At the Dec. 6 meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees, Student Government Association President Ryan Hermance reported that a resolution at the SGA Senate’s October meeting had expressed disappointment with House Bill 589, which restricted voting rights in several ways and made it more difficult for students to exercise their right to vote.
The resolution passed unanimously, with 30 voting in favor and none against, Hermance said.
And Mary Jean Ronan Herzog, Chair of the Faculty Senate, expressed concern over faculty retention in the absence of salary raises in recent years, due to cuts in funding for higher education.
“I personally know of six faculty members who are searching for jobs right now in other states,” Herzog said.
The SGA resolution cited several provisions of the voting rights bill: the elimination of student ID cards as an acceptable form of identification for voting; the elimination of same-day voter registration; and the shortening of the period for early voting.
“[T]he Senate holds that open and easily-accessible elections are vital to the welfare of college students in a representative democracy,” the resolution stated. It went on to assert that all three provisions caused unnecessary inconvenience to students attempting to exercise their voting rights.
“[T]he SGA Senate of Western Carolina University expresses disappointment with regard to changes in North Carolina voting laws which will adversely affect student voting, and urges the North Carolina General Assembly to reconsider the current structure of said laws,” the resolution stated.
Hermance also reported that the SGA held a forum before Thanksgiving on safety on the campus, in light of recent legislation allowing concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses.
“Students could come in and express their concerns and get answers from police and legal counsel,” he said.
“Since I’ve been involved with SGA, I’ve heard concern from students not feeling safe on campus,” he went on to say. “By and large we have a very safe campus, but there’s a feeling, due to some dimly lit areas, or people coming from backgrounds that are not so safe, like Charlotte, where there’s a higher crime rate than in Jackson County.”
Hermance said the forum reached 100 to 200 students. “We had way more attendance at that forum than any of tuition and fees forums. It was one of the highest attendances we’ve had at any forum.”
The WCU board also approved tuition and fees for the 2014-15 academic year, which included no increase in tuition for in-state students. Fees will increase by 1.85 percent. For undergraduates, with some fees eliminated and others raised slightly, the increase would come to $52 per year.
The board approved an increase of $18 per year in the health services fee and $42 per year in the student activity fee. There will be no increases in the athletics or education and technology fees.
Out-of-state students will face a legislatively mandated 6 percent increase in tuition.