Student activists pledge escalation of protests

Student groups demands referendum of two-tier tuition program


Members from the Associated Students and the Student Organizing Committee held a press conference Tuesday morning on the main campus of Santa Monica College to explain the demands of their proposed referendum on SMC’s contract education program.

The referendum calls for a public vote on the controversial two-tier program for the winter and summer sessions that would add fee based classes once the state funded ones reach capacity.

Students at Tuesday’s press conference said that offering these additional classes at a $180 per credit hour versus the current $36 restricts education to students of higher income levels.

AS President Harrison Wills spoke to a small group of reporters and students at the event. “Essentially what you’re saying is that those who can afford it can move to the front of the line,” he said. “It’s a slippery road, it could lead to entirely replacing winter and summer with contract ed.”

However, SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Chui L Tsang, said in an interview on Monday that the school had no plans to expand the program beyond its current state. “We have 700 state-funded classes that are still offered alongside the 50 new fee classes,” he said.

The group assembled in anticipation of a Board of Trustee’s meeting tonight, where trustees are expected to vote on the referendum.

Student Organizing Committee speaker Mikhail Pronilover predicted what would happen if the referendum doesn’t pass. “It will give us a reason to escalate,” he said. “We need to start thinking about mass direct action which could include strikes, building occupations, and whatever means to organize ourselves.”

The group avoided questions about their organizational numbers, but added that they have about a thousand members on their Facebook page. About 50 members attended protests in recent weeks.

The group continued with other demands like the removal of the campus police department and salary reductions for administrators.

“Since 2007,  the administration has had a pay increase by 30 percent,” protestor Samaria Gomez said. “We propose that we give the students a role in deciding how the budget works.”

The group acknowledged the root of the problem as the budget crisis in California. “We are aware it’s a statewide problem, but they have to own up to their responsibility to provide low cost education,” Gomez said.

About 30 members of the student body were in attendance during the hour-long meeting. Some who didn’t speak held signs that said, “Occupy SMC” and “Tax the rich for education.”