University of Minnesota community members filled McNamara Alumni Center Friday afternoon to confront President Eric Kaler and the Board of Regents with concerns about his budget proposal.
At the public forum, students, staff and faculty voiced their disapproval over several items in the president’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, including tuition hikes for non-resident and graduate students.
Students at the forum said the University is hurting its graduate schools by increasing tuition rates and cutting programs.
Kaler’s budget proposal continues to freeze tuition for the second year in a row for students who pay resident tuition, while graduate tuition would increase by 3 percent. Some professional schools would also see a slight increase in tuition.
“We have begun to make incredible strides for undergraduates and need to address these issues with professional students as well,” said Ashley Hall, a veterinary student and incoming vice executive vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
Keaton Miller, a Council of Graduate Students executive board member, said the University has continuously cut programs for graduate students and wants more funding for workshops to prepare them for their careers.
“We’re doing our part teaching Minnesota’s undergraduate students every day and then staying up all night providing the cutting edge research that powers this University’s reputation,” he said. “In other words, we have Minnesota’s back. Do you have ours?”
Protesters flood forum
During the forum, a group of more than 20 people filed into the boardroom, each carrying a single white flower to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the death of a University drug trial patient Dan Markingson.
The group also held a vigil for Markingson around an empty black coffin outside McNamara before the forum.
The event, organized by Students for a Democratic Society and Physicians for Human Rights, called for an independent investigation of the death of Markingson, a University drug trial participant who committed suicide in 2004, six months after joining the study. They also demanded the University release information on all other deaths in psychiatric research studies since 1999.
Kaler agreed to an independent, external panel to investigate how the institution conducts clinical research on human subjects in December.
Protesters said the review should also include an external investigation of Markingson’s death.
“There needs to be a real investigation,” said bioethics professor Leigh Turner. “There needed to be one a decade ago, and there needs to be one now.”