The events of the past week have reminded us that deep divisions within any community can have devastating consequences. But fortunately, following two difficult nights, citizens have peacefully and effectively exercised their constitutional rights of assembly and free speech to express their concerns with respect to racial equity in our law enforcement system and in our society generally.
Here at UNC Charlotte, our students organized two peaceful campus-based demonstrations last Thursday in and around the Popp Martin Student Union. These demonstrations provided students with a forum to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Our students showed that a serious message, thoughtfully delivered, can be heard. The Multicultural Resource Center also hosted a community circle discussion for campus community members.
We anticipate that additional campus-based events will take place this week. As of this morning, we have been notified about the following events that students, faculty and staff are organizing:
- On Tuesday at noon, the School of Architecture is conducting a student discussion in Storrs Gallery.
- On Tuesday at 1:45 p.m., dance students are planning a brief performance, entitled “We Hear You,” at Belk Plaza.
- On Wednesday at noon, a campus march will begin at the Student Union and, according to its organizers, its purpose is to “march in solidarity against racial injustice and police brutality.” Organizers are encouraging students, faculty, and staff to participate.
- On Wednesday at 4 p.m., the Music Department will present a public concert at Belk Plaza.
- On Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., a candlelight vigil is scheduled at the quad between the Library and the Student Activities Center. Organizers have communicated that they plan for this gathering to be “inspirational and empowering.”
As I communicated last week, students should reach out directly to their professors regarding their attendance at events that conflict with scheduled classes. Class attendance policies are the responsibility of the faculty. We encourage as much flexibility as circumstances permit in the enforcement of those policies. Staff wishing to participate in events during their scheduled work hours should coordinate with their supervisors to ensure that campus operations and services are not interrupted. Staff will be expected to take vacation leave or otherwise account for time lost from assigned duties.
Campus professional and public safety staff will be on hand to support the organizers in ensuring peaceful events that provide space for demonstrations, reflections and expressions that respect the rights of all. As Chancellor of UNC Charlotte, my top priority is the well-being of the campus community, and we will continue to dedicate all necessary resources to that end.
On the subject of campus safety, I have certainly heard expressions of concern about why the campus notification system was not utilized during the late evening hours on Tuesday when a crowd of protesters formed and began to move within the University City area. Although most of the protest and subsequent looting activity occurred one to three miles from the campus and were being actively monitored by our staff, there was a period when it could be reasonably argued that the location of the protest crowd warranted a notification. It is difficult for me to second-guess a decision made by our staff in good faith at the time based on the available information. However, I have directed my Chief of Staff Kim Bradley to convene representatives of Legal Affairs, Police and Public Safety, and University Communications to review and revise as appropriate the criteria that should govern such decisions in the future.
- Philip L. Dubois, Chancellor