SMC — Hundreds of students gathered outside the Santa Monica College president’s office in a third day of protests calling for an end to a proposal to make students shoulder the entire cost of some summer school classes and punishment for campus police that pepper sprayed students and onlookers at a meeting Tuesday.
In a written statement, students from the Student Organizing Committee, led by Student Assembly President Harrison Wills, also demanded campus-wide referendums on all “issues of significance to the college.”
Refusing to allow more democratic participation in the college’s decision making will “burn crucial bridges” between college officials, students and faculty, according to the statement released to the media.
Meanwhile, college officials have called a special meeting of the Board of Trustees for Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Theatre Arts Main Stage at the Main Campus to respond to California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott’s request to postpone the creation of the college’s self-funded summer program. The chancellor’s office is opposed to the program, saying it is potentially illegal. The chancellor has referred the issue to the State Attorney General’s Office for review.
Tensions began when SMC officials proposed a new program called “Advance Your Dreams,” which promised to provide additional required classes during the summer if students were willing to pay the full cost of the class, including faculty time, facility use and materials.
Those classes, run through a separate nonprofit called the Santa Monica Transfer and Career Alliance, are expected to cost roughly $180 per unit rather than the $46 per unit that students will have to pay for subsidized classes come summer.
The nonprofit was created on March 23 specifically to administer the Advance Your Dreams program, also called contract education.
The plan was debuted in a study session with the Board of Trustees in February, and board members voted to allow staff to set up the nonprofit and flesh out the concept in March.
Students decried the process as undemocratic because it did not go through the normal shared governance channels. Specifically, the District Planning and Advisory Council, which has student members, did not see the proposal until March 14, eight days after the trustees voted to get the ball rolling.
The board was under no legal obligation to put the matter through the shared governance system, officials said Tuesday.
Students and others rallied in protest at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.
According to college officials, students became rowdy, pulling fire alarms to disrupt the meeting and rushing campus police who stood at the doors to keep peace.
At one point, a campus officer unleashed a can of pepper spray on the crowd, sending three people to the hospital and impacting 30.
Students claim that they were peaceably assembled, and that the board incited the crowd by refusing to move the meeting to a larger room that could hold the crowd.
President Chui Tsang has promised a thorough investigation of the incident. The college has promised to pay medical bills resulting from Tuesday’s fracas, and says no charges will be filed against students who allegedly committed crimes during the course of the evening.