Frustration at yesterday’s California State University Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach turned into a violent riot after the board approved a $498 tuition fee increase.
Four protesters were arrested, including San Diego State student Ashley Wardle. Three police officers were injured during the conflict, one of whom was transported to a local hospital afterward. His condition was unknown at the time of publication.
“This was definitely one of the most highly frustrating and contested board meetings I have ever seen or known about,” Greg Washington, president of the California State Student Association, said.
The 9 percent increase, set to take effect next fall, is in addition to the 29 percent in increases that have already been placed on CSU students since last year. Students should expect to pay about $7,000 in tuition fees next year.
Approximately 400 protesters gathered at the trustee meeting, which took place at the Chancellor’s Office. Several of the protesters carried signs that read “Make banks pay” in bold letters. Inside the meeting, the crowd of more than 100 people contained approximately 12 protesters. Many of those protesters were affiliated with the ReFund California Coalition, which could not be reached for comment.
After a 30-minute public comment period preceding the vote, protesters continued to disrupt the meeting by shouting and yelling obscenities, after which the trustees called for a 10-minute recess. Police began removing the disruptive protesters from the building as the meeting was relocated to an adjacent room, where the trustees passed the measure with a 9-6 vote.
During this time, protesters began trying to force their way back into the building. A video posted on YouTube shows campus police using pepper spray on protesters as they tried to get inside, followed by the breaking of a glass door blocking the protesters’ entrance. It was unclear whether the broken glass door was an accident or done intentionally.
Accounts of exactly what happened yesterday differ. According to Erik Fallis, media relation specialist for the CSU, much of the disruptive behavior could be attributed to only a handful of people not reflective of CSU students or faculty.
Reaction to the trustee vote was immediate and determined.
“It’s time to recognize that our students and our state are in crisis, and we need talented college graduates to bring California’s economy back. This proposal takes us the wrong direction at the worst possible time,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction and CSU trustee Tom Torlakson said in a statement released by his office.
Many students, including SDSU graduate student Tess Banko, have dreaded additional fee increases but were not surprised by the vote.
“I kind of knew that the increase was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. I think the leadership of our state has just forgotten about what it’s like to be a student in this state,” she said. “I work two jobs and get student loans and every year, tuition goes up. At some point, something has to give and I think we’ve given enough.”
SDSU President Elliot Hirshman was at the meeting, along with other CSU presidents. He declined to comment on the situation.
A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Krista Parker, who was also present at the meeting, said she was disappointed in the vote.
“It’s unfortunate that students have to see these increases again,” she said. “Of course the alternative could be lay-offs, limits to accessibility and fewer class sections but it’s sad that students have to be the ones to pick up the cost.”