"Don't force feed us."
This is the mantra coined by the Coalition Against Mandatory Meal Plans.
Comprised of club representatives and everyday students, the coalition was formed in reaction to UT administration's recent proposal to require all undergraduates to purchase a $300 minimum Dining Dollar balance.
The coalition is rallying the student voice, protesting any plans of enacting this required fee.
Nica Lee Ables, a sophomore in political science and executive board member of College Democrats, organized the coalition on Nov. 6. Ables called a few of her fellow classmates and club representatives together to think of a way to fight the plan.
Ables said the movement garnered 500 fans within its first 12 hours, and approximately 1,100 within the first two days.
"We started a Facebook page at about 1 or 2 a.m. that Wednesday night/Thursday morning," Ables said. "We stayed up all night long in the library working on it."
The page's popularity has continued to grow exponentially. Students post comments hourly and UT organizations have joined the page in a collaborative effort.
The coalition's immediate goal is to assemble a petition with enough student signatures to show the administration how serious UT students are about having their voice heard.
"We represent such a wide variety of interests in this thing," Tyler Latham, a founding coalitionist and sophomore in political science, said. "We've got people who are starting off from this end saying, 'We are tired of what Aramark is doing. How they're price gouging and so on, and now we are essentially paying $300 to Aramark each semester,' to the end of people attacking UT, saying, 'We are tired of having add on to add on to construction projects that we didn't even have a voice in and now we are paying the price for it,' and everywhere in between."
The coalition also hopes to have a booth set up on Pedestrian Walkway where students can physically sign the petition and become involved.
"If the university does not listen to the student voice," Ables said, "there will be growing dissatisfaction with everything the university has done."
Because the proposal is a change in university policy, it is not required that SGA be allowed to vote on it.
Jake Baker, SGA president, has asked students email him their responses so he can appropriately represent the student body.
"Students really don't have a choice unless we do this outcry," Latham said. "We have to show them that we want a choice. We want to know what's going on and we want to have this choice."
The coalition states if the proposal does become policy, some students will not be able to afford another semester at the university.
UT has one of the highest tuition costs in the SEC, and students, like Latham, are tired of UT's rising fees.
"You think about this price increase on top of the tuition increases we see every year, on top of the new fees we incur every year, on top of the parking costs we see increasing every year," Latham said. "Prices continually go up and it is exponential. It's not set, and there have been countless times when we have been promised that prices will not increase past this certain limit and they have."
At minimum, the coalition wants to see UT disclose more information about the proposal.
"We are looking for the university to release a more comprehensive statement on this plan," Ables said. "All they have really released is a PowerPoint that they showed to SGA, and that is on PowerUT. We are looking to see more details. We want more details to know what they are really trying to do."
The coalition believes it can completely abolish the meal plan proposal if enough student support is raised.
"The way this is growing, having this kind of thing happen in just 12 hours, since I've been here, this is the biggest outcry in such a small period of time I've seen and it hasn't stopped," Latham said. "We haven't plateaued yet, we keep going up and up and up like an exponential curve. It continuously gets bigger, and I don't see it stopping."
If student protest can overturn the proposal, Latham predicts the administration will be forced to afford its students greater respect.
"It's going to show that we are students of a university, we are not employees of a business; we don't pay a bill to receive a service," Latham said. "We work really hard and pay money to come here and get an education to prepare us for our future. We bleed orange, and it's about time that the administration shows us that they do too."