One of the advantages of graduating in May is that I will no longer have to deal with the annual tuition hike circus. Consider the goings-on at the most recent UNC Board of Governors meeting. You have a bunch of adults sitting around a table considering increasing next year’s tuition by 13.5%. And why? Because UNC took a “massive” $80 million hit to its $2.4 billion budget (that’s a 3.3% cut in the budget). How such a relatively small cut to the budget requires such a large increase in tuition is beyond me. And it’s not as if the University has done much to mitigate the cuts either. Sure, the administration is perfectly willing to cut class offerings and increase class sizes. But are they willing to cut any actual fat from the budget? Of course not. To take an example, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs currently employs over 19 people. Such an office does little to advance the educational mission of the University. Closing down this office and other dead-weight “centers” across the University would do a lot to alleviate the impact of the budget cuts without affecting the educational mission of the school and without creating undue financial burdens on students. Such centers and offices are luxuries. They may be nice to have around while the state is flush with cash and the economy is booming, but the current situation necessitates that the University focus on only what is most important to its academic mission. The failure of the UNC administration to implement any real budget cuts is a dereliction of duty and is causing undue hardship on UNC students.
But there’s also a story to be told on the student side of the debate. While the conduct of the administration has been shameful, storming into the BOG meeting like a bunch of whiny kids (and getting arrested) is no better. Of course, one can appreciate the feeling of desperation that motivates students to behave this way. After all, organizations like the Association of Student Governments (ASG) that supposedly exist to serve as the student voice to the BOG and the administration have been conspicuously silent throughout the debate. In any given news article, one can read of any number of student groups that have popped up to oppose the tuition increases, yet there is rarely any mention of ASG, the single organization that students actually pay to represent them. Why? Because, quite simply, the organization hasn’t done anything. Their top priority at the moment is a field trip to Washington, DC later this month. So, one can appreciate why students feel like they need to be so forthright in their dealings with the BOG. Having expected ASG to ensure that such ridiculous increases would not happen, these students have been forced to scramble at the last minute to have their voices heard. ASG’s silence is absolutely deafening.