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Clark University students demand tuition cut and police reform on campus

After student groups called for a tuition strike and police reform on campus, Clark University in Worcester said Saturday they cannot meet the students’ demand to slash tuition by 50 percent.

The university’s Black Student Union and the Undergraduate Student Council worked together on the tuition strike, calling for students over social media to not pay their tuition for the spring semester on time unless their demands — including disarming police and lowering tuition — are met. Tuition, which costs $48,000 this year, was due Friday.

“The demand to reduce tuition by 50 percent is not something we can do,” the university said in a statement Saturday night. “However, we are very committed to addressing affordability, especially given the extraordinary financial challenges due to the COVID pandemic.”

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The groups posted videos on social media Wednesday laying out their demands and using #NoJusticeNoTuition. Their number one demand since June, they said, has been supporting Black students and disarming police.

Included in the demands are redistributing police department funds toward resources for Black students, cutting tuition by 50 percent for the 2021-2022 academic year, and putting an undergraduate student representative back into primary Board of Trustees meetings, according to documents and videos posted by the groups Wednesday.

“We’ve been met with constant gaslighting,” said Ahiela Watson, president of the student union. “What we want them to know is that disarming University Police means disarm University Police.”

The groups also call for a tuition freeze “for future years so long as the global health pandemic persists” and creating a public comments section for Clark community members so they would be able to speak with the Board of Trustees.

Efforts have been made in the past, including vigils and protests, to change some of the issues on campus, said Kadijha Kuanda, the social media coordinator for the student union.

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“There still has not been enough to get effective change onto this campus,” Kuanda said in a video. “Now we’re just clearly tired of waiting around and continue asking for the same things.”

The BSU and the CUSC said in the videos and documents that they recognize how this could be a financial burden for students as late fees could incur as a result of not paying tuition on time.

The groups created various templates for students to use, including one for students to send to financial aid to ask for an extension on the tuition deadline. The Clark University Fair Aid Campaign is also creating a fund to help students pay the late fee on their tuition, the groups said.

School administrators responded to the concerns highlighted by the two groups in a letter sent out Thursday, stating they have already started to work on the issues highlighted by the groups, including policing issues.

In the letter, University President David Fithian and Provost Davis Baird said anti-bias training has already begun for University Police under newly-appointed Police Chief Lauren Misale. However, they said, this does not mean the officers will be disarmed.

“Reiterating what I, David Fithian, have shared previously, any changes at Clark will not include the complete disarmament of our campus police,” the letter stated. “Doing so would render our campus unshielded and unsafe, especially at a time when institutions of government and higher learning may be targeted.”

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The administrators said that the university has increased its financial aid budget by $2 million for the current academic year as a result of the pandemic and that deans will be reaching out to “key student leaders” to strengthen communication.

Clark University said Saturday that they want to work with students who are struggling financially.

“We also encourage any of our students facing financial hardship to reach out so we can work together to address their situation,” the university said.

The two student groups did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.


Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.