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.
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.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.
“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.”