As 200 students and Chapel Hill occupiers chanted and beat on drums in protest outside the meeting room, the UNC-system Board of Governors passed President Thomas Ross’ proposal of increasing tuition and fees by a systemwide average of 8.8 percent.
Andrew Payne, a former N.C. State University student and Association of Student Governments president, was arrested after leaving his seat in the board room to incite chants of “open the door” from the crowd.
Payne was charged with second-degree trespassing and resistance, said Randy Young, spokesman for the UNC Department of Public Safety.
The protest involved students from across the state. Many slept in the Campus Y before rallying in the pit at 8 a.m.
Young said because the protest involved a large crowd, which blocked off traffic in the march down Raleigh Road, officials called for a multi-agency response.
Young said it was the first time during his tenure at UNC that an event called for a security response of that measure.
Despite the out-cry from students and disagreements between board members, Ross’ proposal passed. The final vote was inaudible over shouts of protest outside the board room.
The board voted against an amendment proposed by board member Frank Grainger to cap the amount of tuition revenue directed toward financial aid at 25 percent.
ASG President Atul Bhula spoke out against the amendment, along with student protestors who would sporadically stand up and chant protests during the meeting.
“It’s a disservice to our students to do this,” Bhula said about Grainger’s proposal.
Ross promised a review of financial aid and what sources the aid should come from in the coming months.
UNC-CH puts 38 percent of its tuition revenue toward financial aid.
Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of student aid at the University, said if need-based aid had been capped at 25 percent last year, 4,000 of the 13,000 students wouldn’t have received tuition grants.
At Thursday’s meeting, some board members were skeptical about approving a tuition proposal that spans two years instead of one, but Ross’ proposal passed unamended today.
“Right now times are very difficult and I think our campuses needed some help and that’s what we tried to do today,” Ross said in a press conference. “The hope is that two years from now we’ll know exactly what the anticipated needs (of the campuses) are.”
Stopping the bleeding
The UNC system suffered a budget cut of $414 million last year, and Ross said the tuition increase proposal — if approved by the N.C. General Assembly this summer — will put a “band-aid on the bleeding.”
“If you look at the undergraduate amounts here, this tuition proposal produces just over 10 percent of what we lost last year. So it’s not going to fill the hole.”
Ross also said the board must continue to look at alternate sources of funding.
“One of the things that has been hard over the years are the cuts,” chairwoman of the board Hannah Gage said. “We were in this endless cycle of just responding. We’ve had little time to just hit the pause button and think.”
Occupying the boardroom
After the meeting was over, protesters stormed into the boardroom and sat in the board members’ seats in sign of protest. Protesters threw board members’ name tags onto the floor, and chants of anti-tuition turned into those that harbored sentiments of the Occupy movement.
Board member Franklin McCain, one of the “Greensboro Four” who initiated the Greensboro sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, was the only member of the board who stayed as the student protesters took over the boardroom.
“I have an interest in what the students are interested in,” McCain said. “Students have the opportunity to practice democracy.”
He said he wasn’t disappointed to see the rest of the board members leave through the back door of the boardroom.
“It’s a matter of individual conscience,” McCain said. “For me, this is the best way to listen to their interests.”
He also said it was an appropriate way to protest the hikes.
“If you want to get noticed, you have to get a little louder. I think that’s acceptable.”
If the N.C. General Assembly passes the approved proposal, UNC-CH’s in-state undergraduate tuition will increase by $695, a 13.5 percent increase.
But Gage said the protest reflected not only views on tuition, but on economic inequality in general.
“They were angry with me about the bank bail out, about Wall Street,” Gage said in a press conference. “This was not just a student protest on tuition. They were angry about the world.”
ASG President Bhula said although the student protesters were against Ross’ plan that his association supported, he was proud of them.
“They represented their cause well,” he said. “There are so many students out there with different mind sets.”
“I think they need to do this at the General Assembly.”
Grace Anderson, a senior at Winston-Salem State University, said she slept overnight in the Campus Y in order to protest the tuition hikes.
“The people here who are supposed to stand up for us did not,” Anderson said. “I want to be optimistic and say they did listen, but they are so disconnected from us.”
Joseph Terrell, director of internal relations for Campus Y, who helped organize the sleep over, said the administration had not given students the opportunity to voice their opinions on tuition increases.
“If the students were heard today, it’s not because they were invited to be heard,” he said.
Terrell’s fellow member of Campus Y, Greg Randolph echoed his sentiments.
“Students acted in the only way they could in this situation,” Randolph said. “No students inside the meeting were allowed to speak except for one, and he’s not even a voting member of the Board of Governors, so people inside the room may have felt that what students did today was obnoxious or over the top.”
“But I think they left us no other option.”
Senior writer Tarini Parti contributed to reporting.
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