Our tuition is about to increase - again. Our university is facing a budget crisis - again. And the Board of Trustees has approved yet another policy that will make UF less accessible to working students.
At the June 10 Trustees meeting, every member of the board voted to increase student tuition by 15 percent in the coming year.
Facing an economic crisis with no end in sight and a slew of attacks on education coming from all sides, students are beginning to learn two lessons. First, the fight for public education in Florida is a multi-front battle. Second, we can't count on anyone but ourselves to fight this battle for us.
In the past legislative session, the right-wing state legislature and our extremist Gov. Rick Scott decided to balance the state budget on the backs of students and faculty. Just a month later, the Trustees and Student Body President Ben Meyers agreed to throw on a bit more weight by voting to increase student tuition by 15 percent.
Tuesday's issue of the Alligator featured an article covering the 15 percent tuition increase, an opinion piece written by President Meyers explaining his vote in favor of increased tuition and an editorial defending tuition hikes. It wasn't the presentation of the arguments that bothered me, especially since I've been on the receiving end of one-sided news coverage before. Instead, I was disturbed that neither of the two largest representatives of the Student Body - the student newspaper and the Student Body President - were willing to stand up to this new wave of attacks on public education.
Students need to come to terms with the fact that our list of allies has grown tremendously short in the last few months. Most of our representatives in Tallahassee are more than willing to put us on the chopping block first. Our sole representative on the board, the Student Body President, buckled under the pressure of President Bernie Machen and Provost Joe Glover and voted in favor of this recent 15 percent tuition hike. And even our student newspaper opted against standing with the Student Body against tuition increases and instead threw its support behind the board's plan.
Unquestionably, our university faces a looming budget crisis brought on by Gov. Scott, but it begs the question as to why we have a university president who worked on Gov. Scott's Economic Development Transition Team.
Undoubtedly, we have to tighten our belts in this economic crisis, but I doubt anyone on the board has considered starting with the UF President's Mansion on University Avenue - not used as a home - or the $1.1 billion UF endowment, which increased by 9.3 percent in 2010.
President Meyers is absolutely correct in pledging his continued opposition to block tuition, but we should resolutely condemn his decision to support a tuition increase more financially devastating for working students than block tuition.
Whether it's Rick Scott's chopping block or the administration's guillotine, students are always told to step up first and kneel.
I'm tired of kneeling. Our representatives, even with their loud voices, won't stand up for us. We can't afford to wait on them to change their minds.The state legislature cut Bright Futures Scholarship awards by 20 percent per student, meaning even fewer students will have the opportunity to attend UF in the future. When education is under attack, the students themselves must stand up and fight back.
As one of 10 students protesting, President Machen and President Meyers can shut their doors, close their window blinds and drown out our cries with a little soft music. But as a mass student body, we can organize ourselves, march to Tigert Hall, and demand that when we go to balance the budget, we should always chop from the top.
Whether it's more budget cuts coming from Tallahassee in January 2012, the administration's block tuition plans, or the 15 percent tuition hike, we can defeat any and all attacks on public education by standing together.
Dave Schneider is political science and history senior and a former candidate for Student Body President.