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Archive for May, 2009

On May 20, a second delegation of SDSers met with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Dr. Bill Haggard, along with Dean of Students, Jackie McHargue, and Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Dr. Calvin Kelly (http://www.unca.edu/studentaffairs/OfficeVC.htm).  After roughly an hour and a half of talks, students won another concession with regard to budget transparency, and both sides renewed their interest in developing more student participation in the running of UNCA’s affairs.

Along with discussing our six points on What We Want & What We Believe, the principal concerns brought up were:

  1. Transparency.
    • Disclosure and communication to students regarding the university budget.
    • Tuition costs and fees must be fully explained to students.

Dr. Haggard’s response to the Six Points (our demands are in bold):

  1. We want a university that serves the people. We want a university that responds to the needs of the students, faculty, and staff. The Student Affairs office agrees that increasing student participation is a priority.
  2. We want transparency. We want to know exactly how the current economic crisis is going to effect our education at UNCA. They agree as well.  Dr. Haggard is developing a plan to have monthly budget forums led by the university administration that will be open to the student body for the next Fall semester.
  3. We want a moratorium on layoffs and pay-cuts to non-administrative personnel. He and the university cannot make promises.  There will be a new state budget for higher education from the North Carolina legislature by July 1, and layoffs and furloughs are on the table for consideration.  The state has mandated pay-cuts from top to bottom of all university employees (not Chartwells or private contractors) at UNCA of 3% for the last two months of the academic year (June & July ’09).  Most temporary employees and adjunct professors are not going to be rehired.  While there have not been layoffs, UNCA has not filled open positions for approximately a year.  There is a fundamental disagreement about “chopping from the top,” or cutting top administrative pay to alleviate the affects of the economic crisis on the university.
  4. We want a curriculum that reflects the needs of the people. The curriculum is mainly decided by the provost and the University Planning Council (see, “About the Strategic Plan”).  There was agreement that the dismantling of diversity studies should not occur and is not in line with UNCA’s mission.
  5. We want an immediate tuition-freeze. They say this is out of the question.  There is a disagreement about the affects of this.  It is the opinion of the administration that tuition revenue must “build the university.”  Student Affairs explained that there is a cap on tuition increase of 6.5% for two more years.  Last semester UNCA tuition increased around 3%.
  6. We want the Chancellor to sign a statement of her commitment to these points before a gathering of the press.  This is also said to be out of the question.  The Chancellor and other university heads may not sign a statement that they cannot completely fulfill.

SDS opposes the 2 month pay-cuts that were issued by the state.  If any pay-cuts need to happen, it should be to top administrative personnel and not affect student and public employees making a working class wage.  We see that our cause is linked with other North Carolina public universities in demanding more funds to higher education from the state.

SDS is also still open to fighting for a tuition-freeze.  There are some North Carolina senators seeking this, and other universities, such as NC State, have been fighting for the Tuition Certainty Act.  Because the economy is suffering, students have been asked to “tighten their belts” — on the contrary, SDS feels that the university and state should tighten its belts so that students and working class families do not have to suffer more from an increasing tuition.

We believe the reading day protest and talks with the administration have brought about two major concessions so far: a) the formation of a committee in the Fall that involves student participation in designing the academic calendar, and b) the monthly budget forums starting in the Fall.  Dr. Haggard has also mentioned that an advisory committee of student organizations and Student Affairs officials could be formed to develop more participation in university affairs.

We see a potential benefit to get involved in the University Planning Council (UPC) or in another official advisory capacity.  Building a university that serves the people necessitates that we the students be allowed into planning and advisory bodies in a greater proportion than we are in presently.  So far in the UPC, only two students have say in a 21-person body.  We are the majority in this institution and, thus, should have a greater say in university affairs than the administration and faculty.

This struggle is not simply economic, but political.  We are for building political power of the student body so that we students are empowered to have a greater say in the affairs of the university.  We know that non-white, queer, transgender, women, and working class students are the ones hit hardest during an economic crisis.  We are both a part of those oppressed groups and in solidarity with them.

Finally, we see that an open dialogue with the administration on our needs and demands is beneficial.  We are continuing talks in good faith, so long as the administraiton is both respectful and open to the students’ needs and demands.

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The massacre of civilians by the American forces is a crime that our people will never forget
Afghan student statement

_______________________________________________

For Immediate Release:

Protest to be held at Asheville Federal Building against Massacre in Afghanistan and the Ongoing Occupation.

On May 12th at 5:00 PM at the Asheville Federal Building, Students for a Democratic Society will be leading a demonstration against the occupation of Afghanistan and the reoccurring civilian massacres committed by the U.S. led coalition. On May 4th of 2009 around 100 civilians were murdered by U.S. air power. SDS finds this to be an unacceptable use of taxpayer money and another example of why the occupation of Afghanistan will ultimately fail.

Sarah Buchner, chair of the local SDS chapter says, “We are greatly displeased that the new administration is increasing military activity in Afghanistan. People hated George W. Bush because of his wars, and what are we doing now? It’s insane to trade one war for empire for another. We believe the Afghan people have the right to determine their own future. We need to leave Afghanistan now, and this latest civilian massacre is one more big reason.”

“Recently, General Petraeus of Central Command has noted that al-Qaeda no longer exists in Afghanistan,” said Doug Michel of UNCA SDS. “This means that the U.S. is waging another illegal preventative war ‘against terrorism’ just like it has been doing in Iraq.  This series of bloody massacres is waking people’s attention to the miserable plight of the Afghan people.  Americans are becoming increasingly critical of the war, and we join them in saying ‘U.S. Out of Afghanistan!'”

For more information, please contact:

Doug Michel, 919-698-3385, dwmichel(at)gmail(dot)com

or

uncasds(at)gmail(dot)com

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These are only rough notes taken so far.  There will be a meeting tonight at 8:30 in the Highsmith Student Organization Suite to discuss our summation and plans to move forward. – Doug

There were nearly 100 students today who came out to protest against the administration cutting days out of the 2009-2010 academic calendar that benefit students.  With banners such as “Transparency Now!” and chanting “Let the Students Have Our Say, Give Us Back Our Reading Day!”, students rallied for accountability, transparency, and more student participation in decisions that affect us and the university community.

After the rally on the Quad, we marched to Phillips Hall, the administration building, and staged a “study-in.”  Students reclaimed Phillips as our space and sat in and outside the building under banners to study for finals and to discuss problems at UNCA.

The provost and a representative of the Faculty Senate then requested a meeting with leaders of the protest and any other concerned students.  We were able to talk in a constructive manner about various problems at UNCA, possible solutions, and our demands.

From the students, we demanded:

  1. Transparency.  The major problem with the restructuring of the calender was the lack of open communication between the administration and student government (along with the student body at large).
    • We want disclosure of all pertinent budget documents to be informed of the things that affect us as students and community members.  We will set up a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of Finance to address this aspect.
    • We want a structure or some way to improve communication between the administration, faculty, and student body.
    • We want to develop a better understanding of tuition costs and where they are going.  We may possibly meet with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to clarify this issue and make it more accessible to students.  So far, there is a student-administration forum held every semester that addresses this.
  2. We want our student reading day back.

On the provost side:

  1. She apologizes and takes responsibility for the lack of democracy and accountability regarding the restructuring of the academic calender.  Her intentions are to minimize the affect of the economic crisis on students, and not permanently affect our benefits in the future.
  2. She has promised that a committee will be formed in the Fall semester that will include staff, faculty, and students to decide on issues around the calendar and other issues.  The committee will establish its own “democratic process” and function as an organization.  This addresses part of our demand on transparency.
  3. She will talk to the Vice Chancellor of Finance on our request to disclose budget documents.
  4. The elimination of the student reading day cannot be undone for the 2009-2010 academic calendar.  The students plan on discussing the future of reading day and other days that benefit students at a later meeting.
  5. She commits to a building a more open and better relationship with student government and the student body.

On the faculty side:

  1. The faculty senate agreed with the administration to cut three days which benefit students after they both considered different options.
  2. After student government raised the fact that their members sit in on faculty senate meetings, the faculty senate representative agreed to have one of their members sit in on student government meetings.
  3. The representative raised the point that no document can be passed the day it is on the floor of the senate.  Usually, the public may take up to one month to look at the document on the faculty senate website.

Overall, all agreed that the meeting was beneficial.  The Coalition for Education Rights will decide where to go from here.  If you would like to join the Coalition in a movement to increase student participation in university affairs, please join our Google Group.

They say Cut Back, We say Fight Back!

Power Where There’s People!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 4, 2009

COALITION FOR EDUCATION RIGHTS

Demonstration to Be Held on UNCA Campus

On May 5, 2009

The Coalition for Education Rights at the University of North Carolina at Asheville will hold a demonstration on Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 12:30 PM to approximately 2:00 PM. The Coalition is protesting the move by administration officials to cut days out of the academic calendar that benefit students.

The Coalition for Education Rights of UNCA was formed on May 3 in efforts to oppose the restructuring of the 2009-2010 academic calendar. These changes are meant to take away days that benefit students, such as the reading day for exam preparation and moving day for first-year students. Coalition student groups include the Student Government Association (SGA), Students for a Democratic Society, Students for True Liberal Arts, Herman@s Orgullos@s en las Americas, Active Students for a Healthy Environment, College Democrats, and College Republicans, among others.

In a recent Blue Banner news article, “Administration fails to consult students on calendar changes,” student body president Cortland Mercer and SGA official Steven Haas claim that the “changes have been made retroactively, without the consultation of students, and are an offense to all those paying tuition and fees. The Student Government Association has written legislation in response to this change. We request that the administration reconsider its current action and return to the 15-week system that was in effect as recently as the 2007-08 academic year and had been for many previous decades.”

“The important issue at hand is transparency,” said Doug Michel of Students for a Democratic Society. “The administration is not only acting against students’ interests, but has also failed to be open about their intentions. The economic crisis at UNCA affects us all as students, and we plan on opposing attempts to cut back our benefits and rights. We need a university that welcomes student participation in the planning of its affairs. We need a university that serves the people.”

There will be several speakers during the demonstration from several coalition groups on the quad. The demonstration will then proceed to rally outside of Phillips Hall and stage a study-in, where students will sit and protest during what may be their last studying day.

For more information, please contact:

James Price, 919-357-2187, ncstla[at]gmail[dot]com

Doug Michel, 919-698-3385, dwmichel[at]gmail[dot]com

educationrightsprotest1

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Source: unca.edu

Source: unca.edu

After several months of investigation into our budgetary situation at UNCA, we met with Chancellor Anne Ponder to address students’ grievances against the administration.   The statement, What We Want & What We Believe was presented by our delegation of students and community members on May 1, International Workers Day.

At the last Board of Trustees meeting on March 23, an SDSer attempted to sit in on one of the presentations, but was eyed suspiciously by attendees and blocked from entering a presentation.  SDS then approached our student body president Cortland Mercer to address concerns on the budget and cut-backs.  Mercer and SDS were able to talk to an administrative official for the disclosure of budgetary documents, but much of our progress was hampered by an unwillingness to fully disclose them.

It has been revealed that University of North Carolina system president Erskine Bowles has advocated that UNC schools tighten their belts, and even has admitted that some “vertical cuts” are to be made.  This means that some programs, such as Leadership scholarships at UNCA, are completely cut.  Another ploy by our administration is to cut days that benefit students out of the academic calender, such as reading day for exam preparation and moving day for first-year students.

During the last several weeks, our chapter drafted the statement to bring to the chancellor.  We decided to take our list of demands on May 1 to begin direct talks with the head of UNCA.

At the meeting, Ponder found the statement “offensive,” and gave us advice on proposing concerns.  But the delegation maintained that our approach was in good faith, and that we expect the right to demand accountability, transparency, student participation, and a university that serves the people.

“What we find offensive is a university that prides itself as a diverse campus, but only has 4% African American and 2.7% Latin@ of our student body,” said SDSer Doug Michel.  “Ponder makes a quarter of a million dollars per year from taxpayers and our tuition but felt that our demands, including a tuition-freeze and pay cuts from top administrative officials, were unreasonable.  We want to continue talks in good faith, but hope that the chancellor understands who she serves as a public university official.”

The chancellor and another delegation is set to meet next week to continue talks.

Amidst a deteriorating economy, a movement of students has swept across the U.S. to demand education rights — from the University of Vermont to southern California.  Our fight back against the crisis at UNCA ensures that our education will not be cut back while bankers get bailed out.  UNCA SDS stands in solidarity with the movement against home foreclosures and working peoples’ demands for job security and better pay.

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What We Want & What We Believe*

UNC-Asheville Students for a Democratic Society

http://www.unca.edu/sds | uncasds@gmail.com

1. We want a university that serves the people. We want a university that responds to the needs of the students, faculty, and staff.

We believe that in light of the current economic crisis, we, as students at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, are justified in making certain demands of the administration, and that the university administration is responsible first and foremost to the students that it serves. We believe that this is at the core of what a public, liberal-arts university should always aspire to be.

2. We want transparency. We want to know exactly how the current economic crisis is going to effect our education at UNCA.

We believe that if we are to make sound decisions about the future of our education, we must be informed of all of the facts. Since the administration is responsible to us, the students, it is likewise responsible for providing us with all of the facts. This includes what departments are going to be cut, what positions are going to be cut or discontinued, what continuing positions will be taking a pay-cut. This should be submitted in writing to the students, faculty, and staff of UNCA for approval immediately.

3. We want a moratorium on layoffs and pay-cuts to non-administrative personnel.

We believe that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of poor and working people. Unfortunately it is a tendency in all too many cases to lay off unskilled, low-wage workers first. We believe that the university administration should instead assure the faculty, staff, and student body that it is committed to justice and equality, and that it intends to CHOP FROM THE TOP.

4. We want a curriculum that reflects the needs of the people.

We believe that, since the historic struggles of previous generations, public universities have provided important programs like Ethnic Studies to teach about the history of systemic oppression in this country, including racist, national oppression, and the oppression of women. As a result of such programs dangerous tendencies towards Eurocentrism in education have begun to be dismantled. Unfortunately, during times of economic hardship, it is often the case that the first departments to be cut are those that were won through the struggles of past generations, such as Women’s Studies or Africana Studies. We believe it is the responsibility of the university, as a public institution committed to diversity, to protect and safeguard these departments.

5. We want an immediate tuition-freeze.

We believe that UNCA must live up to its mission statement and be a home to “faculty, students, and staff of diverse cultural backgrounds”. As public universities move to increase tuition, we believe that it is the oppressed nationalities in this country to whom the doors of higher education are being systematically closed. UNCA currently is a school where only 4% of the student body is African American, and only 2% are “Hispanic”. We believe that this fails to represent any kind of real diversity, and we believe that any tuition hike, whether big or small, will only exacerbate the problem, further segregating the school.

6. We want the Chancellor to sign a statement of her commitment to these points before a gathering of the press.

We believe that it is an important step in any process to open a dialogue based on good faith. We believe that all that we have outlined in this statement is reasonable, and in accord with the spirit of the Mission Statement of the university.

*This document has been officially presented to the Chancellor by a delegation of SDS members at UNCA. The version we are posting here has not been changed, except by correcting the numeration of the points.

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