With silent protests, UNCW students demand more transparency

Casey Auch | Layout Editor

Several UNC Wilmington students attended the Chancellor’s installation last Thursday, some protesting the recent passing of House Bill 2 and the proposed Campus Free Expression Act.

“HB 2 is a large step back from the progress made by the state,” said UNCW student and silent protester Caitlin Hall. The bill requires a person to use the public bathroom that is in line with his or her birth certificate’s listed gender. Additionally, it bans local government from passing minimum wage legislation and mandates businesses filing discrimination to do so on the federal level.

Students congregated at the clock tower a month ago, rallying against the newly elected UNC system president, Margaret Spellings, and the lack of transparency in the North Carolina government, and this sentiment was felt even more after these recent bills came to the public’s attention.

Knowing of Spellings’ presence at Thursday’s event, students organized accordingly. Spellings’ previous comments about the lifestyles of those within the LGBT community raise concern that she will not be interested in protecting diversity in the UNC System, explained Hall, which is one reason why she decided to protest.

“As for Spellings, I don’t expect her to be a strong opponent of the Campus Free Expression Act,” said Becky Fernandez, Feminist Student Alliance president, in an email interview.

The bill aims to restore free speech on college campuses, in retaliation of recent outbreaks of “political correctness” and “safe zones.” It permits the UNC system Board of Governors to take disciplinary action against students who disrupt the first amendment rights of others.

Opponents of CFEA, like Fernandez, feel that it limits “diversity of thought” on campus.

Students’ right to assembly is essential for activists like sophomore Kiley Rosier.

“It is important to voice your opinion as often as you can and demand changes that make your and others’ lives better,” said Rosier.

Laura Mclean, a UNCW alum and local musician, who supported the student protesters, said she “would like to see students step up and get a little more involved in this.” As the presidential election draws near, students’ involvement in politics is encouraged.

Chancellor José Sartarelli emphasized diversity in his speech Thursday morning, noting the 15 to 18 percent rise of racial minorities in UNCW’s student body. Diversity, however, can include sexual orientation, ethnicity, economic status and more. Sartarelli agreed, including gender in his definition of diversity. He assured he wants all students to feel included at UNCW.

“I’d like to see them [Sartarelli and Spellings] adamantly oppose the Campus Free Expression Act and encourage the students to voice their opinion on it as well,” said Rosier when asked how she would like Sartarelli and Spellings to respond to recent legislation. “I’m really excited about the possibilities a new chancellor provides UNCW, and I hope he can represent what we are as a school.”

In order to enact political change, we must vote, according to Fernandez. “We neglected to elect officials that do adequately represent us by sitting out on previous elections.”

Fernandez, Hall and Mclean all feel as though student activism plays an important role on and off campus.

“Student activism done the right way cannot only help change things for the better on a college campus, but also help to prepare students for later on in life,” said Fernandez.