Students from across the UNC system are asking for better advocacy and resources to stay included in the tuition process.
At the Association of Student Governments’ special meeting Saturday, a group of students met with the student body presidents and ASG officers to discuss its role in the UNC-system Board of Governors’ meeting Feb. 10.
“We are truly the last voice for them, and we need to step it up for them,” said UNC-CH Student Body President Mary Cooper at the meeting.
The student body presidents of each campus — with the exception of N.C. State University — showed support for UNC-system Thomas Ross’ proposal and drafted a letter at the meeting urging board members to approve his tuition increases.
Some of the other students in attendance were part of the UNC Education Justice Alliance, a tuition-activism coalition.
Tim Longest, candidate for UNC-CH student body president and a member of the coalition, attended to ask for funds to provide transportation for students who want to attend the meeting.
Longest and other students asked for funding to bus students from across the state to Chapel Hill when members will review Ross’ proposal — which keeps campus tuition increases from exceeding 9.9 percent.
“Now is the time these students need to be their own advocates, and that’s why we’re asking for these buses,” Longest said.
The association is composed of student leaders from the 17 system institutions and is funded by an annual $1 student fee.
ASG President Atul Bhula said the association’s spending must be approved by the system’s General Administration, so the organization’s ability to fund the buses is still unclear — but the student body presidents told the students they would try.
Stephen Milder, a UNC graduate student who is also a member of the coalition, said he does not have a price for buses yet, but he’s meeting with Cooper Tuesday to discuss logistics.
Bringing the students to the board meeting is only one of the group’s goals, he said.
“I think our main goal is to show that students have been left out of the (tuition) process,” he said. “We’re not being involved in any of these discussions.”
Longest said it is important for students to speak for themselves.
“Our presence might not necessarily have a strong impact (on the vote), but we hope it will.”
Bhula, a non-voting member of the board, said he will request permission to allow students, Cooper and TJ Eaves – the student body president of Western Carolina University – to speak at the meeting.
“It’s not impossible, I’m going to talk to a few members on the board,” he said. “Everything is kind of up in the air right now.”
Bhula has been criticized by ASG members for rarely speaking on the behalf of the students at board meetings.
“It’s unacceptable if you don’t speak on Friday,” Eaves told Bhula.
Bhula said he relies on one-on-one conversations with board members to have his voice heard.
“They don’t really ask me to speak, that’s the thing,” he said at the meeting. “I’ve done a lot of side-door conversations with members.”
The board will discuss the proposals on Feb. 9 and vote the following day. Student body presidents from almost every school will attend.
Cooper said their presence is needed to represent students at this critical moment.
“This is what 220,000 have left for their voice to be heard.”
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