BOT approves new parking deck, ClimACT protest meeting – Appalachia

Zoey Sigmon

ClimACT members hold signs and sing as attendees leave the meeting, March 25, 2022.

The App State board passed several motions, including allocating $20 million for a new parking deck as ClimACT members silently protested Friday.

During the meeting, BOT member James Reaves introduced a motion to allocate $20 million for a 600-space parking lot next to the Holmes Convocation Center. According to proposal, construction of the parking bridge will include improvements to Rivers Street and may include a pedestrian bridge connecting the bridge to the convocation center. The BOT approved the motion unanimously. It is awaiting UNC board approval and no official construction start date has been announced.

Reaves also introduced a motion to allocate funds to improve and replace 3,300 feet of parking and road surfaces. The BOT approved the motion, releasing $499,983 for the project. Construction will begin in May.

ClimACT member Max Shirikjian said the university has the resources to prioritize sustainability, which was exemplified by the motions passed by the BOT at the meeting.

“We have unsustainable growth here at Boone. If we’re just going to continue this without, like, any reconsideration, I feel like there’s very little hope in these new projects where we grow and grow and grow unchecked,” Shirikjian said.

The BOT also approved a request from the City of Boone to release 45 feet of land for repairs to the Hunting Hills Bridge. Additionally, the BOT approved a request from the Blue Ridge Conservancy, allowing the Greenway Trail to cross App State property.

Ahead of the BOT motions, Chancellor Sheri Everts listed the university’s accomplishments over the past year. Everts said the Innovation District and the future Hickory Campus were examples of the university’s growth and success. She also said the UNC system budget, recently approved by Gov. Roy Cooper, was the “best budget” in App State history. Everts also congratulated App State Police Chief Andy Stephenson for being one of six finalists for Campus Security Director of the Year.

Eight ClimACT members stand near the entrance to the Grandview Ballroom at the Mark E. Ricks Sports Complex, March 25, 2022. (Zoey Sigmon)

Following Everts’ statements, BOT President Kimberley Shepherd said the BOT had “reaffirmed its faith” in Everts.

Eight ClimACT members stood in the back of the Grandview Ballroom at the Mark E. Ricks Sports Complex. Each member wore a shirt with a different letter, which spelled out the word “silence”.

“We have had four requests that we’re trying to get them to say yes to last year, and they didn’t even want to meet us. So it’s pretty clear that they don’t want to hear from us. We’re not going to let that happen,” said Juliette Warren, ClimACT member and sophomore political science major.

As the BOT began a closed session and meeting attendees left the Grandview Ballroom, ClimACT members chanted “public university for the public good.” They held signs with slogans such as “faculty and staff are silenced” and fliers, titled “Missing conversations from this meeting”. Conversations identified by ClimACT included: community, people of color, climate concerns, trans and queer people, and educators.

“Students of color have been targeted and profiled by App State Police,” reads a ClimACT flyer.

Stephenson said he wanted to clarify ClimACT’s second conversation, people of color and spoke with ClimACT member Jaz Boler about the statement.

“I was asking Jaz, ‘Is this a general statement or is this referring to a specific incident?’ That was what concerned me, because we don’t condone that in our department. We need to be aware of those specific incidents because we would definitely deal with that quickly,” Stephenson said.

Boler said none of his personal experiences with App State Police have been “particularly negative.”

“I know black people who have literally been followed by the App State Police. So I was asking, “Have you met BlackatApp?”, “Did you sit and talk?” Said Boler.

Shirikjian said ClimACT will continue its activism.

Helen L. Cuellar