Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, May 24, 2019

Students plan to protest tuition increase during board meeting Thursday

In a town hall led by organizers, students discussed frustrations with high tuition

Students plan to protest tuition increase during board meeting Thursday
Students discuss means of action during a pre-protest town hall on Feb. 24, 2019 in Kerwin 1.

In a full classroom in Kerwin Hall Sunday night, AU students gathered to discuss their plans to protest tuition increases for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday.

During the town hall, students expressed their frustrations with the high cost of college tuition within the United States in general.

“We shouldn’t be dealing with debt until we die,” junior Mitchell Lenneville, one of the organizers, said at the event.

He said that the protest would symbolize a continuation of AU’s history of student activism, including when AU students protested tuition costs during the last board meeting in 2017. In an online exhibit about student debt, the National Museum of American History also features a photo of AU students demonstrating against tuition increases in 2013. 

In preparation for the protest, organizers have posted a letter on Facebook that students can give to their professors to get excused from class to attend the protest.

The organizers, including Lenneville and Mya Zemlock, began planning the protest last semester, they said. After AU proposed an increased cost in meal plans, Lenneville and others decided to include concerns about the proposal in the protest. However, AU Dining leaders later decided against the increase following student opposition.

Lenneville said that the decision showed that protesting against tuition increases might also lead to change. Zemlock told students that she is attending AU for three years instead of four because she cannot afford the cost.

“That’s why I’m angry and that’s why I’m protesting,” she said.

Several students said they had friends who had to transfer from AU because their families could not afford tuition.

Student Government President Valentina Fernández and other members of AUSG were also present at the town hall.

Before the event ended, Fernández said that although she disagreed with the planned increase, it is “inevitable.”

She also said that she would not be attending AU if it were not for financial aid, and directed  students who are curious about AU’s budget to the University’s website.

In their Budget Development Guidelines for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, AU promises to make “tuition and residence hall rate increases as modest as possible.”

After the town hall, Lenneville highlighted his reasons for why the protest is important.

“We have to acknowledge that there are other students across America that are struggling that don’t have the same voice we have by being right here in the nation’s capital,” he said. “We have a duty as American University students to take action against injustice.”

saustin@theeagleonline.com


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