There was nothing Hogan Medlin could do.
Administrators had tacked on an additional increase of $750 per student to the tuition plan — and the student body president was not consulted about the increase.
To Medlin, who leaves office today, the incident set a dangerous precedent that reasserted itself throughout the year.
Budget concerns limited Medlin’s influence in several areas, but students and administrators who worked with him said he brought an impressive level of knowledge to the position and levied his influence on several smaller projects.
On tuition, Medlin promptly switched strategies for his administration, embarking on a plan to lobby in the state legislature rather than with UNC administration.
But whether the lobbying has been effective is uncertain, with the prospect of budget cuts up to 30 percent for UNC-system schools looming on the horizon.
“What the heck is that going to do to the (Mary) Cooper administration or the Carolina students? How do you fight it?” he said.
“I don’t know. We shifted our focus to lobbying.”
A shift to Raleigh
The 2010-11 academic year saw Medlin take unpopular stances among administrators on a few occasions, always in the name of student representation.
In November, after recommending a 5.6 percent increase, he cast the lone dissenting vote against a proposed 6.5 percent increase in tuition across the board, the maximum allowed amount.
He did the same with a transportation plan in March, again citing a disproportionate financial burden on students.
But he admits now that even a 6.5 percent increase in tuition will likely not be enough, saying another summer supplement is probable — this time exceeding $750.
It was concerns like those that convinced Medlin to take his administration’s advocacy to a level where it might have the most influence — the state legislature in Raleigh.
“The student role was ambiguous in budget cuts, maybe less heard on the campus level, on the Board of Governors level,” he said.
“I have felt more heard in Raleigh.”
Dakota Williams, student body treasurer, said success in this sort of lobbying is uncertain by nature.
“There’s really no way to know if you’ve succeeded. You do what you can,” he said.
“If they cut no money from higher education then you’ve succeeded, but that’s not going to happen.”
An institutional awareness
Though his influence on tuition was limited, Medlin was well-respected on the Board of Trustees, on which he served as the lone student voice, said Bob Winston, chairman of the board.
“He is very confident but not cocky, and he has a reason to be confident,” he said.
Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, said he found Medlin’s institutional knowledge impressive.
“I’m not quite sure where he found the time to learn everything,” he said.
Carney added that Medlin’s familiarity with the nuts and bolts of campus issues trumped that of his predecessor, Jasmin Jones.
“Hogan has been much more hands-on and much more aware of the ins and outs of the issues,” he said.
Medlin also levied his influence on student life projects.
He invested most in the Arts Innovation Steering Committee, which designed an arts advocacy project that met overwhelming approval when presented to the Board of Trustees.
He said the project is well on its way to reaching his fundraising goal of $100,000 by August after receiving a significant donation from Chancellor Holden Thorp in January.
But he also saw platform points go unfulfilled.
Efforts at encouraging departmental advising were stalled because of a new director of the advising department, said Holly Boardman, student body vice president.
But the point was included in the new Academic Plan.
The administration also abandoned the publication of a campus newsletter, the Carolina Monthly Look, after leaders couldn’t secure the necessary funding.
Cooper, who will be inaugurated today, said she respects Medlin’s active commitment to student representation.
“You couldn’t have a conversation with him where he wouldn’t be playing devil’s advocate to make sure we were doing what’s best for the students,” she said.
Contact the University Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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