(11-18) — One University of California police officer drew his gun, others used pepper spray, and some tumbled down stairs in a raucous confrontation Wednesday with hundreds of protesters that ended in 13 arrests outside the UC regents’ meeting in San Francisco.
About 300 students and UC employees from up and down the state – furious that the regents are likely to raise tuition for the sixth time in four years – showed up at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to protest the latest increase. Nearly 100 police in riot gear stood by as the regents met on the second day of their three-day meeting.
Demonstrations are expected to resume today, when the regents will consider raising undergraduate tuition by 8 percent to $11,124 next fall, from the present $10,302. Graduate fees would also rise by 8 percent.
Tuition is free to more than half of undergraduates through financial aid. But thousands of others would have to pay more.
The regents raised fees 32 percent last November, touching off a year of student protests. Now students are demonstrating again.
“Next year I might not be able to return to UC,” said Saema Adeeb, a biosciences major from UC Merced. Her family earns too much to qualify for financial aid, she said.
Marching outside the meeting with a sign that read, “The increase is unFEElievable!” Adeeb echoed many students’ confusion about why UC President Mark Yudof is asking them to pay more when the state just increased UC’s funding by $370 million, despite a multibillion-dollar deficit.
Inside the public meeting, UC’s finance experts told the regents the state restored only 58 percent of what it had cut since 2008, and that rising costs – especially pension obligations – mean UC has to ask students to pony up yet again.
“What happens if you don’t do it?” Yudof asked the regents, his voice tense. “You’ll have to abolish programs. There would be more layoffs – probably 5,000 to 10,000. You’ll have to reduce enrollment targets. I wish UC were free. But that’s not the world we live in.”
Outside, the protesters grew angrier. Dozens peeled off from the main group and tried to enter the building through the adjacent parking garage, where a lone officer guarded the elevators.
“They rushed the officer and disarmed him of his baton,” UCSF Police Chief Pamela Roskowski said later.
The officer then heard students say they planned to take his gun, so he drew his weapon, Roskowski said.
As other officers arrived, students pushed toward them.
“There was a skirmish, and several officers fell backward down the stairs,” Roskowski said.
Meanwhile, other protesters pushed the metal barricades separating them from the building where the regents were meeting.
“We did use pepper spray, and 15 people were exposed,” the chief said.
Police arrested 11 students and two unidentified protesters. Seven students were from UC Berkeley. One each came from UC Davis, Santa Cruz and Merced. One was from Peralta Community College.
The UC Merced student was arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon. The others were accused of obstructing police in the line of duty.
Inside, students who addressed the regents were calmer but no less passionate.
“Students have been shoplifting just to get food” since the 32 percent tuition hike took effect this fall, Jasmine Hill, UCLA’s student body president, told the regents.
Regents Chairman Russ Gould called the tuition decision “the hardest choice any of us will have to make.”
The higher tuition would raise $180 million a year for UC, with about a third set aside for financial aid, Yudof said.
California students with family incomes of up to $70,000 escape tuition because they qualify for financial aid. Today, the regents will vote on whether to raise that to $80,000 for an additional 4,700 students.
The regents will also consider a one-year “holiday” on the tuition increase for families earning up to $120,000.