Thursday, April 5, 2012

Santa Monica tuition protests met with pepper spray

Growing up in L.A. in the '60s, I would take summer school classes at Santa Monica City College. L.A. had a great junior college system back then and tuition was cheap enough (about $10/class) so that a kid like me, with few resources, had access to a quality post-secondary education and with that, a job and some social capital. I remember SMCC students as being mostly white, sandy-haired and really into the surfer sub-culture, ie. the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, The Ventures and doing the surfer's stomp at the Oar House on Friday nights.

Courtney Aravena, left, speaks Wednesday about being pepper-sprayed the previous evening, while Ernie Sevilla tells of being pressed up against the wall by the crowd next to the officer who used pepper spray. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / April 4
On Tuesday, hundreds of (what is now called) Santa Monica College students (none of them sandy-haired) gathered peacefully outside the Board of Trustees meeting to protest a plan to raise tuition for some high-demand, core courses such as English, math and history. Under the plan, a foundation would offer about 50 popular classes at high cost, which would supplement about 700 regular state-funded classes. California residents would pay about $540, for example, for a typical three-unit course such as English, while non-residents would pay about $840.

As the trustees began discussing the new two-tiered system, students began chanting against the growing  privatization of public education. Police moved in without warning and began pepper spraying the legal gathering of students in the enclosed hallway.  Dozens had to be treated for inhaling the toxic fumes. Several were taken to the hospital. Shades of U.C. Davis last November.

President Tsang claims that the police acted with "restraint" and that students were acting illegally. However there wasn't even one arrest. I guess pepper spray has replaced due process when it comes to California student protests.

Students are now calling for a campus-wide referendum on the two-tier plan and  Chancellor Jack Scott has asked the trustees to put a hold on the plan. "No one likes to see something like this happen, and I expressed that it might be wise to put this matter on hold," Scott said in an interview.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.