In the wake of the latest tuition increase, UT students are taking action.
Students are airing their grievances in support of an online petition aimed at Chancellor Cheek. The measure calls on Cheek to decline his $22,356 pay raise as a sign of solidarity with the burdened student population.
"The petition isn't about changing the tuition increase, and it isn't about the job Cheek has done as chancellor," Andrew Doss, the petition's creator, said in a statement. "It's about the principle that Cheek shouldn't accept a pay raise during a tuition hike when so many students are struggling to pay as it is."
Doss, senior in electrical engineering, created the petition as an outlet for the frustrations of the student body. He was not surprised by the tuition increase, given the university's ardent focus on the Top 25 initiative.
"I agree that it is necessary to accomplish the goals that the administration has set for the university," Doss said. "However, I thought it was wrong that while students were being put in a worse situation, Cheek was being put in a better situation. It's the principle of the matter. Cheek should be a leader and decline the raise."
A petition seemed to be the measure most likely to catch the administration's attention.
"Obviously, the school being so large, it's difficult for the administration to cater individually to students," Doss said. "That's one reason I thought the petition would be necessary. I think someone in the administration should stand up and show that they understand this is a problem for students. Cheek is the perfect man for the job, and declining his raise would be the first step."
Hunter Tipton, senior in biological sciences, signed the petition to express his opinion on the state of the university.
"For what purpose is Jimmy Cheek getting a raise?" Tipton asked. "Has our university improved by 2.5 percent in the last year? Dipietro is also receiving a 2.5 percent raise to go along with Cheek's 6 percent raise. This is an example of the public sector needlessly spending money with the understanding that someone else will eventually have to pay for it."
Tipton questions the validity of a merit-based pay raise for the chancellor.
"Cheek received a pay bump last year along with this one, but I see no new innovative ideas or policies," Tipton said. "The ones that have been initiated, like 'Big Orange, Big Ideas,' have also been needlessly wasteful."
Doss cites the responsibility of the chancellor to reach out in understanding of the circumstances faced by many UT students.
"I hope Cheek considers these things and can empathize with these students," Doss said. "Then I'm sure he would realize that the right thing to do would be to not accept the raise. With the influence that the chancellor has, Cheek has a great opportunity to set precedence for leaders in higher education across the country."
As the Daily Beacon was going to press, the petition has over 500 signatures.
Those who wish to learn more about the petition can access it on www.change.org, at https://www.change.org/petitions/jimmy-cheek-do-not-accept-your-22-356-dollar-pay-raise.