© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Protestors hold rally encouraging UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to withhold grades

A pro-Palestinian rally at UNC Chapel Hill on May 8, 2024.
Brianna Atkinson
A group of students at UNC Chapel Hill are calling on professors to withhold grades and they want the university administration to "grant amnesty" to suspended student protesters. Some faculty members who signed a petition Monday to lift punishments for student protesters also attended the demonstration.

The UNC Students for Justice in Palestine chapter is again calling on instructors to withhold students’ final grades until administrators “grant amnesty” to pro-Palestinian protestors. The group held a rally on the steps of South Building on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus on Wednesday.

The group wants university administrators to lift the suspensions of 15 student protestors who were banned from campus following an encampment last Tuesday. At the encampment, police cited 30 people for trespassing, including 10 UNC students, and arrested six.

Over 800 faculty and staff members have signed a petition urging Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens to grant amnesty to student protestors.

About an hour into the rally, protestors broke out into smaller groups and blocked all exits of South Building. They taped “free Palestine” signs to doors and wrote messages in chalk on and around the building.

Shortly after, several administrators left the building surrounded by a campus police K-9 unit. Protestors followed them to the parking lot and stood in front of their cars as they tried to drive off.

“We will not stop,” protestors chanted while blocking traffic. “We will not rest. Disclose. Divest.”

When Provost Chris Clemens tried to leave, protestors completely filled the road to block his car. They screamed “shame,” “hands off our students,” and other chants as they hit his car and stuck messages to it.

At least five police officers walked with Clemens' car and pushed protestors to move them out the way. Protestors blocked Clemens’ car for about 5 minutes, until he sped off after reaching Cameron Avenue.

Earlier this week, Clemens and Graduate School Dean Beth Mayer-Davis sent deans a joint email. The message indicated that some instructors have already told students they will not report their final grades to the university.

“We are hearing concerns from students whose instructors have informed them they will withhold grades as part of a protest,” Clemens and Mayer-Davis wrote. “These students depend on the timely submission of their grades for graduation, jobs, and athletic eligibility … it would be a disservice to all of you and to the institution if a minority of instructors were to damage the trust we hold with our students by withholding grades.”

Clemens said his office will “support sanctions” against any professor who improperly withholds grades.

This isn’t the first time UNC instructors have threatened to withhold grades as a means of protest. In 2018, several teaching assistants risked their jobs to protest a confederate monument being enshrined in a multimillion dollar history center on campus. The grades were later released — in time for that year’s winter commencement — after a board voted against the history center.

In the aftermath of the protests, UNC-Chapel Hill has added new security measures to its graduation ceremonies, including a clear bag policy and requirement for graduates to present their student IDs before entering the commencement area. Administrators warned that anyone who disturbs graduation could be arrested. Republicans in the General Assembly have also introduced a new bill that could crack down on future campus protests.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC’s 2024 Fletcher Fellow and covers higher education in partnership with Open Campus.