UC Regents advance fee increases amid protests, 14 arrests
Protests by students from several campuses disrupted today's UC Board of Regents meeting to consider a budget plan and fee increases.
UC police said 12 students and two others were arrested and cited for refusing to leave the meeting inside Covel Commons at UCLA. Outside the building, a crowd estimated at 500 was ordered to disperse after police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. Two students received minor injuries and some police officers were hit by thrown objects.
Police said preliminary reports indicated that when the crowd rushed the building, two officers deployed Tasers in light stun mode against two protesters, which was meant to ward off protestors but not incapacitate them. Police said they have received no reports of injuries resulting from Taser use. All use-of-force incidents are subject to review by UCLA police supervisors.
The Regents, facing a tight 2010–11 budget as a result of the persistent state budget crisis, heard public comments from a number of speakers about the proposal to raise student fees and increase financial assistance for needy low- and middle-income students. UC President Mark Yudof said the budget package — which includes a 15 percent hike in undergraduate student fees in spring 2010 and an additional 15 percent in the fall — will provide enough financial assistance that three-quarters of families making under $180,000 will not pay any additional fees during the first wave of fee increases.
The Board of Regents finance committee voted today to approve the increases. The full board will take up the proposal on Thursday. (UC Newsroom release)
Students who spoke at the meeting "made very good and persuasive points," Yudof said after the vote, but "we don't have the money. I hate to say it, but when you have no choice, you have no choice. … This is a situation where the students' rightful expectations just exceed the resources of the University of California."
"None of us want fee increases," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "This was a painful decision to make, but the Regents have their backs to the wall in trying to restore the fiscal health of the university. Unfortunately, this means that everyone — faculty, staff and students — is forced to share the pain. This crisis is truly unprecedented and requires drastic measures. It's important to note, though, that financial aid packages will close the gap for the most needy."
Spectators erupted in chants and shouts several times before the finance committee vote. Police declared an unlawful assembly in the morning and cleared the room of protesters. The disruptions continued after the audience was permitted back inside, leading police to clear the room again.
Before the meeting, protesters had gathered outside Covel Commons. Signs crafted by employee unions leaned upside-down against planter boxes, with messages such as "Yes, we can take back our university," in preparation for the protests.
Students from UCLA and other UC campuses continued to gather as the crowd reached an estimated 500. Police in riot gear lined up to keep the crowd under control, said Nancy Greenstein, director of police community services.
"There were some minor injuries [to a few officers] from when the crowd rushed the door and were throwing things. ... Everything from hot dogs and salads to sticks and signs, bottles of water, vinegar-soaked rags."
Gracelynne West, a senior from UC San Diego, woke up at 4 a.m. to drive to Westwood. "I'm here not just for me but for future generations of students," she said. "We're here to tell the regents that enough is enough."
Lucia Lin, a UCLA senior, said she was attending her first-ever regents meeting. "All of our families have been hit hard by the economy this year, and to raise fees mid-year is really egregious," she said. "We all know people who won't be able to come back to school in January if the fee hikes are approved."
Protesters planned 24 hours of activities, including a campus "tent city" where many planned to spend the night.
This story was updated from earlier versions.
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