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Thorp expresses opinion on Amendment One

Despite laws that prohibit public employees from using state resources to engage in political activities, University administrators have been speaking out publicly about N.C. Amendment One.

According to the UNC-system Policy Manual, university employees are barred from using their public positions to advocate for or against issues on the May primary ballot, including the proposed gay marriage ban.

But UNC-CH administrators indirectly referenced the amendment in the statement it issued with Duke University last month. In the statement, Chancellor Holden Thorp said the University is dedicated to equality for all groups.

“Consistent with UNC-system policy in regard to political activities, we won’t take a position on the amendment,” Thorp said. “But personally, I am concerned that the passage of the amendment may affect our ability to provide equitable benefits for students, faculty and staff.”

In a similar statement, Duke officials said their support for equality includes issues beyond the confines of campus.

“Our commitment to diversity and equality extends beyond the campus to our larger community and region,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, in a statement.

Terri Phoenix, director of UNC-CH’s LGBTQ center, said the current laws heavily limit what University administrators are able to say about the amendment.

“He can’t take a position because of his public responsibilities as chancellor. You can talk about the facts, and that’s about it,” Phoenix said.

Thorp’s personal statement expressing reservations about the amendment follows his rejection last month of a gender-neutral housing proposal supported by Phoenix. He said at the time that “stakeholders off campus” had not been adequately informed about the proposal.

Despite the decision, Phoenix said Thorp has demonstrated his dedication to diversity and equality.

“He takes positions on issues that are important to him and close to him,” Phoenix said.

But Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake and a supporter of the amendment, said Thorp’s concerns about the amendment’s impact on benefits such as health insurance are baseless.

“It doesn’t change existing policy, so I don’t know how it would change the University’s policy,” he said. “It doesn’t change state law.”

And administrators aren’t the only ones getting involved. Student organizations across the UNC system are ramping up plans to advocate against N.C. Amendment One.

Roth Doyle, chairwoman of Alliance, UNC-Asheville’s LGBTQ organization, said the group hopes to form a coalition opposing N.C. Amendment One.

There is room for improvement in the system, and the organization wants to make sure that it hears from all types of groups on campus, Doyle said.

UNC-Wilmington student Josh Kinchen, a member of the university’s student government association, is collecting student signatures against the amendment.

“We want to make a stand for the good of all students, and stand with our sister schools,” he said.

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