Mark Fleming, vice president for government relations with the UNC system, said the bill could put system schools at an economic advantage compared to other states.
“We think it will be very positive,” he said. “We believe that our campuses provide the economic engine for the states.”
But some of the bill’s opponents have questioned the bill’s true intentions and wonder if the wording of the bill could allow for too much marketing freedom for universities.
“It’s just sort of a corporatization of the university,” said Cam Hill, Chapel Hill Town Council member. “Everything they’re doing these days is all about money.”
The council has joined with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation and the recently dissolved Chapel Hill Downtown Commission, in opposing the bill.
Those who oppose the bill said one of their main concerns is the section that would allow universities to provide campus-related services or merchandise to alumni.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, who voted for the bill, said she also questioned the alumni section of the bill.
“One of the questions I had with it was, ‘Did it apply to all alumni?’”
Insko also said the bill seemed vague in areas.
“I have some questions about whether or not it’s broader than it needs to be,” she said. “I would be interested to see how it does in the Senate.”
The bill also would set up a nine-member panel that would receive businesses’ complaints if they feel a university was placed in competition with them.
Universities also could come before the panel and see if a good or service they wanted to rent or sell would compete with businesses.
But the bill’s opponents still worry its vagueness will allow universities to sell many things of which private businesses were previously leading vendors.
“It will make more things available on-campus that weren’t available on-campus,” Hill said. “That will keep folks from going downtown.”
But Fleming said the bill doesn’t seek to bring down local businesses.
“I walk down Hillsborough Street, and I walk down Franklin Street, and there are alumni and visitors that love to go to those stores, and that’s not going to change,” he said.
“We’re not wanting to compete with and hurt local businesses.”
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