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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Students deserve a bigger seat at the table in the chancellor search

All we want for Christmas is a chancellor. But will we get one?

The short answer is: we don’t know. We haven’t heard anything, and those involved in the search process are legally required to keep their mouths shut. 

Members of the search committee sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from sharing any information about the process. The committee’s goal is to appoint a new chancellor by the end of the calendar year, but the public knows very little about who is being considered or what progress has been made.

According to the University’s website, the 20-member search committee includes faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and the community. There are only two students on the committee: Undergraduate Student Body President Ashton Martin and Graduate and Professional Student Federation President Chastan Swain. Meanwhile, several members of the Board of Trustees sit on the committee. This means that the Board’s 12 non-student members get a much bigger say compared to the University’s roughly 30,000 students.

The committee has officially met a handful of times, and public forums were held on two occasions. Much of the process, however, occurs behind closed doors, and confidentiality is key.  

A couple public forums don’t amount to much when everything else occurs in secret. And frankly, it seems like the committee is only holding these forums to say that they did so — not because they actually value student input. 

Students are the biggest group of stakeholders in this process. The decision affects us more than anyone else. So why are we the least powerful? 

Is it because:

A) we aren’t big-money donors (unless you count the hundreds of millions of dollars we collectively fork over each year in the form of tuition)
B) we’re just kids who are too young to truly know what’s best for us 
C) the University simply doesn’t care about what we think, or
D) all of the above?

Students have long been underrepresented in the University's decision-making processes. We deserve more seats at the table — more than just two public forums in which we could only share abstract qualities we desire in our next chancellor. We should have more than two representatives who can evaluate the actual candidates being considered for the position.

The chancellor search process is opaque, unfair and undemocratic. Students have a right to know who is being considered as our next leader, to give feedback and to participate in the decision-making process. 

The University shouldn’t be surprised if students object when the new chancellor is named — especially since students were barely given a say in the first place. It’s a simple fix, really: just give students more of a say and it’ll make life easier for us all.

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