matters go and will keep showing up at Board meetings until they feel their voices are heard.

UNC-CH Senior Kate Davis-Jones was one of the students who gathered at the Board of Governors meeting in protest of changes made to the drop/add policy.

“The Board of Governors has been consistently just stepping into the University, micro-managing, and sort of twisting things to the way they think the University should run,” Davis-Jones said. “They are completely by-passing any sort of criticism or input of people who are actually at the University. “

Passed by the Board of Governors in April, the policy established a system-wide drop period. It shortened UNC-CH’s current drop period from eight weeks to ten days. Any course dropped after the 10th day of the semester will appear as a withdrawal on students’ transcripts. The policy is required to go into effect by the fall of 2014.

“The wonderful thing about the eight-week drop/add policy is that it allows students to challenge themselves, and take risks with their education,” Davis-Jones said.

Davis-Jones said she wanted more transparency from the Board of Governors and also wanted the student voice to factor more into their policies.

Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said at a Board of Trustees committee meeting in September that it was a “one-size-fits-all” policy that will not help Carolina’s students succeed. She said receiving a “W” on a transcript created a stigma concerning the student’s academic credentials.

Student Body President Christy Lambden told the Board of Trustees that he also was against the policy.

In 2004, UNC lengthened the drop period from six to eight weeks, according to a University publication.

When the policy was introduced in the fall of 2012, it was met with resistance from then UNC Student Body President Will Leimenstoll and the Faculty Executive Committee, who voted unanimously against the proposal.

“It implied that students shouldn’t be pushing their education to its limits,” Davis Jones said. “They shouldn’t be challenging themselves, and they shouldn’t be courageous with their electives.”

Students outside the meeting were also protesting the Board of Governor’s ban on gender-neutral housing, a program that would have allowed males and females to live together in the same University dorm suites or apartments.

The UNC Board of Trustees voted last November to allow gender-neutral housing. Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp backed the Trustees’ decision, saying it would help keep students safe.

However, in August, UNC System leaders overturned the Trustees’ decision, and halted the program before it could begin the pilot year. The measure passed unanimously without discussion.

UNC Senior Kevin Claybren served as the Student Coordinator of the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition. He was set to live with three other females in Ram Village Apartments, the first four students to participate in the program at UNC.

“Right now we are just trying to show the Board of Governors that we care about this issue,” Claybren said. “We are not going to stop talking about this issue. We will continue to keep showing up as long as it is something that matters to us. We also want to make sure that students who don’t have voices are really heard and are visible.”

The program would have allowed males and females to share bathrooms and common areas in suites or apartments, but not share the same bedroom. The program was voluntary and only available in designated buildings.

Fifty-five University departments and groups supported the program, including the UNC Parents Council, student government and the executive branch of the student government. More than 2,000 students signed a petition in favor of gender neutral housing.

Chair of the Board of Governors, Peter Hans, said at the August 9th meeting that to enacting a policy change is a two-step process. First, the measure is taken up by the Governance Board, which was done in June, and then it goes to the full Board. Hans said there was no opposition to the policy change “whatsoever.”

“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included. The Board believes there are more practical ways to achieve those goals than assigning young men and young women to the same dorm rooms and campus suites,” Hans said on August 9.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/students-say-bog-is-micro-managing-unc-ch-policies/

Student Signed-Up For Gender Non-Specific Housing Reacts To Ban

Pictured and photo courtesy: UNC Senior Kevin Claybren  

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chapel Hill has endeavored to improve student safety through University-wide efforts. Some have said that gender non-specific housing, also known as gender neutral housing, a program allowing males and females to live together in the same University dorm suites or apartments, might have saved some students from facing harassment because of their sexual identities. However, it was banned last week by UNC System leaders before the program could be begin its pilot year.

UNC Senior Kevin Claybren served as the Student Coordinator of the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition. He was set to live with three other females in Ram Village Apartments, the first four students to participate in the gender non-specific housing pilot program at UNC, allowing males and females to share bathrooms and common areas in suites or apartments, but not share the same room.

“Our Board of Governors, the University of North Carolina’s System Board of Governors, are not focused on student safety and student success,” Claybren said. “They are focused on other things and other agendas.”

Claybren said the Board of Governors’ decision, which affects the 16 UNC System campuses, put him in a bind to find housing, and now he is living alone.

“I looked forward to being around other people who would be able to affirm my identity and I could have affirmed their identity. I looked forward to being in that welcoming and inclusive environment where people welcomed the discussion and welcomed these challenging and hard conversations,” Claybren said, adding he believes that feeling safe in a residence hall influences positive academic success.

The Coalition worked for more than two years to make the program a reality, Claybren explained. The group held a sessions in which students shared how they had been bullied.

“We knew that gender non-specific housing was a way to address the bullying and harassment that was happening in our housing experience on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus,” Claybren said.

Terri Phoenix, UNC’s LGBTQ Center Director, served on the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition alongside Claybren.  She said that residence halls were the fourth most common location where students said they had experienced harassment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression, according to UNC’s 2011 Campus Climate Report.  She said that half of the students who reported harassment identified themselves as heterosexuals. Phoenix said she believed that the program would have benefited a diverse group of students.

Fifty-five University departments and groups supported the policy, including the UNC Parents Council, the student government and the executive branch of the student government. More than 2,000 students signed a petition in favor of the gender non-specific housing. Most notably, the UNC Board of Trustees approved the policy last November, championed by former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

“We were able to demonstrate that this proposed policy had broad-based support from a number of student organizations and other departments. We made the case that this was an approach, one of many approaches, that we wanted to have at our disposal to ensure student safety,” Phoenix said.

Phoenix, who also served on the Sexual Assault Task Force this summer, said the point of gender non-specific housing, was not to randomly assign males and females to live together. She said it was about providing a safe environment, allowing students the opportunity to room with other people who elected to be a part of the pilot program.

“And this group of people then would have had the chance to say I want to live with these specific roommates, regardless of what their gender was, or they would have been assigned with other people who also said, ‘I have concerns about safety, I want to be in a place where people don’t have concerns about rooming with a LGBTQ person,’” Phoenix said. “That what this policy would have done, and that is what was prevented by this Board of Governors’ decision.”

Phoenix said she questioned the timing of the Board of Governor’s Decision, when students were not on campus and without hearing student or faculty comment. It not protocol, though, for the Board meetings to take public comment.

Peter Hans, Chair of the Board of Governors, replied last Friday when asked why the policy was banned:

“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included. The Board believes there are more practical ways to achieve those goals than assigning young men and young women to the same dorm rooms and campus suites,” Hans said.

Phoenix said his response was a “simplistic representation” of what the policy was.

Both Phoenix and Claybren said that despite the Board of Governors’ decision, they will continue to educate people about why gender non-specific housing is important, with the hope that the Board of Governors will revisit the policy in the future.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/student-signed-up-for-gender-non-specific-housing-reacts-to-ban/