A group of rowdy students at Santa Monica College in California were pepper sprayed on Tuesday after they tried to storm a Board of Trustees meeting. The students are upset about a two-tier pricing plan to increase fees for certain summer classes, some of which were set to be axed for budget cuts.
About 12 students were allowed in the meeting, and the rest were supposed to file into overflow rooms. But the turnout was larger than expected, and about a hundred students then tried to storm and disrupt the meeting. Police eventually used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, and video captured it all:
Two students were taken to the hospital and police and the university are investigation the incident.
But while police may have been trying to protect the trustees, not all of them are coming to the cops’ defense. Trustee David Finkel called using pepper spray a “black eye” on the college, according to the Santa Monica Patch.
“I know some things happened tonight that I don’t like and a lot of you guys didn’t like,” Board of Trustees Chairwoman Margaret Quiñones-Perez added.
That might rub some the wrong way considering other video of the event shows students pushing up against police despite officers trying to remain calm and protect the meeting’s entrance:
The Patch has more on the plan that has the students so upset, which is simply a plan to save classes that have been the target of budget cuts:
The students called on the college district’s superintendent to hold a campus-wide referendum to recall the two-tier funding plan. The school is gearing up to use private funding to restore 50 courses this summer set to be eliminated in the wake of severe state budget cuts.
The cost to enroll in the classes would be about $180, significantly higher than the fees that California students pay—$36 per unit now thanks to state subsidies; nonresidents pay $275—but less than at California state universities and University of California, as well as for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix.
Students outraged by the proposal call it “privatization” and believe it will separate the wealthy from the poor. They want the Board of Trustees to instead demand the restoration of state funds.
The L.A. Times has more:
Under the tuition plan, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the school is creating a nonprofit organization called the Santa Monica Career and Transfer Alliance, which will offer the courses at full cost.
The foundation will offer about 50 class sections in courses such as accounting, art history, economics, Japanese, music history, speech and psychology — 18 courses in all. If the classes fill up, more will be added, depending on the availability of instructors and classrooms. California residents will pay about $540 per class and non-residents will pay about $840.
Students will be able to apply for some financial aid and the college is providing about 300 scholarships of about $300 each for needy students.
But any nuance was apparently lost to the students. They are reported to have chanted, “No cuts, no fees, education should be free!”