Almost 30 students from Gainesville Students for a Democratic Society organized a protest outside the Board of Governors meeting at Emerson Alumni Hall Thursday afternoon.
The rally was the first in a series of campaigns that the organization has preplanned for this semester to protest against tuition hikes and changes to Florida Prepaid and Florida Bright Futures scholarships.
According to SDS organizers Skye Schmelzer and Eric Brown, the Blue Ribbon Task Force is proposing differential tuition, which would affect non-STEM majors who make up about 70 percent of the UF student population. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We’re denouncing the Blue Ribbon Task Force,” said Eric Brown, a second-year political science major. “This is a call of action to people against this. This is really going to ignite people outside of SDS.”
Board chair Dean Colson said neither the state nor the governor has any interest in raising tuition for students, but admits that due to a lack of funding, the university can’t do much else to offset costs.
“If you want to recruit the very best and the very brightest and bring their labs to the campus, it costs money, and we need money,” Colson said. “We need to provide the funding for that.”
Former Florida state representative and Blue Ribbon Task Force member William “Bill” Proctor said the students have a right to organize and protest peacefully, but he doesn’t recall a specific recommendation made to the board regarding financial aid programs.
“As I recall, there was a subcommittee that recommended a three-year freeze on STEM tuition rates,” Proctor said. “I recommended that we move as expeditiously as possible to the national average for major research institutions.”
Regardless of the tuition status for future students, any change would impact students from lower and middle classes, according to Chrisley Carpio, a third-year history major at UF.
“This would keep working students out of the university and disenfranchise these groups all over again,” she said.
Rebekah Geier edited this story online.