As the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions plots the future of the university, an informal group of faculty, staff, and students organized a campus-wide event calling for greater diversity and additional representation in the planning process.
On October 23rd, the “Five Year Forum on the Future of UNC” featured speakers representing the voices of constituencies who have felt marginalized in the planning process. Student organizers distributed handouts highlighting the fact that staff have been allotted one representative, Charles Brink, for 31,850 constituents.
Employee Forum delegate Anna Schwab spoke on behalf of staff across the university. Schwab, Program Manager in the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters, explained her investment in Carolina as an alum who has worked at the university since she was 14 years old, holding positions as varied as bicycle messenger, lab assistant, and program manager. She humorously illustrated how the university nurtured her early career as a student and allowed her to develop into her position now as a full-time EPA Non-faculty employee.
She emphasized the importance of a university that allows staff to bring new skills into the workplace, and argued in favor of encouraging staff retention to preserve institutional memory.
Schwab underscored staff concerns about the reduction of benefits, the removal of SPA staff from the protections offered by the State Personnel Act, and the attainment of a living wage for all university workers. She expressed concern about minorities clustered in low-paid positions in the Housekeeping department and the increased demands on those workers to achieve higher levels of efficiency with fewer staff as a result of recent layoffs.
Art Pope, a member of the UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions and President of the John William Pope Foundation, attended the forum but was denied the opportunity to speak or respond to the concerns of the panelists. Several of the panelists had alluded to concerns about his presence on the Strategic Directions Committee and questioned his commitment to the public funding of higher education.
Despite requests for more direct representation of staff, students, and faculty on the committee, President Ross has instead appointed a 12-member Faculty Advisory Council to be responsible for providing input and communicating outward to faculty in all the system schools. Requests for more staff and student input have not been addressed to date.
The committee is expected to have a report drafted in January of next year, prior to the new legislative session.