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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Vigil to protest new fee

A group of graduate teaching assistants from the UA Department of Spanish and Portuguese are putting on a peaceful protest tonight from 7 to 9 in front of the Administration building to show their opposition to a proposed fee increase of $700 for the fall 2010 semester.

Wasilia Yapur, a teaching assistant in the Spanish department, said she finds the increase upsetting because teaching assistants barely survive on the money they make, and an extra $700 constitutes almost one month’s pay.

“”This is extremely aggressive and is something most graduate students can’t pay,”” Yapur said.

Some students may need to take loans in order to pay for such a fee increase. Yapur said many teaching assistants in her department are international and cannot take out loans.

“”Our classes have gone from 20 students to close to 30 students in the last few years, and we’ve been silently putting up with an ever-increasing amount of work because, of course, we knew this would be the life of a teaching assistant,”” Yapur said.

Some students fear that they may have to discontinue their education because they cannot afford to pay for school.

“”If the point of the fees is to make this a world-class university, then the distribution of the money is not in the right places,”” said Alejandrina Barajas, a graduate teaching assistant.

Barajas said that it’s important to understand where the money from the increased fees is really going and if it’s going towards making education better.

“”Like the (Student Recreation) Center ­— not everyone uses the Rec Center, so does everyone really need to be paying for it?”” Barajas asked.

Increased fees may put education out of reach for some and turn it into a privilege rather than a right, Barajas said.

“”We have to think in terms of who loves the university.”” Yapur said. “”Is it only going to be the undergraduate and graduate students who are the poorest of the poor?””

Yapur said the university will not benefit from losing teaching assistants, adding that each teaches up to 50 students a semester. Hundreds of students would be left without classes.

Protestors are encouraging everyone to wear a white shirt and dark pants but especially white because the protest is peaceful. There will be no signs or shouting, just prayer, meditation and silence.

“”We’re trying to get as many people as possible who don’t want to see this tremendous increase and see students start to fall out because they can’t pay,”” Yapur said.

The group hopes to affect UA President Robert Shelton’s final decision on the fee increase, which will be decided on by the Arizona Board of Regents this Thursday.

“”They should be cutting (expenses) across the board … everybody should get a pay cut, and that would be fair,”” Yapur said.

The group has sent out invitations to graduate and undergraduate students, professors and the Tucson community.

“”There are many other solutions that we could come up with, but this is one of the poorest,”” Yapur said. “”It is placing the economic burden on the people who are already facing it and getting by as best they can.””

The group attended Shelton’s address in Phoenix and voiced their concerns there. They’ve also met directly with Shelton and the Dean of Students and sent letters to each of them.

“”Since we’ve already spoken all the words that we need to speak, we’re trying to send our meditation and prayer to President Shelton the night before the decision,”” Yapur said. “”We’re hoping this may affect a change within him. It’s something else that we can do, so why not do it?””

Yapur said she thinks at least 50 people should be in attendance but, noting that many students oppose the fee increase, hopes for many more.

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