Nearly a year ago, students donning bright maize shirts attended a University Board of Regents meeting to show support of the then-budding tuition equality movement.
On Thursday, more than 50 student supporters charging undocumented Michigan residents in-state tuition rates attended the last regents meeting of the semester to show that the issue has yet to be resolved. But they didn’t leave without a suggestion that the goal may soon be realized.
“I know well that there is student interest in tuition equity,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said. “We’re looking very seriously at this issue, and we fully expect that we will have a positive recommendation to the board in the coming months.”
In a notable acknowledgement that wasn’t listed on the meeting’s agenda, Coleman hinted that she may advise the Board of Regents to move a policy change.
Coleman’s statement appeared to tacitly confirm that the University would begin looking at substantive policy changes in the near term — even if legal barriers hinder its implementation. A number of the regents have also expressed support for the principle of tuition equality.
A large number of students from the Coalition for Tuition Equality and other groups tried to attend the meeting, but many were turned away after the Anderson room in the Michigan Union reached full capacity.
Less than 24 hours before, 40 protesters rallied against the University’s current policy of charging out-of-state tuition to undocumented Michigan residents by blocking traffic at the intersection of State Street and South University Avenue. After eight of the protestors refused to leave the street, they were arrested by University Police.
On Thursday, the supporters — staging a “study-in” — stacked the set-up audience chairs, instead sitting on the ground to study. LSA sophomore Connor Caplis, a member of the board of the University’s undergraduate chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and LSA sophomore Ramiro Alvarez, the future leader of the Coalition for Queer People of Color, spoke in support of tuition equality during the public commentary section of the meeting.
By the time Alvarez spoke, most other attendees had already left and the audience was almost entirely tuition-equality advocates. Almost all of the supporters wore maize shirts with the remainder of spectators wearing white t-shirts with the name of the student organizations they represented written across the front.
Alvarez, who only a day before was arrested during the protest, said tuition equality is part of larger movement seeking the inclusion of minorities at the University.
“Every decision in our history in which this institution has allowed a marginalized community equal access has only strengthened our power and broadened our perspectives as lifetime learners,” Alvarez said.
After his speech, the crowd decided not to chant, but sang a spirited performance of “The Victors,” instead.
Business junior Michael Proppe, the incoming Central Student Government president, reaffirmed his support of tuition equality during his speech.
In his final address to the regents, Business senior Manish Parikh, the outgoing CSG president, echoed a speech by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
“Here at Michigan we have never made decisions because they’re easy. We made decisions because no matter what the hurdles and obstacles, we make them because they’re the right thing to do,” Parikh said.
Follow Giacomo Bologna on Twitter at @giacomo_bologna.