About 30 Texas Wesleyan students gathered Wednesday afternoon to silently protest the 16-hour block rate change.
The protest was held on the third floor of the Oneal-Sells Administration Building outside a student and academic affairs committee meeting and was organized by the Student Government Association.
The event was a response to changes made to the block tuition rate. Starting next fall, the rate is going from 18 hours to 16; students taking more than 16 hours per semester will pay more for each additional hour, according to an email sent out by university President Frederick Slabach on Sunday.
Video by Alpha Diallo
In the email, Slabach wrote that the change “allows us to continue as a top-tier university, dedicated to intentionally small class sizes with engaging educators who are committed to personal attention for the benefit of our students.”
SGA President Alyssa Hutchinson said the goal of the protest is to get the attention of Wesleyan’s administration. She said protesters dressed in red to show solidarity; they passed out red ribbons.
“I think (with) the administration in the past things have happened and students have not been very vocal, so I think it has always been the assumption that students don’t care. This changes things,” Hutchinson said.
Slabach briefly spoke to the students both before and after the meeting and praised their actions. He said he thought that students protesting was great, and he encouraged students to use the critical thinking skills they have developed and “question authority at all levels.”
“Everything that we do here is focused on students,” he said. “We want everyone to know that we take their issues into account, and we are delighted that our students care enough about issues like this to bring them to our attention. We want to help resolve them.”
Hutchinson spoke at the meeting to give the board updates and discuss the issues students have. She was the only protester to attend the meeting.
“This is the only way they know that it matters to them,” she said. “Otherwise, they just make these decisions, and we just take them.”
SGA Treasurer Nicholas Davis said the point of the protest is for the administration to see that the students are upset with the block rate change.
“They need to have more transparency with their decisions, not just student, but also for faculty and staff because they were not aware of the change either. The timing is something that is really problematic because of registration and everything,” Davis said.
Callie Jones, a freshman criminal justice major, said the administration’s actions are not justified.
“I think they thought of their outcomes but not our outcomes,” Jones said.
Sophomore criminal justice major Marissa Quintanilla said she is participating in the protest because she feels Wesleyan is being unfair.
“It does not really have an impact on me but (it does on) my friends and that is mostly why I am here,” Quintanilla said.
Slabach said a solution to the students’ concerns has already been made.
“We have already been able to implement a waiver for the block rate credit cap, so that students who are required to earn more than 128 credit hours in eight semesters will be able to get a waiver from that cap. That waiver has already been posted online and in the cashier’s office,” Slabach said.
After Hutchinson spoke in the meeting, she walked out with Slabach and he told the protestors that Hutchinson did a good job communicating their concerns.
“This committee does not have actual jurisdiction over the particular issues, but the chairman of the committee said that he would definitely take it to heart and in terms conversations with other board members. He would make sure they understand what positon you guys have in all of this,” he said. “It is very important for us and for the board to hear your concerns.”
Criminal justice junior Cameron Bennett said if students want things to change, they have to continue to stick together.
“One way or another this is the way it has to go,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he wants people to know that just because students are protesting, it does not mean they don’t love the school.
“In the end, I feel like our experience here is going to be the biggest influence in the reasons we change these decisions,” he said. “I love my school. I am never going to stop loving my school but that doesn’t mean I am not going to fight for changes that need to be made.”