Six students were arrested during a protest over proposed University of Minnesota tuition increases at a Friday Board of Regents meeting.
Nearly 30 demonstrators attended the meeting to protest the Twin Cities campus tuition hikes included in University President Eric Kaler’s 2017 operating budget.
In the end, the demonstrators failed to persuade regents to reject Kaler's proposed budget.
The board approved the $3.6 billion budget proposal by a 7 to 2 vote on Friday. The plan includes a 2.5 percent tuition increase for resident or reciprocity undergraduates, and a 7.5 percent increase for nonresident, non-reciprocity undergraduates — a decrease from Kaler's original 9.9 percent increase proposal. The scaled-back increase comes after opposition from students over Kaler's initial reccommendation.
The increases will be abated for students whose families make less than $120,000 a year, which will impact about 10,000 students, according to the University.
Many of the protesters were members of Differences Organized, a coalition of about 15 different student organizations, including Whose Diversity?, said coalition organizer Joanna Nunez.
“This administration has failed to listen to students multiple times,” Nunez, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student in feminist studies and a Whose Diversity? member, said. “We don’t feel like it’s okay for this University to try fund itself on the backs of both out of state students and … local communities.”
University Spanish instructor Mary Pogatshnik, who participated in the protests, said the tuition hikes would put a substantial burden on students who are already overworked as a result of funding their education.
“My problem with this is watching students fall asleep in my class, not being able to come to my class, not being able to enjoy my class because they just worked a double shift,” she said. “It’s too much to ask of our undergraduates to assume the fiscal and mental … un-health because of this.”
The protests began at the beginning of the board’s meeting and lasted about fifteen minutes before six demonstrators were arrested. The rest of the protestors were warned to leave the building by University of Minnesota Police Department officers.
The students were cited for unlawful assembly and were later released, said University spokesperson Steve Henneberry.
Regent Chair Dean Johnson said he was advised by UMPD Chief Matt Clark to give the protesters 10 to 15 minutes to demonstrate before warning them they would be arrested if they failed to leave.
“They have every right to protest,” Johnson said. “I don’t like to arrest people because of free speech, but having said that, we needed to talk about the budget, the capital projects issue and a whole series of other business … this is one of our most important meetings that we have in the year.”
Kaler said he was disappointed with the protests, adding that the University works hard to address students’ concerns regarding campus climate.
“We work hard with a variety of things around campus climate,” he said. “I listen to student voices across the spectrum. I respect their point of view, but when you protest a tuition increase that’s reserved only for families, that feels that we’re not representing the fact that we’ve frozen tuition … for low and mostly middle-income [students].”