Spectators gathered around the Belk Tower, listening to individuals speak about demands. Photo by: Benjamin Robson
Spectators gathered around the Belk Tower, listening to individuals speak about demands. Photo by: Benjamin Robson

Crowds gathered near the Belk tower on Thursday afternoon, as NC Student Power Union held its first ever UNC Charlotte Walkout.

The compilation of UNC Charlotte students, alumni and community activists participated in the walkout to get a variety of demands met. Their list of 20 demands ranges from issues regarding a freeze on tuition and moving to a tuition-free university model, to voter registration and gender neutral housing. Mainly, the group is trying to target the UNC Board of Governors to make their decision making process more collective.

“Their meetings are usually closed. They don’t allow public forum, they don’t allow students, parents or faculty and staff to speak on these issues that affect them on a daily basis. The decisions that are being made are made in a small room, by a small group of people, and you only hear about it through the news,” said D’atra Jackson, organizing director of NC Student Power Union.

At the walkout, several different individuals stepped onto the tower to take their turn stressing individual issues.

One of these individuals was UNC Charlotte Alumni, Sarona Bedwan. Bedwan is a part of Students and Justice for Palestine, and discussed issues regarding campus Safe Rides, free speech and voter registration. “What I love this groups is that it recognizes the intersectionality or all of these realities. To demand that food be more accessible on campus is just as important as people being sexually assaulted on campus and nothing being done about it. So it’s mainly about creating safe spaces for mental, physical and emotional health, because students, nor should anyone really, be subjected to harm because of faculty, or faculty be subjected to that because of budget cuts, because of North Carolina governors, or the Board of Education just simply neglecting us,” said Bedwan.

Amongst students, alumni and community activists at the walkout, university faculty and staff were also in attendance. Among them was UNC Charlotte Chief of Police, Jeffrey Baker.

When asked about the demand regarding police reform, that requests, “Police department reform and student-led resources and trainings for UNC Charlotte police regarding nondiscriminatory policy,” Baker commented, “I think we’ve met a lot of that already. We’ve had mandatory training for our officers on sex assault, sex assault investigation, how to respond better to victims of crime, victimization training, we’ve got the SafeZone training for the LGBTQ community, we are a SafeZone and so are our police cars. We’re the only police department in the country that has that designation, according to Josh Burford. So we try to stay ahead and abreast on all of the issues, and certainly we’re open to more.”

In addition the walkout held at UNC Charlotte, multiple other UNC system schools are holding walkouts on their campuses. Such universities include NC State, UNC Greensboro and UNC Chapel Hill.

The walk out held at UNC Chapel Hill will at the location of the board of governors meeting, in hopes that some type of disruption will be caused, drawing the board’s attention to the group’s demands.

“The purpose is to try to intensify the student voice, and to help them build their own power, and to help them understand that the decisions that are being made are not autonomy to them, there’s not transparency of some of the that truly affect students,” said Jackson.

To find out more about the UNC Charlotte Walkout, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/282294885308159/.

Full list of demands:

-An Immediate Freeze on Tuition and Initiating the Process of Moving a Tuition-Free University Model;

-Voting Student Representation on the UNC Board of Governors;

-A Living Wage of at Least $15-an-Hour for All Student and Non-Student Workers and Staff, Professors, and Adjuncts;

-No More Cuts to Departments and Class Selection,

-Student Review of the Revamped Title IX Office, Increased Student and Survivor Input;

-In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students;

-Police Department Reform and Student-Led Resources and Trainings for UNC Charlotte Police Regarding Nondiscriminatory Policing;

-Return On-Demand Safe Ride Services by Call;

-Anti-Oppression Trainings at SOAR, Directed by Student Organizations of Interest;

-Greater Inclusiveness in Class Procedures and Curriculum;

-Gender-Neutral Housing on Campus;

-Divestment of University Endowment from For-Profit Prisons, Companies Profiting Off of the Occupation of Palestine, Fossil Fuel Companies, and Corporations that Contract with Sweatshop Labor;

-Carbon-Neutral, More Sustainable Campus and Facilities;

-“Campus Y”-Like Safe Space for Social Justice and Inclusion on Campus;

-Protecting Historically Black Colleges & Universities and publicly-funded Community Colleges in North Carolina;

-A freeze on meal plan option prices, and reinstating tax free meal purchases at on-campus dining;

-Subsidize and regulate textbook prices and changeover;

-Safe Zone training in non-oppressive classroom settings for LGBTQ students mandatory for all professors;

-Recognized collective bargaining for graduate students, student-athletes, faculty, campus workers, and the general student body;

-That Art Pope not become the head of the UNC Board of Governors, or even granted a seat on the Board.

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Sara Carson is the News Editor for the Niner Times and has been working with the newspaper since August 2013. She is a communications major with double minors in journalism and English.

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