'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Protesting Students Pepper Sprayed at Santa Monica College 

There are reports that approximately 30 students were sprayed. From NBC Los Angeles:

Priscillia Omon, 21, said she was standing behind the police officer when he pulled out the pepper spray and fired it in the mouths and eyes of people standing arm’s length away.

She described a man next to her convulsing and spitting up foam after being hit with the pepper spray. A family, including a 4 year old, were in the crowd when the officer used the pepper spray, Omon said.

Students were protesting a two tiered cost system for essential classes for graduation that even the Los Angeles Times found objectionable:

So it's perfectly understandable why Santa Monica College officials, scrambling to make ends meet, have proposed increasing fees for certain in-demand classes to about $600 to $800 per course, or a little more than four times the standard price. The courses would pay their own way, allowing the college to accommodate more students.

Understandable, but wrong. Creating a two-tier system of fees sets a serious precedent that could change the basic nature of the community college system. Once a handful of courses pay for themselves, the temptation to add more would be hard to resist, and the temptation for other campuses to join in would be overwhelming. College fees are set by the Legislature and overseen by the systemwide chancellor's office in Sacramento. A single campus should not have the authority — and it's doubtful it does — to set the price for a community college education.

It appears that the incident erupted out of the misguided use of an old tried and true tactic for discouraging public comment on a contentious issue: hold the meeting in the smallest room possible. According to the LA Weekly, the administration selected a room designed to hold only a dozen outsiders.

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