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UNC faculty to withhold final grades for all until suspended protesters are re-instated

Carolina Journal


Some UNC students got a message Monday that after a semester of work and a week to go before graduation, they will not be getting some final grades.

A group of faculty members say they will withhold their scores until the university re-instates fifteen suspended students who were arrested along with 36 other non-students during last week’s campus demonstration. While the number and names of faculty committed to withholding grades is unclear at this time, the message went out to a group of students Monday. The anti-Israel, pro-Palestine, four-day encampment was organized by the UNC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and drew hundreds of protesters, counter-protesters, and national media.

In a press conference on campus Tuesday afternoon a group of faculty said that they want to “correct the record” on what happened on campus during the “Gaza-solidarity encampment” saying it was a “peaceful and inclusive” space for learning and discussion.

However, according to UNC administration, some protesters in the encampment in Polk Place on campus saw participants breaking into academic buildings after hours, propping doors open to locked buildings, tearing down barricades, pushing through officers to forcibly enter campus buildings, hitting police and other vehicles, throwing furniture in front of police vehicles injuring officers, entering classrooms during finals to cause disruptions, and throwing water bottles and fluids at University workers, police and administrators.

In now-viral video the protesters took down the American flag flying over Polk Place twice, which was re-raised by law enforcement and a group of counter-protesting students.

“Most troubling, we have learned of an arson threat against a Jewish fraternity building and seen multiple instances of clearly anti-semitic messages and threats in buildings,” Interim Chancellor Roberts said in a statement issued to the public.

UNC administration outlined multiple warnings given publicly and at the event about acceptable and unacceptable behavior during the protest until police finally removed the encampment on April 30.

“Carolina reiterates its long-standing commitment to protect the rights of all community members to demonstrate and protest peacefully,” the statement read. “First Amendment law is clear that no one has a right to disrupt campus operations materially, to threaten or harass others, to shout down a speaker, or to destroy public property.”

It follows an open letter signed by some 700 members of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty demanding amnesty for the suspended students.

“The university must immediately dismiss all suspensions and other charges against students involved in the protest, return the confiscated belongings of our students, remove the fence around the flagpole in the quad, and re-open Campus Y in recognition of its central importance to our university community,” the letter read.

However, not all of the faculty and staff is onboard with this tactic. There is another letter circulating among UNC faculty that supports the administration’s efforts. Entitled “Supporting Lawful Free Speech & UNC Leadership,” the open letter posted on Sunday already has more than 1,000 signatures from UNC faculty, staff, students, alumni and the broader community.

“We strongly support free speech. But free speech has limits, including reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions,” the letter reads. “Additionally, conduct that violates the law is not protected. These rules must be followed so that the University can be a place where everyone can go about teaching, learning, and exercising their own free speech rights, without interruption, interference, or intimidation.”

That letter is penned by a group of faculty members including Jessica Smith, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor and Director, Criminal Justice Innovation Lab.

“We value and support the rights of peaceful protesters. We also support the action of UNC leadership in response to protesters’ violation of law and the University’s reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions,” their letter read.

The differing take on what happened at UNC last week comes as the school preps for graduation ceremonies this weekend. The college class of 2024 is made up of, in many cases, the same students who were high school 2020 seniors and did not get a graduation due to the COVID pandemic campus shutdowns.

Roberts has publicly assured UNC-Chapel Hill seniors and their families that graduation will take place. The university has issued guidelines and rules for graduation attendees.

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