Chanting student protesters halted a meeting of trustees for nearly three minutes Wednesday following the approval of a 15.6 percent tuition hike for in-state students.
The protesters said they felt ignored by the Board of Trustees after the budget, finance and audit committee of the board passed a proposal that would raise in-state tuition by $2,800 over the next five years. It would also increase out-of-state tuition by 6.5 percent.
The proposal, which was crafted by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney, will be voted on in the full board meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. today. Student protesters will likely attend the meeting in a last attempt to change administrator’s minds.
A group of approximately 50 protesters started in the Pit Wednesday and marched down Cameron Avenue banging drums and stopping traffic until they reached the committee meeting at the Carolina Inn.
Junior Zaina Alsous, one of the protesters, said the goal was to force the board to consider alternatives, such as using funds from the University’s endowment before taking revenue from tuition.
“Whether we’re listened to or not, we need to make our presence felt and our opinions heard,” Alsous said.
Protesters packed the Carolina Inn ballroom, spilling out into the corridor, holding signs and interjecting into the trustees’ conversation.
Several of the protesters, including sophomore Ana Maria Reichenbach, said administrators failed to consider drawing from the Chapel Hill Investment Fund, which makes up most of the University’s endowment funds.
“What is this $2.2 billion endowment there for?” she told the committee. “It is there for a rainy day, and today it is pouring.”
But Jon King, president and CEO of the UNC Management Co., which manages the endowment, said most of the funds are for restricted use.
But when pressed by protesters, he said he did not know the exact percentage of money that is not restricted to a specific use.
“How could you not know that at your own meeting?” one protester shouted out.
King said most of the funds were donated for specific purposes by private donors, and that the protesting students who claimed that 12.2 percent of the fund was unrestricted misunderstood the nature of the fund.
“This $2.2 (billion) number that we’re tossing around — you’re acting like it’s a big bank account but really it’s an aggregation of funds raised for specific purposes.”
The committee allowed Alsous and one other student to voice concerns about Carney’s proposal.
“You keep talking about all these numbers, and we’re here to offer the face behind those numbers,” Alsous told members.
Committee members and Chancellor Holden Thorp applauded the students after they spoke. But time constraints limited the discussion.
After the proposal was approved, protesters exited the ballroom, heckling the committee and calling them “disgusting.”
Sallie Shuping-Russell, chairwoman of the committee, said she felt bad for not having time for all the students’ comments but did appreciate their involvement.
She said she respected Student Body President Mary Cooper’s proposal — which received the support of student protesters who attended the tuition and fee advisory task force meeting Monday.
Although Cooper’s proposal was not presented at Wednesday’s meeting, Shuping-Russell gave each trustee a copy of the proposal to be considered prior to today’s full board meeting.
Cooper said she will argue her proposal one last time in front of the full board today.
The trustees will decide on a final proposal, which will be presented to the UNC-system Board of Governors in February.
“It’s a process, and we are raising questions at the moment,” Cooper said. “The more those questions are considered, the better it will be for students.”
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