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Trustees Stand Ground on 2-Tiered Funding

Students demand a referendum on Santa Monica College's controversial plan to offer some higher-priced, non-subsidized classes at-cost to students. Trustees say they won't be bullied.

When the pepper spray used to thwart a storm of angry student protesters cleared Tuesday night, trustees still refused to ditch a second tier of higher-priced courses.

Trustees said their contentious plan to roll out 50 privately funded courses this summer that would otherwise be annihilated in the wake of severe state budget cuts was not communicated well to students who demanded administrators launch a referendum.

As many as 30 were pepper-sprayed by campus police trying to keep the students from storming Tuesday's board meeting. When the meeting resumed  two hours after the melee, members of the college's Student Organizing Committee said they wanted officials to agree by Sunday to put the two-tiered funding plan up for a campus-wide vote.

"We don’t want to be bullied," said Trustee Louise Jaffe.

Many of the students believe the classes—which will be offered at a non-subsidized rate of about $180 per unit—will create a class-based system and will ultimately lead the privatization of public education.

Their chants as they protested Tuesday's board meeting were "no cuts, no fees, education should be free!" and "shame on you!" directed at the board. They held a banner that read "education is a human right."

But trustees said Tuesday night that the program is a temporary solution to years of reduced state funding. Since 2008, Santa Monica College has cut its course offerings 15.4 percent, and officials warned recently that the number could hit 23 percent if a November ballot initiative to raise taxes fails.

There's a "lot of misinformation among students… [they think] it’s going to cost them all this money to take classes and it’s going to be this way all the time— which certainly isn’t the intention," said Trustee Nancy Greenstein.

Board members are toying with putting "pilot" in the program's name, currently titled "Advance Your Dreams." They said it will be thoroughly vetted at the ends of the summer and winter terms. They'll track the demographic of students and how much they each paid. Scholarships of $300 will also be offered based on need and academic standing.

Student Trustee Joshua Scuteri suggested they consider sunsetting the program, terminating it when a certain level of state funding is restored.

"We're hearing these classes will overtake the state supported program… we [need to] somehow make it clear that this is by no means intended to replace" those classes," said Trustee Susan Aminoff.

Aminoff said the college's Student Services Division will find ways to ensure students' voices are heard, likely through town hall-type forums, and that the board's intentions and actions are communicated better.

"It's clear from tonight that students do not have all of the information and some of the information is inaccurate," she said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica College's Public Information Officer Bruce Smith said there will be an investigation into how the campus police department responded to the protests.

"We will be investigating this thoroughly," he said. "I do think that Santa Monica College PD is an outstanding police force."

City News Service reported that no arrests were made.

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James April 04, 2012 at 09:42 PM
This is a prime example of liberalism. The state is BROKE because of entitlements. What is shocking is the fact that students are paying only 40 dollars or 500 a year for the current class offering. The school should just cut more classes and not propose any funding ideas. Let the students then worry about where they can get their practically free education. How bout looking out of State? Liberal solution is to raise your taxes until the entire system collapses, oh sorry it already has... This is just the tip of the iceberg of everything should be free at the expense of earners. Sick
proudrepub April 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM
WOW Free education where can I go to get that in the United States. What a wonderful place it must be to have someone I do not even know pay for me to go to collage and I have no responsibility them to repay that money. Higher education is a privalage not an entitlement. Pay your own dam way if the cost is high guess you better go get a job and save your money and work your way through collage. At least that way you will not have so much free time to sit on your liberial Gludious Maximus. Being sprayed with OC is not that bad. A little bit of stress in your life and you panic. If you want to protest do it peacefully, Don't interfer with the busniess, delegate a speaker. 100 people yelling the same dam thing does no good. In a small office, this is nothing more than bullying. The very same thing the student accuse the police of doing. When you put yourself in a situtation to get sprayed expect to get sprayed you earned it.
Sonda Campbell April 05, 2012 at 10:37 PM
There are so many things wrong with the Santa Monica College School system. I've worked for the Los Angeles college system and for Santa Monica College as a student. Students are expected to survive making less than minimum wage. College Notetakers/Workers make less than minimum wage. THIS IS A FACT. It's $50.00 a semester through the disabled student services no matter how many hours you serve. The reason why students are getting angry is that MOST EMPLOYERS now require a college education in order to make minimum wage. People are trying to survive. When I was trying to live off of FAFSA and pell grants to go to school there an extra long delay in me getting my money for my books and I did not get the book money until the very end of the semester. So I had to go an entire semester taking a sociology class without the book. I made a C in the class because my book book money/pell grant did not arrive until the end of the semester. Many failed out because of LATE book money. I remember what it's like to go to school at Santa Monica College. You seem to have no idea over the severe hardships and struggles that students endure just to try to carve out an identity that works in this society and also that provides enough income for basic living conditions.
Jenna Chandler April 06, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Here's an update to this story: Santa Monica College trustees call special meeting to consider the chancellor's request that they postpone the controversial tuition plan. The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow patch.com/A-snlF
Gary Avrech April 06, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Some proud Republican must have missed too many free public elementary school classes to be able to spell words correctly in those three paragraphs. College, not collage. Privilege, not privalage. Damn, not dam. Gluteus, not gludious. Interfere, not interfer. This is your free first lesson in spelling. Next week... punctuation. Thank you California taxpayers for my first-class, public school education. I learned to read and write back when even Republicans valued these skills. But now they don't. Instead, their heroes, Bush, Palin, and others have trouble putting together complete sentences. Great! It's no wonder so many folks can't get a job. Nobody wants to hire someone that is illiterate and uneducated when they can hire a PhD at the same low hourly rate. The new mantra of the 1%: "Let them eat pepper spray!" Sincerely, Educated Liberal

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