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University Trustees Try To Duck 'Occupy DePaul' Protesters

CHICAGO (WBBM) - Following several days of protests by a small but determined band of students, DePaul University's trustees went to great lengths Saturday to try to avoid them as they debated a tuition increase.

Told initially that the trustees would meet in the Student Center on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus at 9 a.m. Saturday, 25 protesters gathered at about 7:30 a.m. A short time later, they were told the location of the trustees' meeting had been changed and received text messages from Student Government Association President Anthony Alfono saying he was being driven to a secret location, and led in a back door, so that he could not identify the surroundings.

Alfono regularly participates in board of trustee meetings. He has voiced support for the group's demands for a tuition freeze, at least until a university-wide forum to debate budgeting and spending priorities.

The protesters ended up at DePaul's downtown campus, and rallied outside the building, at 55 E. Jackson Blvd., in which senior administrative offices are located.

Graduate student James Murphy said he is disappointed, but not surprised, with what one protester characterized as "cut and run" tactics by the trustees.

"It may be that ultimately what looks to us like fat is something they want to defend, but they haven't even gone that far to explain to us what is going on within this budget," he said.

Murphy said the budget is "opaque" and "vague" with line items for "new initiatives."

The students contend that the average DePaul undergraduate student shoulders a $28,000 student loan debt and the average graduate student loans amounting to $51,000, and that students cannot afford much more.

"How much is it going to cost in two, three, four or five more years," said freshman Stacey Bear. "For my children, how much is college going to cost for them?"

DePaul administration issued a statement which said it is trying to keep tuition affordable, contemplates one of its smallest increases ever, and is boosting available financial aid.

"Like many institutions, DePaul is facing increases in the costs of serving our students," the statement read. "DePaul makes prudent use of tuition dollars by continually investing to enrich academic quality and provide the best educational opportunities for students as possible."

The statement noted that the Student Government Association president is a voting member on the university's tuition pricing committee and the Strategic Resource Allocation committee, which proposed the annual operating budget to DePaul's president and trustees.

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