Backlash Over Cortez Whatley’s Support for Tuition Hikes GrowsNews, Student Orgs, UCF SGA — By Melissa Colon on October 23, 2012 at 11:04 am Tweet
On Monday, the Student Labor Action Project had scheduled an open discussion in the Student Union for students to discuss and question SGA President Cortez Whatley about the 15 percent hike on tuition. Over 25 students from VOX, NOW, Amnesty International, Student Disability Services and Campus Peace Action showed up to attend the discussion.
The forum had originally been scheduled for 12 pm in the Pegasus Ballroom BC, then was changed to room 228 A. Shortly after hearing of a room change, Whatley canceled the meeting 45 minutes before it was scheduled to start, but hesitantly rescheduled to commence an hour later after SLAP members and students spent an hour convincing Whatley to commence with the originally scheduled meeting.
“This meeting was never specifically about Cortez, we wanted to address Cortez because of actions and the power he has as the one student voice on the board of governors, and he did vote to increase tuition,” said Haley Cavataro, SLAP member, English major.
She continues, “He fought to increase tuition, maximum percent, 15, and as the Student Labor Action Project, and also as students who pay tuition at this school, and feel that burden, we are very well aware of the effect that tuition rising has on students.”
Cavataro said the purpose of the meeting was to sit down with students and Cortez to propose “clear cut solutions where tuition hikes are unacceptable”.
SGA’s Public Relations Coordinator Oluwafunlola Falade told SLAP the reason for the cancelation was due to a mess up with Cortez’s schedule, and that they didn’t agree with the set up of an open forum, but then proposed a solution to hold a campus wide event.
As soon as Knightly News appeared with a camera, and students were beginning to show up in protest of the cancellation, Falade delivered news that the meeting would continue as scheduled, but with only a select few of students, specifically members of SLAP.
“He’s a fellow student, it shouldn’t be that hard to get to meet with him, a leader is supposed to be easily accessible to students, an SGA leader especially,” said Luis Lopez, double major in Political Science and history.
Lopez expressed that the student government does not represent the student body, and he is frustrated with the lack of interest the SGA has done with engaging with students, considering this would make the second time the SGA has canceled a meeting due to schedule conflicts.
“He doesn’t have the decency as a representative of students to come and say to his fellow students ‘I cant make it to this meeting’, instead, he sends a PR person to talk to us and to defend him at all costs, because that’s his job, its an insult to students,” Lopez said.
Falade also told students that the SGA did not like the flyers for the event.
The flyer features a center image of Whatley with the following text: “Your president was the deciding vote to raise your tuition 15 % for the 4th year in a row, We deserve to know why, Join SLAP October 22”.
“We didn’t think it was professionally done. I didn’t think it was necessarily top notch quality, if you guys wanted an image, I feel as if maybe I could have found somebody to have assimilated an image around you guys,” Falade said. He continues on that the quote regarding the deciding vote was not entirely accurate.
“Right now, we’re at $1000 more than we were paying in 2007, it’s ridiculous. I’m studying to be a teacher, I’m not going to make that much money, I shouldn’t have to pay so much money for a job I’m not going to make much money doing,” said Stu Kalver, 23, English major.
With UCF topping a little over 60,000 students, Kalver says UCF has made an extra $60,000,000, “bleeding all the students dry, putting TV’s in the Student Union, where they really don’t need TV’s”.
Kalver is concerned with where his extra tuition money is going. He is seeing less and less classes being taught in classrooms, but being diverted to online classes.
SLAP members and students were eventually invited to discuss the discrepancy of the scheduled meetings in the SGA office, after students protested to the SGA’s attempt to limit the meeting to only five representatives of SLAP.
“It was a forum, in my opinion, a very isolated, distinct part of the student body,” Whatley said.
Whatley told SLAP they should have sent him an agenda so they would be adequately prepared to address students’ needs.
Students proposed again to move the meeting from the SGA office to room 228 A upon handing Whatley the agenda for him to review.
“It is not in our best interest, on both parties, to take this and do this right now, if we’re to move this to a later date and hold it to a broader audience, this is an issue that’s not just related to the members in this room here, to you guys as students, but to obviously the entire student population,” Whatley said.
This isn’t the entire student body, he said, this is a select group of students that is part of the student body.
Whatley finally agreed to proceed with the discussion in room 228A after he was told the meeting was not about bashing him, but merely voicing their concerns.
However, the meeting was cut short to 30 minutes.
At the meeting, students shared their personal stories regarding how they already struggle to pay for tuition, and the rise in tuition will only cause more financial burden not only on them, but their families as well; and that education is a right no matter the socioeconomical background of a student or where they come from.
“I voted in the way that I did because it was the best for our institution the best for our current students, and students to come after us,” Whatley said. He continues with a story about a student he met that was working and paying her way through school and would rather pay more to take the classes she needs in order to not delay her graduation.
“Just to put it in the magnitude of the cut, 52 million is about equivalent than the operations of our two largest colleges,” Whatley said regarding Governor Rick Scott’s $1.3 billion cut on the state’s education last year.
Whatley said that the cuts would not have affected majors that are stem majors, but rather programs such as social sciences and liberal arts. These cuts reduce the amount of available classes and professors, therefore delaying graduation.
At the end of the meeting, students proposed to Whatley to join the national organization the United States Student Association. The USSA is an organization comprised of and led by students, and in October 2011 it was selected as the organization to represent the student voice. According to the USSA, it has lobbied to protect the Pell grant, and increase funding, they helped to introduce “The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012” with Congressman Hansen Clark which created a 10-10 standard for student loan forgiveness as well as capping Federal student loan interest at 3.4 percent.
Whatley said he would have to review the pros and cons of the organization before making the decision to join the USSA.
SLAP will continue to gather petition signatures to get the USSA on the ballot.
“He really turned this into a much bigger ordeal than it needed to be, we just wanted to have a discussion,” said Paul Thurston, public relations coordinator for SLAP.
Thurston said he didn’t think Whatley answered any of the student’s questions, instead continued to blame the legislatures, Gov. Scott, and the people who took our reserves.
“He has the power to call for this referendum, we have to get 2,000 signatures to get this on our ballot as a student body, he could do it with two-thirds the majority in the senate, he has the power to do this, so whether he chooses to or not is on him, but we’re going to go forward and we’re going to get this done,” Thurston said.