A proposal for a dramatic tuition increase hit home with students and sparked one of the largest protests in years.
went to bat for students and faculty against
the state's more status-quo leaders and
sometimes the trustees theruselves.
It spread to the town around it and
attracted like minds who made Chapel Hill
synonymous with an activist spirit. And to
those who thought it gradually died out
in the embers of the civil rights protests,
the rage against the Vietnam War and the
fight for better conditions for campus
laborers, the San Francisco-based Mother
Jones magazine answered in 1996 by placing
UNC in its top 20 list of the schools that
continuously pioneered social action over
a 20-year period; Carolina made the
magazine's roster of the 10 most active
schools in America from 1994 to 1998.
Activism is far from universal. Although
there are no formal statistics, polls taken
in the late 1960s, when involvement in
causes had the highest visibility, indicate
no more than 10 percent of the student
"There are so many issues and so many
students here," said Kate Rhodes, a sopho-
more who boasts an activist history that
reads longer than most students' work
resumes. "But it seems like you see the
same people over and over doing most of
The tide rises and falls-in 1999 UNC
fell offthe Mother Jones who's who. Com-
munications Director Richard Reynolds
said there was no well-defined reason why
UNC didn't make that year's list. "Every
year we ask a list of organizations what
student actions caught their eye this year,"
he explained. "So you could only sunnise
that UNC wasn't mentioned as often as
the 10 schools that made this year's list."
But are activism and community service
dwindling? Ask the 400 students who
donned images ofpadlocks around their
necks on the steps ofthe Morehead building
in a late October tuition-increase protest.
Or the ones who came to Chapel Hill
the previous weekend from all comers of
the globe for the first international con-
ference ofUNC's own Students United
for a Responsible Global Environment
(SURGE). Such a question likely would
get some strange looks.
Carolina students draw the highest
praise from national organizers of the
"How this whole thing started was at
UNC and at schools like Georgetown and
Duke," said Charlie Kernaghan, director
of the National Labor Movement. "This
is the strongest human rights movement
today, and UNC deserves enormous credit,
its role was enormous. When there was
nobody else doing this or campaigning,
UNC students were. Students at UNC-
with their sit-ins and efforts- have already
won significant victories in terms of
pushing for full public disclosure.
Rankings aside, a stroll through the Pit
on any given weekday is a tour through
a barrage of display tables, demonstrations
and fund-raisers supporting myriad causes.
Often there are more ofthese Pit-sitters
than one can shake a protest sign at.
''I'm standing in a foot of water,"
exclaimed a student standing in a plastic
kiddie pool in the Pit. "ECU students
are in 25 feet of water! So come on, throw
us your quarters, your dimes, your pen-
nies! They need your help."
Raised eyebrows mixed with the tossed
coins as members ofUNC's Student
Government Association spent one rainy
October afternoon appealing to students'
generosity and empathy. As part of a
multi-week humanitarian campaign, SGA
members asked for donations to help pro-
vide relief to the students at flood-soaked
CAR0LINA ALUMN IREVlEW