Santa Monica College students were pepper sprayed during a protest Tuesday night.
The students were protesting higher tuition being charged for extra summer-school courses at Santa Monica College. College President Chui L. Tsang said in a statement that a college police officer unleashed the pepper spray “to preserve public and personal safety” when demonstrators forced their way into the board room. The students were attempting to forcefully enter a boardroom in the school’s business building, chanting “No cuts, no fees, education should be free.”
"Although a number of participants at the meeting engaged in unlawful conduct, Santa Monica College police personnel exercised restraint and made no arrests," Tsang said, adding that the unlawful conduct included setting off fire alarms and attempting to disrupt the meeting.
Tsang cited Santa Monica Fire Department reports as saying that 15 to 30 people were treated at the scene for the effects of the pepper spray, and that three were taken to the hospital for further treatment and released.
Board Chair Margaret Quinones-Perez announced at the end of the comment period that the college would pay medical bills for any students who suffered injuries during the disturbance.
Tsang said the new fee structure would raise tuition at Santa Monica College from $138 for a typical three-credit course to $540 for roughly 50 "extra self-funded classes" being offered this summer. He said the higher fees were necessitated by "the greatest budget crisis ever to face higher education in California."