Many seniors are angry after the General Alumni Association (GAA) offered students the option to pay for a FAST PASS during Wednesday's Senior Week Bell Tower Climb.
The General Alumni Association provides a Bell Tower Climb experience during all home football games and once during Senior Week, during which people are able to go inside the tower and climb to the clock.
During Senior Week, roughly 1,000 to 1,100 students attend. However, seniors could skip the line with the GAA’s FAST PASS. To get the FAST PASS, seniors must join the GAA for $30 and donate $20.19 to any area of the University, said GAA Director of Enrichment Programs Marcie Leemore.
Putting on the event costs several thousand dollars, Leemore said. The event is paid for with GAA membership dues, not University funds, according to the GAA website.
“The FAST PASS gives you first priority access to the Bell Tower climb,” Leemore said.
Those who did not purchase a FAST PASS instead waited in line. Senior Julia Gallagher left the line after waiting for two and a half hours.
“I just kind of felt like it wasn’t worth it,” Gallagher said. "I heard people who had already been up say it was kind of underwhelming. I was in the non-FAST PASS line, and it just wasn’t moving at all.”
Gallagher also posted about her experience in the UNC Facebook meme page, "Carol Folt’s $4.25B Memorial Meme Stash."
Leemore said she has heard of people who waited four or five hours in line, but she does not know for sure. In years past, the average wait was around three hours, she said.
“We charge for membership and reward those who have given to the University and members with the FAST PASS,” Leemore said.
Gallagher said the $50 price tag is steep. She said students should only have to pay the $20.19 and not be forced join the GAA. Senior Abbey Cmiel echoed Gallagher’s thoughts on the money.
“As a whole, the Bell Tower climb felt more like a stark reminder of the dividers of class than a celebratory and community event,” Cmiel said.
Leemore said students who are unable to pay do not approach the GAA about wanting to join.
“I will say I don’t know that we’ve had lots of folks come by and say, 'I really, really want to join the General Alumni Association, I can't afford the $30, is there something you can do to help me?'" Leemore said.
However, many students are upset with how the GAA managed the event. Senior Elizabeth Marks said the event would be more fair if it was organized better. Gallagher agreed, saying the GAA should reevaluate the system it uses to let people in and that letting FAST PASS people in first was unfair.
“It feels strange to herald the climb as a ‘must do’ senior event that everyone should take part in and have hundreds line up only to realize they will not be allowed in until all those who paid have,” Cmiel said.
Leemore said the GAA wants everyone to have a chance to climb the Bell Tower, which was why anyone in line before 4 p.m. climbed. The GAA will evaluate feedback to determine how it will manage the event next year and the future of the FAST PASS, she said.
“We really sympathize that people had to wait so long on Wednesday and definitely appreciate all the feedback we’ve gotten,” Leemore said.