From young voter turnout to gun control, UNC students rallied behind the issues that matter to them most in 2022. Key topics of community conversation included climate preservation, affirmative action and University employee wages.
Here's a breakdown of some of the student activism and advocacy on campus this year:
Students gathered in March as part of a global climate strike in front of South Building. They called upon the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to divest from fossil fuels, presenting a list of other local and global changes that advocated for environmental justice at the University.
Among these students was Tariro Magarira, a junior at the time of the protest.
Magarira said that climate change is an “existential crisis,” and he wants students to keep a constant level of pressure against the BOT, rather than waiting for another climate strike to occur.
If Magarira could tell himself anything as a first-year student, it would be to use his voice.
“I’d tell him that your voice and your ability to create change is way more than you would ever think it is,” he said.
During the fall semester, the Supreme Court heard a case concerning the future of affirmative action – Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina.
Students from UNC for Affirmative Action went to Washington, D.C., to support the consideration of race in UNC’s admission process. Among them was Joy Jiang, co-leader of the club.
Jiang said that, though the organization has encountered negativity, they have also received support from the campus community.
“As students, the biggest thing that we can do is help the future generation and continue that pipeline to greatness because that's what we want to achieve. Instead of tearing that down, we have to continue to keep that open for all potential people to create the equity that we always talk about,” she said.
The UNC chapter of March for Our Lives, a national gun violence prevention organization, held a rally outside the South Building in October — their first rally since 2018.
Chapter President Megan Chen said it meant a lot to see people united by their passion for gun control, especially because the rally took place the afternoon after a mass shooting in Raleigh.
Chen said that she hopes to see less gun violence and more gun reform in 2023.
“I want to see that gun violence is less normalized because there's been so many shootings that have happened just this past week, and nobody's talking about them because it happens so often,” she said.
In October, The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform brought the Genocide Awareness Project to UNC, a traveling mobile display that uses graphic visuals and compares abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides.
Students quickly began protesting, using signs to cover up the graphic images featured on the display and chanting over members of the center.
“I had never seen anything like that in high school,” first-year Elisabeth Hornfeck said. “It was just a group of people coming together for a common interest, and people were willing to get up at 5:30 a.m. and come sit on the quad so they couldn't set up their display.”
North Carolina Young People’s Alliance held a rally on campus in early November advocating for Democracy Day, which would make Election Day a holiday at UNC.
Students, community members and political leaders attended and spoke at the event.
Sam Hiner, the executive director of the NCYPA at UNC, said he was encouraged by the number of politicians and nonprofit leaders at the rally. He hopes to continue advocating for a Democracy Day both at the University and at the state level.
“I'd say to any young people who are interested in politics, it is possible to get involved and to make a difference, and that's what we hope to do through the Young People's Alliance, is get young people engaged in politics and teach them the skills to be effective advocates,” he said.
This fall, housekeepers across campus began working together with student organizations and The Workers Union at UNC to push for two main demands: $20 per hour wages and free parking.
The Campus Y co-sponsored a housekeepers’ rally in October.
“These issues have been going on for a long time, but they were only exacerbated during the pandemic, so I think it's been really exciting to see people mobilize around that and be there to support housekeepers,” Co-president Megan Murphy said.
She said that she hopes students stay tuned for future actions, have conversations with others about workers’ rights and make housekeepers' jobs easier.
“We care about the people in this community, and we're going to have their backs,” Murphy said.
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