Tuition hike protests lack unity, direction

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Students in protest of tuition hikes arrive at the The Carolina Inn for the Board of Trustees Meeting.

Student protesters presented a united front against unprecedented tuition hikes earlier this month, but they appear to lack direction going forward.

At a meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees Nov. 17, students from a variety of groups joined together in unanimous opposition to the board’s passage of a 15.6 percent increase in in-state tuition.

Although protesters have formed a single coalition to continue protesting, members hold a diverse set of opinions about what constitutes the ideal tuition proposal.

The larger protest movement is also still fragmented, with three different groups — Students for a Democratic Society, the Campus Y and student government — disagreeing on what level of tuition increase, if any, would be acceptable.

Eric Bost, co-chairman of SDS and a member of the student coalition, said members will continue to push for tuition hikes to be scrapped, insisting that affordable education is essential to a diverse campus.

“We are still doing our own independent work,” he said. “We hypothetically want no tuition increases, so our proposal may be more conservative.”

But Mackenzie Thomas, co-president of the Campus Y, said continued demands to keep tuition at current levels are unrealistic, and unlikely to be considered by the UNC-system Board of Governors.

“There are people who think that tuition rises are acceptable, and there are people who think that free education is a right, and there is a large spectrum between those two points,” Thomas said.

Although Thomas said she accepts that some level of tuition increase might be necessary, some members of the Campus Y are looking to UNC’s $2.2 billion endowment for funding.

Thomas said transparency in the endowment would allow students to become more involved in voicing opinions on where money should be spent, a point that has also been emphasized by members of SDS.

The protest sprung from the Board of Trustees’ approval of a plan that would increase in-state tuition by $2,800 during the next five years. It would also increase out-of-state tuition by 6.5 percent.

The Board of Governors will meet in January to discuss the recommendation before it takes a final vote in February.

The student coalition is still in its infancy, having met just twice — before Thanksgiving break and Wednesday night.

Meanwhile members of student government are beginning to form their own strategy.

Zealan Hoover, student body vice president, said efforts are focused on mobilizing students, and appealing to University and state officials.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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