EXCLUSIVE: UNC provost says faculty, GAs violating 'students’ First Amendment rights'

UNC's provost said that faculty and graduate assistants (GAs) who participate in a "grading strike" to protest the decision could face "serious consequences."

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has received backlash for its decision to build a $5 million structure to house the torn down Confederate monument.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill provost responded to a faculty and graduate assistant “grading strike” by stating in an email that participating individuals are violating “students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin’s Thursday email to university deans came amid a so-called “grading strike” by faculty members and graduate assistants at the university in protest of the UNC Board of Trustees' approval of a proposal aiming to erect a $5 million history center to house a Confederate statue that protesters tore down in August, as Campus Reform  previously reported.

“This afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike,” Blouin said in the email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “The University has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law.”

[RELATED: 17 anonymous UNC profs vow to tear down Confederate statue]

“You may be aware of reports of a proposed ‘strike’ by a limited number of faculty and graduate students that would result in withholding final grades for some of our students,” the provost wrote to the school's deans.

Blouin went on to say that the proposal has the potential to affect students in a number of ways, putting scholarships, grants, loans, and more at risk and adding that the strike “violates our university’s instructional responsibilities.”

“Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities, and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten[s] their eligibility,” the provost stated. “The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students.”

[RELATED: VIDEO: UNC prof charged with assault at Confederate statue toppling]

Blouin said in the email that faculty and GA’s who participate in the strike could receive “serious consequences.”

“Failure to meet [the faculty and GA’s] responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences,” Blouin said. 

The provost's office did not respond to Campus Reform's request for further comment in time for publication. 

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