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Chancellor Guskiewicz delivers annual state of the University address

Kevin Guskiewicz Presser

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz answers questions at a press conference at the Carolina Inn on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

In a joint session between the undergraduate, graduate and professional senates on Tuesday, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz delivered a state of the University address.

Among other issues, he discussed campus safety improvements, mental health resources for graduate students and the impact of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision

Every year Guskiewicz delivers an address to the Undergraduate Senate, but this year the UNC Graduate and Professional Student Government was also included in the discussion. 

Katelyn Heath, senior vice president of UNC GPSG, said the Graduate and Professional Student Government works alongside the Undergraduate Student Government to achieve the same goals and that being part of the “flagship event” will help all students.

“We’ve been trying to take more time to partner up and get connected on initiatives that we’re doing that are similar and trying to meet the needs of all students with our combined efforts,” she said

Members of both groups joined community members in Kerr Hall to hear from Guskiewicz. He began his speech by recognizing the Aug. 28 campus shooting and the ways in which students, faculty and police responded to the event. 

Guskiewicz expressed his confidence in the chief of UNC Police Brian James and said the University has increased the amount of patrol officers on campus. 

The war in Gaza has also impacted students both locally and internationally, Guskiewicz said. He said the University aims to protect students while allowing them to engage in discussion. 

“We won’t stand for violence in any way on our campus and we’re committed to allow groups to express their opinions on our campus,” he said. “Under the first amendment we strive to rise above hateful rhetoric and engage in civil discourse and educated debate.” 

Heath said free speech is an important topic to discuss and that she was excited Guskiewicz covered this issue. 

“I’m happy to hear that the University wants the students to have a voice and wants the community to be able to talk about these complicated topics and not shut things down,” she said

Guskiewicz went on to speak about the Jun. 29 Supreme Court affirmative action decision. The Supreme Court ruled against Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill by ending the ability for colleges and universities to consider race as a basis for admission. 

Although the decision will impact the admissions process for colleges across the country, Guskiewicz said the University is committed to diversity and will support the “lived experiences” of students and faculty. 

Despite the University’s challenges this semester, Guskiewicz said UNC is ranked #1 in best value among all public schools

“It’s about the quality of the education that you receive and we provide that incredible education to you at the most affordable price possible,” he said. “Our goal is that our students can graduate as debt free as possible.” 

The ability to attend UNC will be made easier for students, as starting in the fall of 2024, in-state students whose families make less than $80,000 a year will be guaranteed tuition, Guskiewicz said

Guskiewicz expressed the importance of providing more mental health resources to students and faculty. He said students had difficulty meeting with Counseling and Psychological Services counselors and that CAPS has hired more “multi-cultural health” counselors. 

Luke Conners, vice president of communications for UNC GPSG, said mental health is important to him. As a graduate student himself, he said hearing Guskiewicz speak about this issue was encouraging. 

“I was very pleased with what he was able to say,” he said. “While he didn’t get through a lot of details, I think by his remarks it was clear that he is a strong supporter of these efforts.” 

Heath said the graduate and undergraduate senates will continue working with the chancellor.  

“We’re about halfway through the semester now and I still think we’ve got a lot of time to keep working on our goals and make some good changes,” she said.

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