UNC discusses Master Plan with itself

I keep hearing that there will be engagement with the entire community about UNC's Master Plan, but the public hasn't been invited to any accessible (ie: off-campus) meetings about it. The the last two "community workshops" (November 2004 and May 2005) were held in the middle of central campus (and were not well-attended in the previous round).

I would think UNC would use a space either near downtown or near parking if they actually wanted the community to attend. Or as I suggested last May, enable feedback by giving the community more than one meeting to look at, process, and give feedback on the plan:

Why don't they release the plans before the meeting so that people can develop meaningful responses and suggestions? Why don't they post any information about it on their community web site? Are there public gatherings for the community to process and discuss the plan, and for UNC to publicly respond to the town's concerns? Are there any other opportunities for community input besides attending this meeting or e-mailing folks at UNC?

Now Linda Convissor writes to invite us to the latest round of on-campus "Community Presentations."

Campus Master Plan Update: Community Presentations
We would like your input on the proposed revisions and update of the master plan. Issues of pedestrian connections, green space, transportation and parking are some of the issues being considered.

Please join us at one of the following three meetings; the same material will be presented at each:

Thursday, Oct. 6, 12:00 -2:00 pm, 2518 Student Union

Thursday, Oct. 6, 7:30- 9:00 p.m., 136 Tate-Turner-Kuralt . Tate-Turner-Kuralt is located between Pittsboro Street and South Columbia, opposite the State Employees Credit Union. Parking is available at the Credit Union after 5:30 p.m. If the lot is full, parking is also available at the Nash lot on Pittsboro Street a block north of the Credit Union. There is a bus stop at the Credit Union served in the evening by the D and J routes.

Friday, Oct. 7, 12:00 -2:00 p.m., 2518 Student Union

For questions or more information, contact Jill Coleman, the Facilities Planning Dept. project manager for the update, at (919) 843-3246 or [email protected].

I understand if UNC wants to do its own thing for its own plan, but let's be honest - it's not community engagement if it only ever happens inside their own walls. I don't see any evidence that they are responding to community concerns about their plan or their process.

Issues: 

Total votes: 170

Comments

Ruby, I guess 12 to 2 is for those working folk that can take a real looooong lunch ;-)!

And, of course, some of the local folk that might be interested in attending have another event scheduled the night of the 6th.

That would be a really long lunch if you count the time to get to and from campus in the middle of the day.

By the way, I can't make it to any of these three presentations (unless I skip the DTH forum), so I hope someone will go and post comments on it here...

I'll be at the first session (Thursday at 12:00), so if anyone has any specific questions they'd like me to address and report on, post them here! That is assuming that the questions of my own pertaining to gaps in the presented plan don't take up the entire presentation, though I feel there are enough gaps to warrant that many questions.

I wonder if UNC would have a problem with me recording the audio portion of the presentation?

The School of Social Work building (Tate-Turner-Kuralt) is on the edge of campus within easy walking distance of the Westwood/Cameron-McCauley neighborhood.

That's great for the few hundred folks who can afford to live in the historic district. Have you ever tried to park there?

To follow-up on Ray's comment, the evening meeting is an easy walk for many of the neighbors who have been engaged in our planning since we began this effort in 1998.

And thanks to the manager of the Credit Union, parking is available directly across the street with additional parking in the Nash lot a block away. TTK is also served by two bus routes that run into the evening.

If you want to attend either of the lunch meetings, parking (paid) is available in the Rams Head deck, a 5-minute walk.

The email notice went out to hundreds of people, on campus and off. Jill Coleman, the project manager, has received many thoughtful and caring responses from people. Many write about green space and parking, two issues that are at the forefront of our planning.

This planning effort is a refinement of the master plan adopted in 2001. We are building on that plan, evaluating where we are, finishing some work that was left undone, updating maps. There are some exciting changes proposed (rebuilding Davie Hall for one) but they are all within the construct of the 2001 plan.

My email is [email protected]. Send me your ideas, thoughts. I can grab the plans and we'll go have coffee. I will be out the next two days but will forward anything I receive to Jill Coleman, our landscape architect and project manager for the update. Or email Jill directly at [email protected].

We've also started the www.unc.edu/community website because we heard people say they wanted access to the plans. The site is in its infancy, I think we have a long way to go with it, and your suggestions, ideas are welcome.

I hope you were not discouraged by Ruby's comments and will join us on Thursday and Friday.

Linda

Linda, is there anyway for the public to access the plans before the meetings so that they can develop thoughtful responses for you? I wasn't able to open the September presentation to the Town Council at http://www.unc.edu/community/download/town_council_9_05.pdf

I'm the last person who would discourage anyone from giving feedback. I just want UNC to tell the truth about what it is and isn't trying to do so we don't waste the community's time participating in yet another process intended to do nothing but distract us from what's really going on in South Building.

By the way, did y'all know about the DTH Candidate Forum when you scheduled the only evening presentation for the same night? Of the 10 people who attended your community meeting on campus last May, I'll bet about half of us will be at the forum.

Something is wrong with the file on the web site - I've asked the web folks to see what's wrong.

I think Mary Rabinowitz said it earlier - in October it is almost impossible not to double-book. Because we can't meet during the summer, the fall becomes critical. Finding a suitable and available place to meet, avoiding the Jewish high holidays, avoiding local government meetings, all factor in.

Linda

What's the difference between going to a meeting about the Master Plan on campus and going to a political forum on campus? Or going to a meeting at Town Hall where there is less public parking available than on campus?

Since the goal of the town appears to be reducing the amount of public parking, isn't it a bit disingenuous to turn around and criticize the university for holding a meeting where there isn't open parking for anyone and everyone who might be interested in attending?

BTW, the J bus picks up and drops off right in front of the Credit Union and runs down Franklin St out to Jones Ferry until 11:00 pm.

Note the editorial in today's DTH on this topic.

This was quite possibly the dumbest of many dumb DTH editorials baiting town activists in the last couple of years.

Essentially Ruby said something they didn't like so they wrote an editorial about it.

Is it that slow of a news week? Editorial Board- get off OP and go out and enjoy the fresh air and find something more compelling to write about.

I wish the editorial board could express an unpopular opinion without immediately being accused of pettiness and incompetence. We might not always see eye to eye with average OP readers, but we all respect the efforts they put forth for the town we love. As I like to tell members of student government, we're all fighting for what's best for UNC and Chapel Hill -- we just disagree sometimes on what that is.

Furthermore, I personally received a good number of complaints from townsfolk about the University's plans. That means there's a conflict -- and taking a side on conflict in the hopes of persuading and effecting change is what we do. The idea that we would write an editorial based solely on Ruby's opinion (or yours, Tom, or any private citizen's) is patently untrue.

We can agree to disagree on the issues; I'm glad, in fact, that there is agreeing and disagreeing going on! I just wanted to clarify that this is a big issue for many people. And I want to stress that any disagreement with "town activists," like any disagreement with Seth Dearmin or Chancellor Moeser, is meant as criticism and not condemnation.

Chris,

The editorial says, "And it's not as if hosting UNC events off campus is inherently a good idea. If we had them at Town Hall, for example, there would be even less public parking than on campus — and we would be shutting students, the least mobile population in town, out of a meeting that's important to them as well."

I am at the Campus Master Plan Update presentation and there are no students here (except for me and Jason Baker).

My question is simple, why have all three presentations on campus? Why not hold at least one presentation where the general public can easily attend?

BTW, Other than me and Jason, Katrina Ryan and Will Raymond are here as well.

David,

Thursday afternoon is as bad for students as it is for y'all. A lot fewer of us have class on Friday, so I bet you'll get a decent showing of students at tomorrow's forum. (I myself plan on being there tomorrow afternoon, if I can -- my roommate and I recently discovered that our apartment's built on a sinkhole, so we have to move out quite soon.)

I think the best solution, as we said in today's editorial, would have been to change the time and date of at least one forum. I'm not convinced campus is inaccessible -- or at least no less accessible than Town Hall! -- and I just don't think the University is purposely trying to shut people out. I'm acquainted with people in charge of the Master Plan, and I think they genuinely care about what town residents have to say.

Mind you, that's my personal opinion. On the DTH editorial board, I'm only one of six, and our editorial today reflects those six opinions.

Have fun at the meeting. I know it's probably a blast. ;)

Had an opportunity to pop in for about 15 minutes. There appeared to be slightly more than twenty participants, though I'm hoping for an actual count from one of the three other local candidates for elected office (Jason Baker, David Marshall, Katrina Ryan). UNC's staff accounted for maybe six others. Besides the inestimable Dr. Fred Brooks (who was peppering the UNC crew with some interesting detail-oriented questions, for instance, on how UNC planned on feeding the on-campus students at buildout) and the press, that leaves maybe 8 to 10 regular folk.

Chris,

I haven't seen any letters to the editor this week on the DTH Editorial Page complaining about the scheduling of these meetings (forgive me if I've missed one-) if you received any I would have hoped that you would print them in tandem with the editorial so that multiple perspectives are represented.

Have people just e-mailed you on a personal level to complain about this without actually writing letters to the editor? Personally I would think it would be more effective to complain to Linda Convissor rather than the DTH Editorial Page Editor if I had a problem with this but I guess maybe other people would approach it differently than me.

I don't think UNC is intentionally trying to silence the town's voices- they must know by now that that will never work :) But I do think this was a pretty poor job of planning- as for catering it to students let me know how many non-DTH/Student Government types are at the presentation tomorrow if you make it and maybe I'll find that to be a more compelling argument.

I just returned from the presentation. From the introductions at the beginning, I don't believe more than a couple of people (Katrina R, ?) introduced themselves without having a UNC affiliation to give. Granted, the faculty and staff in attendance have as much vested interest in the Master Plan as anyone else, but the attendance from the non-candidate, non-UNC crowd was dismal.

A lot of my specific concerns were in the areas of transportation and dorm construction. Several folks addressed the parking/transit fiasco, and one of the general questions which emerged I thought was an interesting point to reflect on: are we building this campus with the intent of one day being car-free or not? The current construction plans, which include multiple parking decks, seem to give a mixed signal from UNC. It's okay to bring your car to campus, but not really. Jonathan Howes was quick to point out and remind us that this was a plan for building footprints and that other plans fell under the realm of other planning authorities. But I feel strongly that building plans at every level of discussion should work with all parts of the planning process.

As for housing, the most notable change was the removal of a possible future dorm from the revised footprint. I was reassured that this would not affect overall student housing levels. A conversation afterwards with Christopher Payne helped clarify this, that we'd build more on the other sites, and are currently meeting beds for enrollment projections. But there are still lingering questions. The master plan calls for 500-800 new beds at complete buildout, but undergraduate admissions does not have enrollment projections beyond ten years. Do these number coincide? Are we really only planning on increasing enrollment at most 800 new students? Assuming the Master Plan is a complete buildout, this 800 would represent all the additional students we could ever have on our existing campus. Or are we ditching the "a new bed for every head" mantra completely?

I think I had a lot of questions answered today, but now it's off to track to the folks who weren't there (the sustainability office, undergrad admissions, etc.) who have a stake in the plan.

With the DTH editorial board regularly writing about stuff like why regional mass transit is a big waste of money (and columnists doing much worse), they are clearly not aiming at any readers who know or care anything about local issues. (Or anyone to the left of John Hood, apparently.) What surprises me is that they have spent so much lipservice trying to get students engaged in off-campus issues, while supporting efforts (especially by UNC administrators) to keep the community's nose out of University business.

I am amazed to see that there is anyone who still doesn't think our two destinies are one and the same. It's especially surprising from the students DTH. When I was a student at UNC there was at least some healthy skepticism about South Building and some hope for the future. I don't see much of either in today's DTH.

what about the DTH columnist who says walmart is a wonderful thing in chatham who regularly writes in the DTH page.

He doesn't seem to know the Durham walmart is closer and easier to get to(than the one in chatham) nor that Orange County has one if he wants his dollars local.

You're speaking of Jeff Kim's column, which I believe I agreed with this week for the very first time (speaking on the disappointing stagnation in the superprecinct implementation).

You might be interested in my response which ran as a letter to the editor the next day.

Tom: Yeah, they're e-mailing me personally. Folks've started to do that ever since I picked up a blog. I've encouraged them to e-mail University administrators, but in my experience, these sorts of e-mails are just meant to let off steam; many people can't be bothered to take action, unfortunately.

Ruby: If you sat down and talked to any of us for a few minutes -- something I hope we can do at the forum tonight, if this is still an issue -- you'd realize that we, more than most students on campus, DO believe that UNC and Chapel Hill are inextricably linked. If we didn't, why on earth would we even bother writing about town issues at all?

My frustration, in fact, stems from the fact that what can fairly be described as our center-left politics is met with disdain -- and frankly, condescension -- from many people in the town. So is the politics of many good people at the University, public servants who give their time because they believe in the campus mission, for better or worse.

I'm not talking about plain disagreement. I'm talking about being patronized, which happens all the time.

Perhaps it feels as if we take UNC's "side" more than we take the town's "side." It's a fair point, and I won't dispute it: We do. But that's a matter of politics, not a matter of a lack of skepticism for South Building -- which we've lampooned on more than one occasion in these last four weeks.

We are not stupid; we are not short-sighted; we do not want the town to butt out of UNC's affairs; and I can tell you from personal experience that to call us conservative, even if we take the occasional stance that leans toward the center, is simply not true. (You must've missed the entire post-Bandes debacle; I couldn't sit down at my computer without getting 10 e-mails about how I'm a liberal hack.) And some issues about which I think the town has a lot of good concerns -- Carolina North and affordable housing, to name a few -- have hardly been on the back page; we're only five weeks into school, after all.

I have a lot of respect for the posters of OP; I have a lot of respect for ALL the countless people who give hours of their lives to making Chapel Hill a better place. And I find myself, more often than not, agreeing with them.

But when it comes to town-gown squabbles, I try to treat the town with the same skepticism as the gown -- and often, I come down on the latter side. And because of that, no matter how active of a role the opinion page takes in the community, our opinion is dismissed.

I don't know what that says about Chapel Hill. But it's not good.

I spoke to Linda Convissor before the presentation. Nice lady. I am almost 100% that UNC isn't trying to keep the public out of the loop. She assured me of that, of course.

It can't be denied that UNC is making some efforts to include the public, but I just simply think it's not enough. Try harder to be a good citizen, UNC!

I suggested to her the use of the Friday Center, but she said it would cost money to do it there, which I thought odd since the university owns it.

Terri asked: "What's the difference between going to a meeting about the Master Plan on campus and going to a political forum on campus?"

Well, I kind of doubt there will be many non-student citizens at tonight's forum. Non-student residents have numerous opportunities to attend a candidates forum in their towns to flesh out candidates' views on important issues. The Master Plan, on the other hand, is of great importance to everyone, and will only be presented at UNC. Placing obstacles like parking, bus schedules (I am for increased use of public transit, but not by strongarm tactics, or at the expense of diminished citizen participation) and navigating the inner sanctum of UNC's byzantine campus, on top of other ordinary considerations, like childcare, dinner, and coordinating time issues, really is too much to ask from your average citizen.

So why not have one of the presentations where the citizens reside? Is it asking for too much really? I am surprised by the people who are finding this suggestion unreasonable.

The implicit message--and the most charitable interpretation of UNC's decision to keep the presentation sequestered on campus--reads that UNC is unwilling to take the extra step in reaching out to the community.

This is unfortuntate because good relations so often rely on simple acts of good faith and good will to carry the day.

David,

I guess what confuses me is that you still have to deal with parking and bus schedules if the event were at, say, Town Hall. Or the Century Center, if you wanted to do it in Carrboro. Or the high school.

The Friday Center isn't actually a bad idea -- solves the parking problem -- but I guess I'm just not that convinced it's much better than campus. (I could be wrong, though, seeing as I live right down Hillsborough Street.) And I'm definitely not convinced that UNC is acting with duplicity or half-heartedness.

But I'm glad we got a dialogue started on the issue. I guess I'm doing something right.

Yes David, the Friday Center, like other facilities, have to charge for use. Sad, but it does take money to open these facilities, have security on site, and provide janatorial support. UNC bills "itself" for lots of services, like flying a non-hospital administrator on an AHEC plane to go to a meeting in Charlotte.

Where would you suggest having it that is free? What is unreasonable about the Social Work building? Parking across the street is free and it is easy to get to.

Frankly, no matter when or where the thing is held, some will have a problem. Are we being totally fair about this attempt? The title of the thread suggests maybe not, and the "suggestion" that folks at UNC playing games with the truth says a lot too.

You guys at DTH are doing a lot of things right, Chris. Chief among those is your interaction with the community and willingness to dialogue, as evidenced by your presence on OP.

I'm also glad to see you and your staff are holding up well in the face of often-stinging criticism. That is the reality of being in the public line of sight. It's a small price to pay for the privilege of serving the people. Many of us appreciate you, and the media in general, more than we let on. "More than we let on" because we have to maintain that firewall that allow us to criticize and place a check on the potential excesses of the few that have control over the information received by the many.

But then again, you already knew that, didn't you.

 

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