On March 1, where the Belk Tower once stood, graduate student Noe Pliego Campos lead 150 students and two professors in a chant- “Spellings walks in! We walk out!”

The Customer49 Walkout was part of a statewide effort to urge the Board of Governors to take back their decision to appoint Margaret Spellings as UNC system president. Spelling’s first day in office was the same day as the walkout.

Students attending 11 a.m. classes were asked to walk out of their classrooms at 11:10 to join together in the Belk Plaza. As they gathered, a unanimous decision was made to march to the Student Union where the Chancellor’s Lunchtime Talk was taking place.

The Lunchtime Talk was postponed due to the protest. Currently, the talk is not rescheduled for a later date.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Arthur Jackson speaks over protesters. Photo by Ben Robson.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Arthur Jackson speaks over protesters. Photo by Ben Robson.

“I feel like this happened within a week- I can only imagine what we can do with a bit more time,” said Pliego Campos about the protest turn out. “If we can’t do anything about it, we will at least speak up.”

Protesters were offended by comments Spellings made towards the LGBTQ community. In 2005, Spellings warned PBS against airing an episode of the children’s program “Postcards from Buster” that featured two lesbian couples. Spellings wrote to the president of CBS stating, “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles.”

Students gather at the Belk Plaza for the Customer49 walkout. Photo by Alex Sands.
Students gather at the Belk Plaza for the Customer49 walkout. Photo by Alex Sands.

“One thing we’re trying to see is exactly what the views of President Spellings’ are,” said Vice President Chancellor of Student Affairs Arthur Jackson. “This is her first day on the job so I think the students really need to sit down and talk to her about any concerns they have.”

Spelling’s starting base salary of $775,000 was mentioned multiple times during the protest as a “slap in the face” to the student’s struggling to pay their own tuition.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which Margaret Spellings has helped implement and enforce, was also a topic of concern for many protesters.

“Everybody should have equal access and opportunity to education,” said Junior Ryan Mach. “I think that’s what no child left behind was instituted to do, but the way that its been executed has put those that are at the bottom even further at the bottom.”

The attendees of the protest were speaking out on multiple other issues, including proposed plans to change the name and diversity of the historically black school Fayetteville State University and the Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP) that would require some students to earn an associate’s degree before they can attend a 4-year university.

A Facebook page has been created for those interested in organizing an event for Spellings’ campus visit on Mar. 14. Spellings will be visiting each of the UNC system schools within the next few months.

Protesters chant in the Student Union. Photo by Ben Robson.
Protesters chant in the Student Union. Photo by Ben Robson.
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Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Her work has been published in Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book at her home in Oak Island. Reach her at community@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.

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