Black UNC students, staff, and faculty are demanding more from their institution of higher learning. In a Wednesday press conference at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, a coalition of the Black Student Movement, the Carolina Black Caucus, and the UNC Black Graduate and Professional Student Association outlined the eight priorities members say the university could accomplish within the fall 2021 semester.

“Life is about relationships, and right now, the relationship between the University of North Carolina and its Black students, faculty, and staff is broken,” said Jaci Field, a UNC Athletics staff member and the advocacy co-chair for the Carolina Black Caucus, at the start of the meeting. 

The press conference follows Nikole Hannah-Jones’s announcement that she will not be coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, and will instead take her talents and expertise to create Howard University’s Center for Democracy and Journalism alongside writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The group is demanding the termination of Interim Police Chief Rasheem Holland, who has been acting as chief since mid-May and was shown in footage of the June 30 protest at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting. In these videos on social media, campus police shove protesters out of the board’s conference room and into the adjoining hallway. The confrontation included a moment when an officer struck a student with his cell phone, knocking off her face mask in the process. The student, BSM Vice President Julia Clark, later tweeted an image of the bruise on her cheek, which she says was left by Holland.

The Black Student Movement has released a statement on Holland’s recent appointment. 

“Not only does his pending promotion create a clear and present threat to the safety of Black students at UNC, but it further demonstrates this university’s commitment to the suffering of Black students and their comfortability with violence being perpetrated against us,” the group said.

When asked about potential repercussions for officers involved with the incident, a spokesperson for Risk Management Vice Chancellor George Battle said he has seen the videos from social media. Battle said UNC police “followed protocol,” and would not comment on any potential investigation or punishment. The INDY requested any footage from the Carolina Inn or from Officer Holland’s body camera, as well as any disciplinary records for the day, but none have been produced.

“We respect the right of our community to peacefully express themselves, but the law is clear that demonstrators cannot disrupt public meetings and proceedings,” Battle said in a press statement. “The situation was resolved with no injuries and proceedings were able to continue without further interruption. The officers on the scene dispute the allegation made by the demonstrators, however anytime an individual makes a claim of excessive force, UNC Police will review the claim.” 

The coalition is demanding the integration of UNC Anti-Racist Alerts, a grassroots initiative to alert students of white supremacists on or near campus, into the traditional Alert Carolina system. In previous years, neo-Confederates have been allowed to walk around Franklin Street and close to the grassy space where Silent Sam once stood, with no incoming information from the university to students who may be targeted by violence. Additionally, they want to see Black counselors and employees at UNC Campus Health, the Women’s Center, and the school’s Title IX office so students and others can receive help for racial trauma.

Aside from safety, the group is focusing on equity in symbolism on the Carolina campus, including a permanent James Cates memorial, rehabilitation, and a possible reassessment of the Unsung Founder’s Memorial on McCorkle Place. 

The coalition members also discussed creating equity in academic settings through action items like including the school’s grade appeal process and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office information on all professor syllabi, equity scorecards for each UNC-CH department using data from complaints and exit interviews from faculty, and revitalizing programs meant to recruit talented Black faculty members, and creating strategies to retain them.

“We have chosen items we feel could be accomplished within the next six months if the university truly makes the commitment that they made to us publicly and behind closed doors in meetings that they’ve had with us,” Black Student Movement president Taliajah “Teddy” Vann told the press. “Understand that we are on the ground for this next full academic year, and for this summer doing everything that we possibly can to get all of these demands met.”

“Some of them I think are critically important to have before the fall, those being having EOC and grade appeal information on syllabi, as well as having anti-racist alerts put in place in the Alert Carolina system before we go into the school year after such an incredibly polarizing year,” Vann continued. “So understand in the next few weeks and months, we are holding the university’s feet to the fire. We want to see action taken on these demands. These are actionable items.”

The Black Student Movement’s 13 demands for the university here, and the UNC Black Caucus’s demands from 2019 here.

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