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After pepper-spraying incident, Santa Monica College backs off fee hike

Michael Yanow / Getty Images Contributor

Nnaemeka Alozie is hosed off after suffering the effects of pepper spray outside the SMC Board of Trustees meeting at Santa Monica College on Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif.

Santa Monica College trustees voted Friday to postpone a fee hike that prompted a student protest and pepper-spraying incident earlier this week.

The California community colleges chancellor had requested that the school delay a program that would raise tuition for summer classes to make up for cuts in state funding that have impacted public colleges across California.


College President Chui Tsang at an emergency meeting recommended to the Board of Trustees that the program be postponed. Students, who filled the meeting room Friday, applauded that recommendation.

Trustees voted 8-0 to postpone the program, saying they wanted more input from college teachers and students.

The meeting was held in a larger venue than the board normally uses to accommodate the crowd. At Tuesday’s regular meeting, about 30 students who tried to get into a packed board meeting were pepper-sprayed by campus police.

Some students staged a protest march on campus Thursday. Tsang said at the Friday meeting that the pepper-spray incident was "regrettable" and that an internal investigation had been launched.

On Wednesday, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott asked Tsang to put the controversial summer-course program on hold.

Earlier this week, Tsang said the pilot program, approved in March, would offer about 50 extra "self-funded" classes this summer at the college's "actual cost" of $180 per credit unit, compared to state-subsidized classes that cost $46 per credit unit for California residents.

“SMC's cost is far below the tuition rate at the state's other public educational systems,” Tsang said. “The college's action comes at a time when SMC is confronted with the greatest budget crisis ever to face higher education in California.”

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