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Friday May 7th

UNC employees could face $500 cap in student fees for speaking engagements

Student groups could have a harder time getting UNC faculty to speak at their events if a bill presented to Student Congress passes Tuesday.

The bill limits the amount in student fees that student groups can use to pay a UNC employee to $500.

The bill, nicknamed “The Ehrman Clause,” was proposed after Student Congress approved $3,000 to UNC Cornerstone in the fall to pay religious studies professor Bart Ehrman to speak at a Feb. 1 debate.

Student Congress is charged with appropriating funds from student activity fees to campus groups to pay speakers, among other purposes.

Jared Simmons, chairman of the finance committee and sponsor of the bill, said some members of Student Congress thought $3,000 was a steep price for a UNC professor to speak on his own campus.

But they approved the $3,000 each for Ehrman and Daniel Wallace, a New Testament studies professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Andrew Hove, treasurer of Cornerstone, said group members thought Ehrman’s fee was a fair request.

“Ehrman is a world leader in his field, and he’s respected across the board,” Hove said.
Simmons said he was concerned that the entire $3,000 came from student fees.

“A lot of tuition and costs of going to school already pay for professor salaries,” Simmons said. “It’s a double-dipping thing.”

He said professors should be paid as little as possible to speak.

“That’s what UNC professors are here for, is to help the student body,” Simmons said. “If they have an opportunity to impact more than their normal classes, they should jump at that opportunity.”
Ehrman said he was unaware that the money had come from student fees.

“Nobody told me where the money was coming from,” he said. “I assumed Cornerstone had paid for it.”

Ehrman said he decided to return the entire $3,000 amount.

“I don’t think it’s right for faculty to be paid from student funds, so I’ll be returning the money,” he said.

Student Congress might be able to add the amount to this semester’s budget to reallocate to other requests, Simmons said.

Ehrman said limiting funding to student groups is fair.

“It makes sense to me that student groups should raise their own funds for speakers,” he said. “I’m surprised (student government) didn’t have a policy before.”

Hove said he hopes the bill won’t limit the ability of student groups to host events on campus.

“We would’ve tried as hard as we could to raise money to do the event, but at the same time, it would’ve taken us a very long time, and we probably couldn’t have put it on this year.”

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