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The Daily Tar Heel

Protesters seek reform from UNC Board of Governors

Protestors Madeleine Scanlon (left) and Jen Myers were arrested at the Jan. 26 board of governors meeting.

Protestors Madeleine Scanlon (left) and Jen Myers were arrested at the Jan. 26 board of governors meeting.

The UNC senior was arrested at the Jan. 26 board meeting, where protests from students and faculty were met with charges against Scanlon, Irving Allen, Olufemi Shittu and Jennifer Myers.

“I didn’t assault anyone, and they charged me with that felony charge to try to intimidate me, to try to scare me ... and it’s not going to work,” Scanlon said.

In a letter to the editor published in The Daily Tar Heel on Jan. 28 from Shittu, one of the arrested protesters, Shittu defended the protesters’ actions, citing issues with the board’s lack of transparency in its search for Spellings, cuts to programs in the humanities while several system chancellors were given raises and an overall problematic approach to maintaining the system’s HBCUs.

A vote to cut from East Carolina University’s liberal arts department triggered the protesters’ actions.

Scanlon’s charges included disorderly conduct in a public building, resisting a public officer and assault inflicting personal injury on law enforcement, according to a UNC police arrest report.

After a court appearance Thursday, she said the district attorney decided there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with the felony charge of assaulting an officer. Scanlon said she came out with two misdemeanors for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, which have the possibility of being expunged.

An escalating issue

Board member Marty Kotis said despite making himself available in the lobby before the meeting started, he did not think the protesters were really trying to engage board members in discussion.

“That’s reiterated by the fact that we had some of these protesters at the December meeting, and there’s been no outreach on their parts since December, at least to me and several of the other board members,” Kotis said.

Scanlon said the protesters’ ultimate goals are to have UNC-system president-elect Margaret Spellings fired, to have the board restructured to be more representative of students and faculty needs and to start a democratic search for a new president.

She said threats of defunding HBCUs in North Carolina, along with cutting majors, have sparked more protests statewide.

“I don’t know why they would be opposed to some of the things that we voted through,” Kotis said. “It just seemed like if we said yes, they were going to say no.”

He said although it was hard to tell what the different groups were protesting specifically, some of the same issues — like chancellor raises — had also raised concern among board members.

“I think several (members) of the board are readily available to talk to people that have a message, so long as it’s a constructive dialogue,” Kotis said.

He said Faculty Forward, one of the protest groups who presented a petition to the board before the meeting, was a good example of a respectful protest, and one he was about to compliment when the meeting was disrupted.

But Scanlon said even with the petition added to the meeting’s minutes, there was no place for the public to speak at the meeting.

“We have handed them petitions; we have handed them information packets; we have tried the friendly and nice way, and they just don’t listen, and they don’t care and it’s irrelevant to them,” she said.

Future communication

Kotis said a lot of the demands protesters have given are contradictory, like wanting costs of education to be reduced but not wanting any cuts to programs.

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“There’s a middle ground out there, and there are some elements that are not so black and white on these issues of where the university needs to be,” he said.

Kotis said the board wants to see more participation from the public.

“We do want to make sure we’re representing the interests of different groups out there, but not just the loudest groups that come in,” he said.

Scanlon said she hopes to keep the protesters’ presence known, by embodying the saying “they tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.”

“It’s the idea that the more they repress us, the more we’re just going to grow stronger,” Scanlon said. “If anything, this arrest is going to force me to share and transmit my fearlessness to other students.”