Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Students angry over pricey courses pepper-sprayed
Protest » Police officers used force to keep the students out of a trustees meeting.
First Published Apr 04 2012 11:52 am • Last Updated Apr 04 2012 12:03 pm

SANTA MONICA, Calif. • Police at a California college pepper-sprayed as many as 30 demonstrators after students angry over a plan to offer high-priced courses tried to push their way into a trustees meeting, authorities said.

"Let us in, let us in," protesters shouted on video posted online Tuesday. "No cuts, no fees, education should be free."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Santa Monica College students were angry because only a handful were allowed into the meeting and, when their request to move the meeting to a larger venue was denied, they began to enter the room, said David Steinman, an environmental advocate.

Two officers were apparently backed up against a wall, and began using force to keep the students out of the room. Steinman said both officers used pepper spray. "People were gasping and choking," he said.

Marioly Gomez said she was standing in a hallway outside the meeting with several hundred other students who wanted to get into the meeting. "I got pepper-sprayed without warning," she said.

"It was the judgment of police that the crowd was getting out of hand and it was a safety issue," college spokesman Bruce Smith said. He said he believed it was the first time pepper spray had been used to subdue students on campus.

The new plan involves the formation of a nonprofit foundation that would offer core courses for about $600 each, or about $200 per unit — about four times the current price. The extra courses at the higher rate would help students who were not able to get into in-demand classes that filled up quickly.

The program is designed to cope with rising student demand as state funds dwindle. The move has raised questions about whether it would create two tiers of students in a system designed to make education accessible to everyone.

Lawyers for the college researched the issue and concluded that it passed legal muster, school officials say.

Trustee Louise Jaffe said during the meeting that she doesn’t believe the students want to listen. "We spoke for four hours and we weren’t understood," she said.

story continues below
story continues below

Trustee David Finkel called on campus officials to look into Tuesday evening’s events. "I think it gave the college a black eye, which I know it didn’t deserve and certainly didn’t need," he said.

Video of a similar incident at University of California, Davis, in November drew worldwide attention. In that footage, an officer doused a row of student protesters with pepper spray as they sat passively. It became a rallying point for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Firefighters were called to the Santa Monica campus around 7:20 p.m. Five people were evaluated at the scene and two were taken to a hospital. Their conditions were not known, but the injuries were not believed to be serious, fire officials said.

Community colleges statewide have lost $809 million in state funding over the past three years, causing schools to turn away about 200,000 students and drastically cut the number of classes offered.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.