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North Carolina

SDS Fights Back Against the Economic Crisis

by staff |
May 5, 2009
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Asheville, NC - After several months of investigation into the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) budget situation, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) met with Chancellor Anne Ponder to address students’ grievances against the administration. The statement, What We Want & What We Believe , was presented by an SDS delegation of students and community members on May 1, International Workers Day.

At the last Board of Trustees meeting, 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 student body president Cortland Mercer to address concerns on the budget and cutbacks. Mercer and the SDS were able to talk to an administrative official about budget documents, but the administration was unwilling to fully disclose them.

It has been recently 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 the UNCA administration is to cut days that benefit students out of the academic calendar, such as the reading day for exam preparation and moving day for first-year students.

During the past several weeks, the local SDS chapter drafted a statement to bring to the chancellor. They decided to take the list of demands on May 1 and begin direct talks with the head of UNCA.

At the meeting, Chancellor Ponder found the statement “offensive,” and gave students advice on proposing concerns. But the delegation maintained that the approach was in good faith and that they expected 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% Latinos 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 SDS 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. SDS’s fight-back against the crisis at UNCA ensures that students’ 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 against unemployment and for greater benefits.

 

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