Protests over a small tuition increase at Cal State University led to a violent scene on Wednesday. The drama started at a Board of Trustees meeting, where members were poised to discuss a $500 tuition increase -- a 9 percent hike that would bring the total cost per year to attend the institution to about $7,000.
The Imperial Valley Press has the precise details:
In a 9-6 vote, the CSU board voted to raise tuition by $498 per student, changing the tuition for full-time CSU students from $5,472 in the 2011-2012 school year to $5,970 for 2012-2013 before campus-specific fees, according to a press release from the CSU chancellor’s office.
With campus-specific fees included, the total cost for undergraduate students would average $7,017 per student annually.
While this figure may sound relatively minimal, especially considering the overwhelming costs associated with many of the nation's private colleges and universities, students became enraged. According to KPCC, there were about 150 protesters outside of the Trustees' building.
While trying to get into the meeting, these individuals clashed with campus police, who were dressed in full riot gear. The exchange was so intense that one of the large, glass doors on the Trustees' headquarters smashed. University police, in an attempt to control angry protesters, turned to the use of pepper spray. In the end, three officers were injured and four people were arrested.
Watch the chaos, below (caution: violence):
The protest was organized by ReFund California, a group that claims that college has become unaffordable for many Californians. The organization has organized the "Week of Action," which occurred from November 9-16. During this time, there were numerous planned protests at Cal State, among other public institutions.
(Video Caution: Violence)
According to the Huffington Post, ReFund's website reads, "'We already paid! It's time to make Wall Street corporations and the wealthy pay to refund education!'" Here, it seems the group is borrowing some ideological constructs from the Occupy Wall Street movement. On their site, the group also says:
With 200% increase in tuition for UC, CSU, and community college students since 2008, and now the looming $2.5 billion in additional cuts to education and public services, students, workers, and educators will be calling on leaders of California’s schools and universities to support refunding education by making the Wall Street and the super-rich pay for students, parents and communities.
Here's more footage from the event (caution: violence):
Interestingly, the school's Assistant Chancellor Robert Turnage attempted to divert blame for the increase, telling the AP, "I understand why people are frustrated. A lot of this energy is misplaced. It needs to be directed at people who have decision-making power over taxes. We have institutions to run. We have to make payroll every month."
California, like many other states, is facing financial constraints that have led to severe budget cuts. This, in turn, is impacting education funding. Considering that 45 percent of students won't pay the increase due to aid and grants (students who come from homes making $70,000 or less generally pay no tuition, according to Cal State) and considering the fact that tuition is extremely affordable when compared to other localities, the angst may be somewhat overblown.