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Tuition hike protests lack unity, direction

Photo: Tuition hike protests lack unity, direction (Edward Pickup)
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.

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