CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A group of University of North Carolina students took over a “town hall” on the UNC campus Thursday to discuss the issue of race and inclusion as the issues that boiled over at the University of Missouri continued to be debated across American campuses.
The meeting, at the Memorial Hall on campus, comes after the dramatic events in Columbia, Missouri, where the system president and school chancellor resigned under pressure after concerns from black students. In that case, many of the school’s black football players refused to practice or play until the system president was removed.
Events at campuses in North Carolina have not been that dramatic, but Thursday’s event showed the tensions that are still simmering. Shortly into the meeting, a group of black students moved to the front and began reading a list of demands they said would improve student life.
They carried a banner reading, “UNC stands with Mizzou,” and demanded the removal of the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam and a moratorium on tuition increases.
‘We demand mandatory programming for all university constituents on the historical racial violence of this university and town,” they said.
When the moderator, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Clarence Page, asked if the group wanted to give others a chance to speak, the students continued to list their demands.
After the students finished with their demands, they walked out. Later, they said they have tried to bring attention to their concerns for a while and want to see some action.
“There is no action being taken in those meetings,” said Christina Perkins, a UNC senior. “It’s the same thing year after year.”
And student June Beshea said, “They [UNC leaders] want to ahve this because they’re afraid of Missouri. They’re afraid about their own jobs. They’re afraid about their salaries, is really what this is.”
UNC chancellor Carol Folt said that is not the case, but she did acknowledge the students’ frustrations.
“The urgency that’s happening in this country is really important, I think,” Folt said. “I wanted our students to be able to have this conversation even before they go home for Thanksgiving. I want people to know we’re going to take action.”
Folt did not offer specifics on what Carolina will do but said administrators plan to meet right away.
Page said he has heard similar concerns from students of color at other college campuses.
“They feel somewhat ignored,” he said. “I’ve seen that worse at some campuses. I think, Missouri, that was a big problem there.”