Last year, former Student Body President Hogan Medlin and his executive board told Department of Public Safety officials that the five-year transportation plan was unacceptable and burdensome to students but say they were repeatedly ignored. Last week, students proved that these concerns were more than just talk by rejecting a proposed $14.50 increase to the student transportation fee. DPS needs to accept that rejection and find a revenue model that fairly incorporates student concerns.
Faced with a looming $6.1 million funding shortfall in 2015-16, brought on by ballooning debt loads and a $2.6 million increase in Chapel Hill Transit funding, DPS developed a five-year revenue model that was contingent upon heavy increases in student fees and parking permits. Despite very heavy opposition last year from Medlin and the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, the plan was rubber stamped by the Board of Trustees in March. Medlin was the lone dissenting vote.
Seven months later, students have turned from talk to action, trimming DPS’ first increase request by nearly 50 percent to $8.74.
While DPS officials may be “surprised” by this act, given Student Body President Mary Cooper’s near silence on the issue, it should come as no surprise to those who have been listening. Despite what DPS Chief Jeff McCracken may want to believe, the recent fee cut upholds a long-standing student commitment to defend student concerns.
Cooper needs to do a better job of communicating this fact to administrators or students are going to pay the price. If a harder line is not drawn, students will likely see larger fee increases next year, in addition to the inevitable tuition hikes.