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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Voice Concerns About Qatar

But Chancellor James Moeser said those students' opinions only will have a limited effect on the final decision.

"I don't think students are going to have a hands-on say," Moeser said. "At some point, someone is going to make a decision, and that's my job."

The forum, sponsored by student government and the Campus Y, included a panel of Moeser and four faculty members, all of whom have traveled to Qatar.

Moeser began the forum by outlining seven criteria upon which he said he would base his final decision. "There has been no decision made -- we are in deep research and are still questioning."

Moeser said he sees the Qatari campus as a unique opportunity to improve the University's international mission.

"To be the leading public university in the world, we need to be a global university," he said. "I regard this as a very, very difficult decision, one that will have a great impact on the future of the University."

The four panelists -- business professors Jennifer Conrad and Bob Adler, James Thompson, chairman of the Department of English, and Robert Sullivan, dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School -- each offered a pro-Qatar perspective. Student Body Vice President Rudy Kleysteuber said faculty members with negative views of the proposal declined to attend -- the only formal expression of doubt came in the form of a flier circulated by UNC graduate Adam Sokol before the meeting.

The remaining 90 minutes of the forum were dominated by a question-and-answer session, with students asking questions about a variety of issues related to Qatar and the potential program there.

Although the tone remained civil throughout the discussion, many students raised concerns about the proposal.

Many of the questions posed by students addressed the extent to which religious freedom and a liberal arts education would be incorporated into the program and whether the school would provide an implicit endorsement of the Qatari culture. "The exchange of cultures is not just business -- it's the entire faculty, representatives of every department, at any place which calls itself UNC," said senior international studies major Levin Brown.

But the panelists responded that the new school would be held to the same standards as UNC.

Panelists also said they would strive for socio-economic diversity by aiming to make about 30 percent of the student body non-Qatari citizens. They also said scholarships would be available to help achieve that goal. "If we're going to commit to this and we believe this is a public university and want to include some of the great values of UNC, we need to make that possible," Thompson said.

But Moeser said the University would not be able to set its own tuition policy and would have to negotiate financial aid to compensate. "There is no guarantee on tuition -- I suspect, quite candidly, it will be on the high side," he said. "It is almost being structured as a private university."

When asked to provide exact figures, Adler said he did not know how much money the Qatari officials had offered other schools and would offer UNC, either for managing the school or as a gift. "We played a game of 'guess the amount of the gift,' and the emir was extraordinarily coy about the amount," he said.

But Moeser said the most important thing to keep in mind is not the money but the mission of the University and how establishing a global campus would improve it. "My job is to make your education better," he said. "We have an obligation to show you there is more than North Carolina."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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