Student protesters shut down an Iowa Board of Regents meeting last week demanding a tuition freeze, as well as a response to alleged “acts of racism and white supremacy” across university campuses in Iowa.
Students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa shut down a Board of Regents meeting last week by interrupting an afternoon session via chanting, singing, and proclaiming personal stories, including calling for a tuition freeze, according to a report by the Gazette.
“Enough is enough,” shouted one student. “We call on the Board of Regents to reverse the multiyear tuition model and institute a tuition freeze at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. And we call upon the board to ensure this tuition freeze does not further harm students by cutting needed programs but instead is supported by increased state funding.”
“Yes or no, will you implement a tuition freeze?” the students demanded.
The report added that students had also called on the universities to respond to alleged “acts of racism and white supremacy” on college campuses in Iowa.
“You sit by and do nothing while we, your students, are attacked by white supremacists and the administrations who don’t care about the true cost of raising tuition every year,” the students proclaimed. “The multiyear tuition model is killing us.”
One student held a sign that read, “Free College.”
— Iowa Student Action (@IAStudentAction) February 5, 2020
“When they don’t listen, shut it down. What did we do? Shut it down,” students can be heard repeatedly chanting in one video taken of the meeting.
In another video — posted to Twitter by the Gazette‘s Vanessa Miller — students can be heard chanting in Spanish.
Students have been protesting for 30 minutes at the regents meeting… pic.twitter.com/OMVnOT1KRs
— Vanessa Miller (@VanessaMiller12) February 5, 2020
“I offered to them to sit down and figure out how we can get something worked out where there can be a dialogue, back and forth,” said Iowa Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun to the Gazette. “They demanded that the board respond today.”
Braun added that they were unable to discuss the student’s issues during the meeting because the board is bound by state law, which mandates that it discusses issues that have been outlined on its previous agenda.
The issues that students had raised, however, were not on the board’s agenda that week.
“To engage in conversation about this and deliberate is committing a violation of the Open Meetings law,” said Braun, adding that the board had adjourned the meeting an hour early in response to the protests.
“There was a window from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., they did not avail themselves of that opportunity,” he added. “If all of the speakers would have come, the board would have sat and listened to everything that they had to say.”
“They missed that window or chose not to take that window,” said Braun. “So, this is what we had to do.”
Board of Regents President Mike Richards said that he believes the students do not understand the board’s role with regards to state appropriations.
“We don’t have anything to do with the appropriation side of it,” said Richards, “that’s the Legislature.”