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Tuition Protest 2019

Administrators respond to student protests against tuition hikes

“We’re very grateful to the students for their input”

Following a student-led protest against AU’s increasing tuition, members of the university administration are responding their thoughts of the student-led movement.

The Board of Trustees recently finalized the budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, increasing the tuition by 3 percent each year. A day before the decision was made public, board members answered questions from protesters and listened to their concerns. 

Fanta Aw, AU’s vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, felt it was part of her job to talk to students demonstrating during the meeting. She said she thought her presence was important since she works so closely with students.

“I appreciate students raising their concerns and trying to do it constructively,” Aw said. “I thought the students who were out there protesting. I think they were very constructive and I was quite engaged with them when I was out there.” 

The board members present during the protest included board chairman Jack Cassell and new board member Maril MacDonald. During the protest, MacDonald said she values student input and wants to find a way for AU to be a national leader in changing the cost of student education. 

“I think it's really critical but we need to work together,” MacDonald said while speaking to protesters. “I don't agree when we fight we win. When we talk, we win, and when we work together, we win.”

Mark Story, a university spokesperson, said the administration celebrates the input from students throughout the whole entire process. 

“I think the administration supports the long history of student activism on campus and students are at the heart of the functioning of the University,” Story said. “I think that the administration always wants to hear about the views from students and those who pay the tuition.”

Aw said she engaged with students throughout the process by creating budget forums in partnership with AUSG and the Graduate Leadership Council. She also said there was student representation on the University Budget Committee.

“They were, in particular, really interested in talking about issues of affordability, the impact of tuition increases, the need for greater financial aid, but also at the same time wanting to make sure the University continues to provide quality education,” Aw said.

Provost Dan Myers said he was impressed by the students’ activism even though he came into the process late. He started in his position in January.

“When the quality is that good, it makes it easy to fold it into the process and into the thinking that we’re doing about the budget,” Myers said in an interview with The Eagle. “We’re very grateful to the students for their input.” 

Ayelet Sheffey contributed reporting to this article.

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