The civil disruption on Santa Monica College’s campus made national news a couple of weeks ago.

Students accompanied by a number of outside agitators demanded to be heard at a SMC Board of Trustees meeting where a bold, two-tiered tuition plan approved at a previous meeting was being discussed.

The trustees’ plan involved reinstating 50 key classes out of hundreds that had lost state funding by charging $180 per unit — nearly four times more than state subsidized classes. Previously canceled courses would be available during summer session to students who wanted to pay a premium to take them. 

Activists warned this would mean higher fees for all classes and predicted an end to heavily subsidized junior college educations. Only wealthier students would be able to afford the higher cost classes, they said, thereby widening the gap between the nation’s “haves” and “have nots.”

Ever since the higher cost classes were suggested and approved (apparently before trustees knew whether they could even legally offer them), opposition to the plan mushroomed. According to various news reports, activists demanding to be heard either stormed or tried to push their way into the trustees meeting, April 4. That’s when campus police whipped out the pepper spray.

“Occupy” veterans, activists from other college campuses, anarchists, professional agitators, labor organizers, social justice and racial equality advocates and those promoting their own causes joined the SMC dissidents by this time.

Campus rallies in the days following the pepper-spraying incident were a marketplace of causes, political activism and “change society” agendas with “quid pro quo” strategies in play. Organizers from Here! Unite Local 11 exhorted students to join in a living wage demonstration at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City while others wanted support for a Trayvon Martin march. SMC’s tuition controversy had turned into a civil rights movement — complete with tributes to Rosa Parks.

Despite claims of equality and social justice, it really boils down to, “If I can’t have it, nobody else can have it, either.” Students willing to pay for the pricey classes were denied their rights. It’s a slippery slope when a mob can dictate what the rest of society can or can’t have because it doesn’t meet their agenda.

A week ago Friday, SMC trustees met in open session and named a blue-ribbon panel to analyze the pepper-spraying incident and the college’s subsequent response. They also scrapped the tuition plan. Strike a blow for education. 

It’s too bad because the “two-tier” plan to offer summer session classes on a “cost” basis was an audacious one. It would’ve allowed hundreds of students to take classes at $540 for three units they needed to graduate. At the same time, more space in the subsidized $46 per unit ($138 for three unit courses) would be available for students in the fall and winter sessions.

Trustees showed they had no guts and buckled under to social activists who, like SMC Board Chair Margaret Quiñones-Perez, seriously confused education with personal political agenda. While she has a right to her opinion, acting as chair of SMC’s Board of Trustees, her first and only responsibility is to education and the college she serves. Funny how she missed that.

Quiñones-Perez said (“SMC trustees scrap two-tier plan,” SMDP, April 7, Pg. 1) that creating a second tier of classes at the community college level was like slamming a door in the face of minority and low-income students. Yet, what Quiñones-Perez and her fellow trustees did was slam the door on all students — minority and non-minority, rich and poor.

Some Internet bloggers blamed the tuition proposal on Republicans on SMC’s board. Huh? The entire board is made up of liberal Democrats and progressives. All were endorsed by the local political powerhouse Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) whose co-chair is Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein — the SMC political science professor who gives students extra credit for handing out SMRR campaign literature during key elections.

A word of advice to disgruntled SMC students (15 percent who live in the Santa Monica-Malibu Community College District) old enough to vote: If you don’t like the trustees’ decisions, vote ‘em out of office in the November election. 

As for me, the misguided Quiñones-Perez has amply demonstrated why she shouldn’t be re-elected to the SMC Board (if she runs) in November.


Walgreens back again? 

In development news, the controversial Walgreens Drug Store proposed for the corner of Pico and Lincoln boulevards last summer may happen after all. Walgreens is now proposing to remodel existing retail space and demolish a small building at the corner of Bay Street and Lincoln to accommodate more on-site parking.

Originally Walgreens wanted to tear down everything and construct a whole new store and parking lot with two parking entrances/exit ramps adjacent to private residences on Bay Street and across the adjacent alley. The good news for nearby neighbors is that they plan to eliminate the curb cut on Bay and one of two alley parking lot accesses and now utilize an existing driveway on Lincoln.

If Walgreens also asks for 24 hour operation and an off-sale alcohol Conditional Use Permit as they did in their original proposal, City Hall should still say, “no" and “no!”




Bill can be reached at

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