UA students pay for their silent opinions

At the Feb. 20 Board of Regents Meeting at Gorsuch Commons, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted 8-2 to raise tuition at UA schools by 5 percent. On social media, some students expressed grief at the tuition hike. But before the vote, regents had heard very little from students regarding their pending decision.

During the meeting, UA President Pat Gamble and Regent Courtney Enright emphasized the lack of student voices regarding the issue. During the public testimony sessions of the Board of Regents meetings held last Thursday and Friday, students, faculty and community members stepped up to the mic to voice their passions regarding the Tanaina Child Development Center, the facilities fee and budget concerns. Yet no one commanded the floor to contest the pending raise in tuition, which was voted against last September before the dip in oil prices.

Enright said that students had not called, emailed or otherwise contacted her to plead otherwise, and this informed her decision to vote in favor of the increase.

There are a few reasons why students would not voice their opinions, even if increased tuition would be a detriment to their university experience.

Many take low tuition for granted. The regents’ September vote offered a false sense of long-lasting security regarding tuition. But dead motions can be reintroduced — and in this case, passed just a few months later.

Other students assume their case is simply obvious: What student would want tuition to go up? But what we communicate amongst ourselves as students doesn’t always make it to the upper ranks of regents.

Another kind of student may think his or her opinion doesn’t count, and that student input is irrelevant to the decisions the powerful regents make. But as Gamble and Enright pointed out — it does count.

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No drop of water ever fathomed being an ocean, but each bit is treasured in the desert. For those who are silent, the absence of their disagreement suggests acquiescence. Each person — silent and vocal alike — speaks simply by existing at all. But even the smallest of voices ring loud and clear in a desert devoid of opinion. This is what the regents were looking for last Friday.

The topic of tuition has multiple viewpoints and valid arguments on every side. But it is unfair to sit back and hope others will do the talking. It’s impossible to have a legitimate democratic process with an immobilized public.

Find out what matters to you and fight for it, no matter what side you’re on. Know the power and value of your perspective, because acquiescence isn’t enough.