Tami Abdollah / KPCC
California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott talks about the impact of the state's budget crisis on the nation's largest higher education system.
In a phone call the morning after Santa Monica College students were pepper sprayed by campus police, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott advised college President Chui L. Tsang to put on hold a plan to offer a tier of higher-cost classes this summer.
"[Tsang's] a good friend of mine and I have a lot of respect for him," Scott said in an interview today. "He is obviously trying to determine what the incident was. I did say that given the circumstances that perhaps it would be wise to put this program on hold until we would get a ruling on the legality of it. That’s only my advice. Chui Tsang answers directly to the Santa Monica elected Board of Trustees. He made it clear, and I understand."
Campus police used pepper spray on about 30 students Tuesday night as they interrupted a Board of Trustees meeting to protest a new plan to offer to start offering courses — priced at roughly five times the current $36 per unit fee at $180 to $200 a unit.
More than 100 students disrupted the 7 p.m. meeting when they "stormed into the board room and started shouting" to protest the plan, said Bruce Smith, a spokesman for Santa Monica College. Three students were transported to the hospital with minor injuries, fire officials said.
The incident is under investigation by campus officials, Smith said. Tsang could not be reached for comment today.
In March, Scott asked his counsel to seek advice from the state's attorney general on the legality of the Santa Monica College plan. Scott said he expects the opinion in the next couple weeks. The move is believed to be a first for such a public institution. Officials have said the classes will help the college serve the increased demand for courses in a time when severe state cuts to funding have forced schools to pare down their offerings.
"Part of this stems from the fact that the community colleges are underfunded," Scott said. "We've taken a 17 percent cut in the last two years. As a result [there are about] 300,000 students who have not been able to get an education. I think that’s what has led to this situation."