More Media than Students Attend U. Texas-Arlington Protest

They held a protest, and no one came — well, almost no one.

University of Texas-Arlington school police and local Arlington, Texas, news media outnumbered the 12 or so UTA students who rallied against an administration-backed tuition increase proposal Thursday.

Jeni Hall, a political science and broadcast communication sophomore, called for the protest after circulating a petition and collecting 2,500 signatures criticizing the increases. The petition was presented to the Tuition Review Committee during its final meeting.

The 10 protesters chanted “Whatever happened to free public education?” and “This is the annihilation of the middle class!” for about 10 minutes before their enthusiasm waned.

Hall says the lack of student presence is due to a lack of motivation.

“Talking to students, a lot of them seem apathetic to the increases,” she says. “But once their parents see this, then they’ll care.”

The committee’s Chairman Josh Warren says the committee took the petition under consideration, and a statement Hall wrote was presented to members during deliberations on their final recommendation for interim President Charles Sorber.

But the protesting, Warren says, may have been inadequate.

“It’s frustrating because our biggest chance to have an impact was during the summer,” he says. “I wish these students had taken interest and gotten active sooner.”

He says committee members have already received so much similar feedback from their constituents and want to take an approach similar to the one Hall called for — lowering the original proposal’s increase for the spring semester.

Hall says she doesn’t believe administrators need to raise as much money as they claim and the university should make ends meet with what they have.

T he original proposal called for a $15-per-credit-hour increase in designated tuition in the fall and a $20-per-credit-hour increase in the spring. Nursing and engineering students would see additional hikes for upper-level and graduate courses.

The committee’s final recommendation calls for an $8-per-credit-hour increase in designated tuition for the spring.

While the committee was reviewing and drafting its proposal, the protesters on the engineering mall spoke with local media and wondered about the police presence.

One police officer filmed the event from a roof and another armed policeman stood guard at the entrance of the committee’s closed-door meeting.

Lt. Nan Rhodes at first said she was unaware of the rooftop video surveillance but later acknowledged campus police recorded the protest.

People at the event, such as protester and electrical engineering junior Jacob Strapp, says he was unsettled by it.

“We knew there were going to be cops here, but I didn’t know they were filming us,” he says. “It’s kind of spooky.”

Hall, though, says she was not intimidated by the media or the police. She held a sign stating, “Will work for tuition — we’re poor.” She says, however, that she was disappointed by the turnout.

“Well, it did get attention,” Hall said surrounded by news cameras. “But we got more media and less people.”