Zaina Alsous has been involved with several campus activist groups in her three years at UNC. But Alsous feels as if they haven’t achieved enough alone.
“I’ve felt the frustration of working so hard and having a very sophisticated operation, only to face being ignored,” she said. It’s a feeling many of the attendees of the first UNC Student Power body assembly shared on Tuesday.
UNC Student Power is a recently formed coalition of several different student groups that have joined together to accomplish shared goals.
The coalition includes a wide variety of student groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Real Silent Sam and UNC Gender Non-Specific Housing.
Matt Hickson, co-chairman of Students for a Democratic Society and an organizer of Student Power, said he feels frustrated by a lack of results from the work of individual student groups. "We need a more efficient way to organize our messages to win because we’ve been losing,” he said at the assembly. “This has been a losing model.”
Alsous said the group was born out of discussions that have been happening between student activists from different groups for years. Organizers of the coalition held their first meeting on August 22, shortly after Hickson returned from the National Student Power Convergence, an organizing conference of student activists nationwide.
UNC Student Power discussed and voted on different demands then, eventually deciding on four: Establishing gender-neutral housing on campus; placing a plaque on the statue of Silent Sam memorializing historical racial violence; demanding UNC end its investments in coal; and increasing student representation on the Board of Governors.
"When we were voting on demands, in hopes of being an effective and strategic coalition, we selected demands that had preexisting infrastructures and community buy-in,” said Alsous, who is also a columnist for The Daily Tar Heel.
Lauren Moore, a freshman who is a member of several of the involved groups, said she thought the assembly was successful.
"It was really fun and engaging,” she said. “It felt really open and interesting to listen to — I learned a lot.”
Kate Davis Jones, another organizer of the assembly, said the new alliance of groups will help members to achieve their varied goals.