A protest over tuition hikes leads to a conflict between arrests and awards

When the University of Minnesota jacked tuition yet again, six students were banned from a building for a year.

When the University of Minnesota jacked tuition yet again, six students were banned from a building for a year.

Unbeknownst to many University of Minnesota students who were away for the summer, the Board of Regents recently approved a set of tuition hikes for the upcoming year.

Tuition for resident undergraduates at the Twin Cities campus will go up 2.5 percent (about $300-$400) and 7.5 percent for nonresidents (about $1,700). Resident graduate students will see a 3.4 percent increase — nonresidents 5 percent.

The hikes are yet another leap skyward for an institution that costs on average between $12,546 to $22,700 to attend. For the U’s working class students, a couple thousand dollars is no small difference.

A group of about 50 students marched into the McNamara Alumni Center on June 10 while the regents were in session to make their objections known. They carried signs and banners and chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go,” while handing out fliers with a list of requests.

Chief among their demands: treat college as a public good by reducing tuition as much as possible, immediate free tuition for Native students, U president Eric Kaler’s immediate resignation, and divestment from BlackRock Investment, which has ties to the private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America.

After the disruption had gone on for about 15 minutes, the regents retreated into a back room. The students were warned they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the building.

Most followed the instructions, but six who volunteered to hold the floor or be forcibly removed stayed behind.

They were arrested by Minneapolis Police, cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and told not to set foot in McNamara Alumni Center for a full year before being released.

There are a few problems with that, the students say. McNamara Alumni Center is also home to the Disability Resource Center, which helps students with a huge range of issues, including everything from physically getting around campus if they were to break a leg to helping them get accommodations in the classroom for mental health issues.

One of the arrested students is also in the middle of applying for a tutoring job in McNamara. After the arrest, she had to call her interviewer and explain that she hoped the arrest wouldn’t disqualify her from helping other students with their homework, but the ban does mean that she’ll have to notify the cops every time she wants to enter the building and hav e her boss corroborate it.

Another of the arrested students, Rahsaan Mahadeo, is scheduled to receive the President’s Student Leadership Award in October during a ceremony that will be held in McNamara.

“I think it’s absolutely ironic,” says Max Franz, an undergrad arrested. “I think it highlights one of the biggest ironies of the university — that on the surface they’re willing to commemorate students who have displayed leadership in very symbolic, nonmeaningful ways, but when it comes to actually dealing with students who take a stand for the student body...the way they actually deal with those students is by punishing them.”

(Mahadeo is constantly being awarded by the U. Last year, he was recognized for outstanding community service. Then he was arrested by campus police for protesting in Eric Kaler’s office over the poor retention of faculty of color.)