The Ohio University Board of Trustees voted in favor of implementing the Guaranteed Tuition program yesterday. In reaction, students, including those who participated in the #RaiseHellNotTuition protest on Thursday, marched from the meeting in Walter Hall to College Green. On College Green, they gathered to hold a demonstration by the Civil War Monument.
By passing Guaranteed Tuition, the program will increase the tuition cost by 5.1 percent. The Board of Trustees also voted on the installation of a natural gas pipeline to be built under the Hocking River and university budget cuts to the Sexual Survivor Advocacy Program, which sparked more outrage among the students.
“Guaranteed Tuition disproportionately affects students of color, low income students and first generation college students,” said Jolana Watson, a junior studying media and social change.
Watson said that for years, the Ohio University Student Union has made consistent efforts to communicate and address student concerns with the university, specifically with tuition costs, but have received “no results.”
“Part of the Board’s hidden agenda is that it [Guaranteed Tuition] will affect students who aren’t even here yet,” Watson said. “That’s why we’re here. Their plans to silent dissent will not work.”
After the demonstration on College Green, the crowd of students marched up sidewalks on Court Street to the Athens City Building in order to escort the students who were given citations after Thursday’s protest, as well as three students who were arrested at the Board of Trustees’ meeting. The students cited and arrested went to the city building, where they asked for continuances on their hearings.
Student Senate President Megan Marzec and Kyle Tussing, who were cited after Thursday’s demonstration, were among the students entering the building. Among others, the three individuals arrested at yesterday’s Board of Trustees’ meeting, current students Bekki Wyss and Claire Chadwick and Andrew Lake, an alum of Ohio University.
Chadwick delivered the first speech at yesterday’s demonstration in front of the Civil War monument.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have walked out of that room and been surrounded by cops,” Chadwick said. In her speech, she discussed the motivation behind #RaiseHellNotTuition’s actions, which includes “fighting for future students” by resisting Guaranteed Tuition.
Several other students also delivered speeches in front of the monument, including Megan Popke, who spoke at Thursday’s demonstration.
“I understand that the police want to protect us […] but where were they when all of the rape cases happened?” Popke said. “Where were they when I was going home, all the way to South Green, at 1:00 in the morning with pepper spray when I was chased by three guys?”
Along with Popke, many students expressed their outrage at the cuts to the Sexual Survivor Advocacy program and the proposed pipeline.
“We need that Survivor Advocacy Program,” said Madeleine Toerne, a sophomore studying Integrated Language Arts. “We need that support.”
In addition to the students who gave speeches, Evan Young, the campus minister at United Campus Ministry in Athens, also spoke during the demonstration.
“I appreciate what you have to say,” Young said. “You are doing important work and I’m here to tell you that you’re being heard.”
Young told the students that in many of his discussions with community members, some have confirmed their support of the OU students’ concerns but are uncomfortable with how they try to voice them.
“I’m here to tell you that not everyone feels that way,” Young said.
The students who participated in #RaiseHellNotTuition have made it clear that they will continue to resist the Board’s decisions involving Guaranteed Tuition, as well as the cuts made to the Sexual Survivor Advocacy Program and the installation of a natural gas pipeline under the Hocking River. They have also made it clear that they will continue to fight for the safety and security of their fellow Bobcats on campus.