Fee hike meets with dissent

By Jim Wozniak

When the Board of Regents formally approved a $150 tuition increase for the spring semester for NIU Friday, the move did not go unnoticed by students.

Members of the Student Association, the John Lennon Society and the Student Committee on Political Action (SCOPA) showed up to protest the Regents’ decision. Richard Beard, president of the University Professionals of Illinois’ NIU chapter also addressed the board before the vote was cast.

Chants of “What’s up? Tuition!” filled the Regency Room in the Holmes Student Center periodically when the board voted and when NIU student Regent Nick Valadez read his statement about the need for fairness to higher education. Some students occasionally rattled coins in plastic cups during the tuition increase discussion.

The small contingent also brought signs which were held from the beginning of the meeting at 9:30 a.m. until the tuition discussion ended about noon. The signs read: “Your money, your rights. Don’t let them get wasted”; “College should be a choice, not a luxury”; “You have to enlist to learn bribery in action”; “Statewide school strike Oct. 21”; “No tuition increase.”

Students began the day standing outside the Regency Room waiting for the Regency presidents and board members to enter. Students were dressed in clothing resembling that of beggars and, when the Regents passed by, the students rattled cups and asked for spare change.

NIU President John LaTourette responded with a smile, “I can’t spare a dime.”

SCOPA Chair Tom Rainey said part of the protest began Thursday night. The organization did not attend the Joint Facilities/Finance Committee meeting Thursday, where the committee voted to recommend the increase to the full board.

ainey said the students went to LaTourette’s house at 11 p.m. Thursday but discovered the Regents already had returned to their rooms at the Holiday Inn. The group left a note for the Regents, which stated, “While you were here, no tuition increase,” he said. Rainey said some students also camped out at King Memorial Commons.

“The reason we camped out was symbolic,” Rainey said. “$150 is a whole month’s rent, and we can’t pay rent with this tuition increase.”

ainey drew a public reprimand from Regent Clara Fitzpatrick after he followed Valadez’s speech with his own remarks. He said the biggest impact will be on the poor and minorities because, if enrollment is reduced, it increases the standards for admission. He also said because the Regents are upper-middle class, they are not in touch with the students.

Beard told the Regents that any tuition increase should be the least amount and as tentative as possible. The audience followed that statement with a barrage of applause. He also asked the Regents to unfreeze salaries by using money from the tuition hike or other revenue sources.

The board voted against a temporary tuition hike and also said the increase would not go for salaries.