Students clash with police as CSU raises tuition

In a closed meeting, the CSU raised tuition by 9 percent or $498.

Stefan Agregado | Daily 49er

Three students are arrested when a protest turns violent at the CSU Chancellor's Office.

Zien Halwani, Editor in chief

Police officers clashed with student protesters Wednesday, forcing the Cal State University Board of Trustees to adjourn an open session meeting and approve a $498 tuition increase behind closed doors.

After protesters were removed from the Chancellor’s Office, a crowd of about 200 people attempted to gain entry. Police officers then used pepper spray and struck protesters with batons, but law enforcement officials could not contain the crowd before one of the building’s four glass doors was shattered.

Four protesters were arrested and three officers were injured during the altercation, but soon after, riot police were able to secure the area.

The board approved the 9 percent increase, 9-6, in a closed session under provisions of California’s open meeting law, according to the CSU, but Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called on the board to put the issue back on the agenda in a special Dec. 5 meeting.

“Whatever the rationale, this issue is simply too important to not allow for a full and thorough public discussion or to contribute to the perception that this process is anything less than open and transparent,” Newsom said in a statement.

What began like any other Board of Trustees meeting escalated to violence after protesters prevented the board from holding its final vote on a fall 2012 tuition hike.

Protesters chanted, “What do we want? A refund,” followed by, “When do we want it? Now!,” as police forced people out of the meeting.

Herbert L. Carter, chair of the board, gave protesters 30 minutes to voice their opposition to the increase, but the 50 speakers, who were initially allowed in the meeting, continued to chant well beyond their allotted time.

“Many of the protesters … were primarily calling on the banks to pay California back for their corporate greed,” Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander said via email. “It was a bit strange how it became a CSU issue to them.”

But before protesters were moved out of the building, the board had its most heated debate on tuition increases in recent memory, with most of the audience applauding trustees who voiced their opposition.

“Access, access, access, but to whom?” asked Newsom, who voted against the increase. “There’s no access being provided for the middle class … We need to confidently, loudly and assuredly reject this increase.”

The CSU said about 45 percent of its students won’t be affected by the tuition hike, explaining that families who make less than $70,000 a year are provided with grants that cover most of their educational costs.

Other trustees criticized the CSU for voting on a tuition increase before it received a budget from the state.

“I believe we should ask for what we need without disclaimers,” said trustee Bernadette Cheyne, who criticized the tuition increase and a CSU plan to ask the state for $138 million in additional revenue to cover the cost of the hike.

The state legislature bought out an 8 percent or $200 tuition increase in 2006, but declined in 2010 when the CSU asked it to buyout half of a 10 percent increase.

Still, some trustees argued that the vote needed to be taken early in order to give parents and students a chance to deal with the possible increase.

“What parents are most concerned about is predictability,” said Bob Linsheid, vice chair of the board.

Since 2009, the CSU has approved six separate tuition increases, nearly doubling the 23-campus system’s cost of attendance.

In fall 2008, students paid $3,048 on top of mandatory campus fees. If the 9 percent hike is not bought out by the state, students will pay $5,970 on top of mandatory campus fees.

The average CSU student may pay as much as $7,017 next fall, and CSULB students may pay as much as $6,738.

 

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