State-Level Advocacy & the North Carolina General Assembly
Why state-level advocacy?
Across the UNC System – 16 universities, 15 of which have graduate programs – a number of important issues face graduate students over which the NC General Assembly has authority. These important issues include, but are not limited to:
- Graduate student stipend funding
- Residency requirements
- Graduate student representation on the Board of Governors or Boards of Trustees
- Equitability of state funding between HBCU and non-HBCU schools
- Financial and environmental sustainability of UNC finances
- Disbursement of federal funds, such as Covid-19 relief funds
- Appointments to the Board of Governors and Boards of Trustees, which in turn appoint Chancellors and affect campus cultures and policies, such as a 2015 moratorium on building renaming
- Appointments to the state Historical Commission that reviews confederate monument removal, including any on UNC campuses
Why does the NC General Assembly have authority?
The infographics below show the relationships of authority between the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), the myriad institutional boards within the UNC System, and graduate student governments. The governance of the UNC System and individual schools flows all the way from the top: the NCGA. Although individual school administrations may have some institutional authority in these issue areas, the buck ultimately stops (and starts) with the NCGA. For example, a school administration could raise the minimum stipend level for graduate students at their institution. However, this will not be sustainable if departments continue to receive the same amount of state funding and reduce the number of graduate student enrollments to meet the higher minimum, thereby reducing the number of teaching assistants available to teach important required undergraduate courses.
Relationships of Authority & Representation in the UNC System
North Carolina Graduate Student Coalition (NC GSC) & the State Advocacy Day
The North Carolina Graduate Student Coalition (NC GSC) is a network of graduate and professional student leaders from across the UNC System working to advocate graduate student issues to the NCGA. Beginning in 2020, a group of graduate students across several UNC System schools began organizing an advocacy effort aimed at state-level policy. The effort was initially led by the Director of State Relations at UNC Chapel Hill (a Cabinet appointment in the Executive Branch of GPSG) and the VP of Graduate Student Relations of the Association of Student Governments (ASG)—a UNC System student government representing undergraduate and graduate students across the UNC System.
This effort culminated in the first Graduate & Professional Student State Advocacy Day held in April 2021. The group developed one-page policy briefs detailing several of the issues listed above along with specific policy recommendations. Members of each school picked 2-3 of these briefs to present to the representatives of the districts in which their schools are located on 15-20 minute Zoom calls. See Additional Resources below for the full policy briefs.
Moving forward the group will continue to coordinate advocacy efforts. The group is working to develop relationships with state legislators, recruit graduate representatives from more UNC System schools, develop informational documents, and update and develop new policy briefs.
How to get involved?
Any graduate student within the UNC System is welcome to join the efforts of NC GSC! Contact the Director of State Relations, Devin Case-Ruchala: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So far, graduate students from the following schools have participated:
- East Carolina University
- Fayetteville State University*
- UNC A&T*
- UNC Chapel Hill
- UNC Charlotte
- UNC Greensboro
- UNC Pembroke**
- Western Carolina University**
* Historically Black College or University (HBCU)
One of the main goals of this group is to develop and share resources compiling information about authority within the UNC system, important issues facing graduate students, and policy recommendations based on these issues. Below is a list of documents compiled to date.