Police disrupt student assembly

About 30 members of Santa Monica College’s Student Organization Committee, along with other student activists, formed a general assembly on the steps of  the Letters and Science Building at SMC’s main campus Thursday morning. The student committee, which opposes the two-tier tuition system approved by the Board of Trustees earlier this month, congregated at the steps to generate ideas, discuss proposals, and hold an open forum for students to voice their opinions.

However, the SMC Police Department dispersed the crowd, because the committee’s chalkboard, showing the various demands for budget funding and strategies to stop contract education, was set on the upper staircase of the building’s main entrance.

According to Michael Pronilover, a speaker for the Student Organizing Committee, police officers told the committee that the chalkboard blocking the staircase and wheelchair ramp to the building was a fire hazard. The forced removal of the group of students caused a great deal of upset, however the students ultimately complied with the officers’ demands.

AS President Harrison Wills told the Corsair after the assembly that he was upset with the police interference. “I feel that the police presence was overbearing and unnecessary,” Wills said. “We were peacefully assembling. The question is who were the police protecting and serving?”

Pronilover said that the SMC police have been harassing the committee ever since they began holding public meetings two weeks ago. Pronilover stated being  during a recent meeting with his counterparts by the clock tower on the main campus.

“There are fifteen of us sitting down with pieces of paper, and we’re being watched like home grown terrorists,” said Pronilover. “It intimidates people.” The SMC police have so far been unavailable to comment.

The Student Organizing Committee laid out a Proposed Action Plan of Proposed Demands. Part of their plan is to reduce administrative and managerial salaries to 2007-2008 pre-bonus and pre-raise levels, investigate the savings and revenue ideas passed by the District Planning and Advisory Committee, and to diminish the presence of campus police to a minimum during student mass action.

The police “make it harder for us to organize,” said Pronilover. “And we are organizing for something just.”

“We, the students, make the school. Without the students and faculty, the school has nothing. The students have absolutely no input. It isn’t right,” said Kirill Panov, an activist.

According to Wills, the goal of the assembly was to bring a critical awareness about the “privatization of public education.” He claimed that students are fighting nationwide for equal access to education, and that the price hike of $200 per unit creates a disparity between rich and the poor students.

“People who are making the decisions are claiming to represent us, but they aren’t listening,” said Wills.

The two-tier system, which raises tuition costs for the most-in-demand classes for summer and winter sessions, has received nationwide attention. According to an article by The New York Times, it “may be the first system of its kind in the country, college officials and other higher education experts say.”

The Student Organization Committee plans to meet on noon on Saturday, March 31, at the Virginia Avenue Park to further discuss their plans to repeal the two-tier system.

“This is not a one day protest,” said Wills. “This is an ongoing student grassroots movement. The Student Organizing Committee will work diligently to outreach the student movement.”