Campus security fees to double across UNC System, student leaders disagree with increase

Xanayra Marin-Lopez, Visual Managing Editor

A doubled fee included in student tuition is projected to bring a raise for campus police salaries and improve officer retention at App State, and other UNC System schools.

The cost of campus security for each UNC System student currently stands at $30, but with new action from the UNC Board of Governors, the fee will be $60.  

The cost of attendance in the UNC System includes tuition plus several general fees. Students usually expect to pay around the same amount of money each year. 

During a Feb. 17 UNC System budget and finance committee meeting, intentions for the fee were outlined to support such:

Graphic by Maggie Watts
  • Campus police officer and telecommunicator salaries
  • Qualified investigators and hearing officers for serious offenses, such as sexual violence
  • Safety and security training, coordination and audit functions
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Title IX and Clery Act compliance coordination

 

A $4 portion of the $30 fee will go directly to the UNC System office. This money will go toward supporting system-wide coordination, training and other shared services relating to campus security.

The fee was first introduced in 2015. The board of governors proposed the $30 standard this year. 

The fixed tuition program, created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016, assures that students pay the same tuition for eight semesters. Schools are only able to raise tuition by 3% every year.

App State has no problem capping at 3% – their fee increase was only 1.3% for the 2020-21 academic year. This makes room for the campus security fee to increase. 

Association of Student Governments campus liaison JaQuez Johnson represents more than 20,000 App State students alongside student representatives from other UNC System schools. They meet monthly with the UNC Board of Governors, making Johnson the one to update App State’s SGA on the police fee increase. 

“The Board of Governors’ rationale behind it was that we always need campus security,” Johnson said. “Even if a campus is not directly telling us that we need the money for it.”

Johnson also reports to the UNC System with updates from campus. For example, SGA just made its director of diversity and inclusion position permanent. He brought this to the attention of the rest of the UNC System and is working to get this established system-wide.  

Due to COVID-19, Johnson said that schools have used a majority of their fee increases toward wellness programs and health services. He said Elizabeth City State, UNC Greensboro, Winston-Salem State and UNC Charlotte are at a threshold with their funds and will have to make budget cuts once fee increase is approved.

He said that student leaders in the UNC System feel the extra money toward campus security should come from the general assembly and not from tuition. 

Johnson has not heard of students “marching around” in favor of their student dollars being used for policing and campus security.

“But they have been marching and talking about things like increasing wellness and increasing diversity and inclusion within our campus,” Johnson said.

Johnson is against the board of governors’ push for the fee increase. 

Isaiah Greene, ASG President and representative from UNC Asheville, doesn’t support the fee increase either. He said he and other students in the system spoke with campus police chiefs and the system’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Haygood. 

From these talks, he said there is no consensus on how the money will solve the problem of officer training and retention. He calls the fee increase “financially irresponsible.” 

“What we’re really doing is we’re throwing money at a problem that we have no agreement on what the problem is and expecting a solution will be found when everyone doesn’t know what that solution is,” Greene said.    

He would rather schools receive individual guidance on their campus security. 

To this, board of governors’ budget committee chair James Holmes Jr. said he has confidence in each chancellor’s ability to allocate funds.

“I don’t think we’re in the business of practicing consensus-building,” Holmes said. “We’re in the business of empowering campuses to solve their issues.”

According to a UNC System meeting agenda, 78% of campus security officers are “paid below the market rate for their classification and competency level.” An increase in salaries for officers would also benefit officer retention and create more competition in the job market for campus versus local officers.

App State is unique in that it offers the Appalachian Police Officer Development Program. Regardless of major, students can enroll in a two-year program as cadets and graduate with a law enforcement certification. This program aids in officer retention. 

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement and Black at App State’s presence on campus, Johnson calls the extra dollars toward policing a “slap in the face.” One of the many goals of Black Lives Matter is to defund the police.

Budget committee member W. Marty Kotis III says the increase is needed due to massive criticism he says the police have recently faced. 

“They’ve been vilified,” Kotis said. “Their profession is not one most people want to take on these days both for the public, negative attention as well as the risk of life.” 

During December of last year, 21 people at UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and App State were arrested in connection to a large drug ring. Kotis said more funding and better officers can aid in instances like these.

The UNC System created the Racial Equity Task Force in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. A final report of the group’s findings was submitted to the UNC System Board of Governors Chair and President, adopting six regulations. One of them was campus policing. 

Culturally responsive policing, crisis and de-escalation training and strategies on how to respond to diverse populations were some ideas brought forth to help combat racial inequity in policing. 

The Appalachian reached out to App State Police, but did not hear back in time for publication.