By Brenton Garen and Roger Morante
Santa Monica College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to cancel a pilot “self-funded” supplemental program that would have offered an additional 50 courses this summer at cost.
The pilot program, originally approved by the Board in March, would have offered about 50 extra “self-funded” classes at SMC’s “actual cost,” which is $180 per credit unit, or $540 for a typical three-unit course. Typical state-subsidized classes usually cost $46 per credit unit for California residents.
The Board also voted to postpone the implementation of any self-funded program and directed the leaders of the SMC District Planning & Advisory Council to advise the college president and Board on future efforts to expand student access.
Also, SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang announced that in addition to the SMC Police Department investigation surrounding an incident at Tuesday’s Board meeting, he has appointed a review panel to conduct a separate review of the police response independent of the internal investigation.
The panel will be chaired by Campus Counsel Robert Myers and the additional members are Trustee Nancy Greenstein, Student Trustee Joshua Scuteri, SMC nursing professor Eve Adler, and Dean of Workforce and Economic Development Patricia Ramos.
The decision by the Board came after a 3 ½-hour public comment session in which approximately 55 speakers – including SMC students, professors, and members of the community at large – testified about the program.
The college will be offering 700 state-funded courses at the state fee of $46 per unit this summer, but will not offer the self-funded program of 50 courses at $180 a unit. College officials have been seeking new ways to improve access to classes at a time that devastating state budget cuts have resulted in the reduction of 1,100 course sections at SMC since 2008.
The head of California’s community college system, Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, had requested on Wednesday that Santa Monica College’s controversial two-tier plan to offer high-priced courses be placed on hold following a protest at the Pico Blvd. campus earlier this week where dozens of students were pepper-sprayed.
Up to 30 SMC students were pepper-sprayed on Tuesday evening as they attempted to enter the College’s Board of Trustees meeting that was discussing contract education that would dramatically hike fees at the college.
Mayhem unfolded when SMC campus police deployed pepper spray into the overcrowded hallway outside of the room where the meeting was taking place.
The chaos resulted in student Christine Deal being put in a chokehold, two students being rushed to the hospital from severe pepper spray reaction (including Associated Student vice president Jasmine Delgado), and a four-year-old girl was affected by the pepper spray mist that had been released inside the hallway of a public education building.