CHAPEL HILL — Surrounded by a raucous student protest, the UNC Board of Governors on Friday approved tuition and fee increases averaging 8.8 percent for in-state undergraduates across the university system for next year.
Using the sort of call-and-response chants that have been a hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement, about 100 students marched and pushed their way into the lobby outside the UNC Board of Governors meeting before the vote. At least one person was arrested, and a handful of protesters occupied seats in the boardroom that were reserved for UNC chancellors.
“Those seats are our seats!” the students chanted from the lobby.
The board, despite a few dissenting votes, approved the increases, which for in-state undergraduates include a second year of higher tuition rates that average 4.2 percent. Prices for 2013-2014 will be set later for out-of-state and graduate students.
For 2012-2013, in-state, undergraduate tuition and fees will rise by 8.5 percent at N.C. Central University, 9.8 percent at N.C. State University, and 9.9 percent at UNC-Chapel Hill. Some of the UNC campuses, including NCSU and UNC-CH, had asked for higher tuition to help cope with state budget cuts…
…After the meeting, protesters flooded the boardroom, and some board members left through a back door. The students then sat at the square board table and continued their protest.
Met by police
Earlier in the morning, they marched down Raleigh Road toward the UNC administration building, beating drums and carrying signs and banners.
They were met by police officers who tried to prevent the crowd from entering the building, but the students pushed ahead anyway.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, joined students, saying the board should stand with the protesters against budget cuts from the legislature.
One protester, Andrew Payne, 33, of Raleigh, was charged with second-degree trespassing and resisting, obstructing and delaying a law enforcement officer.
Payne is a former NCSU student and head of the Association of Student Governments, a systemwide group of student leaders. He previously served as the student representative on the Board of Governors.
After the meeting, Ross said he admired the students’ passion and their desire to be heard.
“They’re good kids and they’re passionate and it’s a difficult time,” he said. “You can’t be upset with them.”
Laura McCready, a UNC-CH sophomore from Charlotte who sat in a chancellor’s seat, said the act was a symbolic gesture to show the board that students should have a voice in the conversation.
“I don’t think they had the sense of how upset and angry and scared students are right now,” she said. “I think we got the point across.”