The morning after several hundred people participated in a walkout at UNCG, a smaller group briefly disrupted the board of trustees meeting.
After a short speak out and rally outside the building, dozens of students, several faculty members and a handful of supporters filed into the meeting, checking their signs at the door. About an hour into the meeting as the crowd began thinning, protesters interrupted the meeting to demand the chance to address the board.
Undercover officers moved quickly to try and remove demonstrators, but the tense moment was resolved as the board took an impromptu break, giving police a chance to clear the room without any arrests.
The meeting was open to the public but only speakers who signed up in advance would be allowed to address the trustees, Board Chair David Sprinkle said at the beginning of the meeting.
During the break, Sprinkle said demonstrators were “very valid in what they’re saying,” and that the board is also “extremely concerned about the cuts,” but said their hands were tied, to an extent. Sprinkle stopped to listen to demonstrators speaking outside of the meeting before going inside.
A planned $91 million recreation center has been the flashpoint of student and faculty outcry about the budget. While Sprinkle said he could understand concerns about the budget, particularly cuts to academics, he differed on the center.
“What they don’t understand is that the money that supports the rec center can’t be used for academics,” he said.
Faculty and students opposed to the rec center and concerned about what they describe as a diminished quality of education have said student fees for the center make the school increasingly unaffordable. Sprinkle said that’s true, but said UNCG is the cheapest in its peer group and in the middle of the pack for cost in the UNC system.
He also added that the school needs facilities such as the recreation center to attract new students, noting that enrollment is down. Opponents have said decreased enrollment diminishes the need for a new rec center and that the school is overly focused on athletics to the detriment of academics.
Full coverage of both events, including interviews with several faculty members who participated in the walkout, will appear next week.