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Students protest Santa Monica College plan for higher priced classes

April 5, 2012 |  3:40 pm

 Students at Santa Monica College rallied outside the president's office Thursday, demanding an end to a proposed two-tier program and calling for an investigation of the recent pepper spray incident.

More than 100 protesters gathered on the steps of the school library and marched through campus, picking up more concerned students along the way, as they chanted: "Education should be free. No cuts. No fees." 

Along the way, students expressed outrage over rising costs. Many said the hike would make the community college less accessible to students who attend the school for its lower cost. Others wanted the president to publicly condemn the actions of the police officer who released pepper spray into the air as students tried to get into the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday evening.

The crowd headed 10 blocks along Pico Boulevard to the district's headquarters, where President Chui L. Tsang has an office. Outside, students shouted with a bullhorn, calling on the president to discuss with students the plan, which would charge more for extra sessions of high-demand, core classes such as English, math and history.

Tsang never addressed the students. He was at a meeting off-campus, said Bruce Smith, the college spokesman.

The protest came a day after the head of California's community college system called for the college to put a hold on the plan until the state determines its legality. The two-tier program calls for some core courses to cost about $180 a unit versus the usual $46 a unit for summer classes.

One student, Aura Chavez, said it was unfair that the seven trustees have the power to make such a decision for the 34,000-student body. 

"This undermines the whole mission statement of community college," said Chavez, a freshman developmental psychology major. "And that's to be accessible and affordable."

Smith said the school expects to move forward with its plans. Officials have said it will help some students get classes they need to graduate and transfer.

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-- Angel Jennings in Santa Monica

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