Board Terminates University Research Institutes, Hikes In-State Tuition

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The UNC Board of Governors has voted to terminate 3 academic centers focused on poverty, civic engagement, and biodiversity located on several university campuses throughout North Carolina. While board members claim the vote has nothing to do with suppressing progressive policies, many assert that conservative legislators are attempting to censor policy research and academic freedom within these institutions. Additionally, the board has voted to allow a tuition increase of up to 7% for in-state students across NC campuses. Student protests to these decisions have fallen on deaf ears. 

Read the NC Policy Watch article here.

 CHARLOTTE – The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors opted Friday to eliminate an academic center concentrated on poverty and run by a controversial professor.

The Board of Governors, meeting on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, voted unanimously to accept recommendations to shut down three centers on three different campuses – the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina University, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at N.C. Central University and the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Student protestors, who came to the meeting in Charlotte from several different campuses, nearly shut down the meeting.

Friday’s meeting also included a vote to allow campuses to raise tuition and fees over the next two years at its campuses, cost increases that range from 2 to 7 percent for in-state students. (Click here to read a previous post about this.)

The five-month review of centers and institutes, conducted at the behest of the Republican-led state legislature, looked at 240 centers on the 16 university campuses in the UNC systems. The university system leaders may opt to further evaluate nine marine science centers at various UNC campuses at a later date.

The resolution passed Friday makes clear that the three centers singled out for closure will be shut down by this summer and negates an effort, largely led by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, to urge Chancellor Carol Folt to keep the poverty center open.

Folt told the UNC Board of Governors that many on her campus view their actions as an attempt at suppressing academic freedoms.

“They’ve very fearful this decision [will have] a chilling effect,” Folt said.

The vote Friday to eliminate the poverty center came after student protesters interrupted the university’s governing board in the course of the meeting, leading chants of “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Shut it down!”

UNC Board Chair John Fennebresque called for a recess and then moved the university governing board’s meeting to a smaller room to hold its vote on the future of centers and institutes, keeping out students and other members of the public from coming in. Members of the press were allowed into the meeting room, and audio and video of the meeting was streamed to an adjoining room to comply with open meeting laws.

The elimination of the Poverty Center, in particular, brought accusations from faculty, students and others that it was an attempt to silence Gene Nichol*, the director of the Chapel Hill poverty center, who has rankled Republican leaders for his newspaper editorials lambasting largely Republican politicians for policies he attests ignore the plights of the poor. All of the 32-members of the UNC Board of Governors have received appointments from a state legislature dominated by Republicans.



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