Nov 162011
 
Authors: Laurel Rosenhall McClatchy Tribune

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Students and employees of California’s public universities staged another day of budget protests Wednesday, including one at California State University headquarters in Long Beach that turned violent as trustees voted to raise tuition by 9 percent.

The increase, which amounts to about $498 a year starting in Fall 2012, was essentially approved in private after trustees moved to a different room when protests disrupted the open meeting.

Protesters broke a glass door, injuring three police officers. One of the officers was taken to a hospital for medical care, said CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith. Four people were arrested, including three CSU students and a student from the University of California, Los Angeles, Keith said. At one point in the conflict, both protesters and police used pepper spray.

The chaos broke out after several union members who said they were part of a group called Refund California asked trustees to support the group’s proposal for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund public education and other services that have been reduced by ongoing state budget deficits.

“Together we are working to make Wall Street and the super rich pay for destroying our schools, universities and neighborhoods,” said Rich Anderson, president of United Auto Workers 4123, which represents CSU’s student employees. “We seek to make Wall Street banks pay their share in rebuilding California.”

After the outburst, trustees moved their meeting to a different room, where no audience or media were permitted and an Internet audio broadcast was cut. That’s where they made their final tuition decision, on a 9-6 vote.

That’s also where they voted unanimously to unlink the tuition increase from their 2012-13 budget request to the Legislature so that it no longer includes the idea that the Legislature can “buy out” the tuition increase by providing CSU more money.

Originally, CSU staff suggested the university make a request that promised to rescind the tuition hike if the state gives CSU $330 million more in the coming year.

Trustee Steven Glazer, Gov. Jerry Brown’s political adviser, made the motion to delink the budget request from the tuition hike, Keith said.

CSU issued a press release saying the budget request trustees approved says CSU needs $535.6 million more next year, and asks the Legislature for an increase of $333 million. It says about $64 million would come from tuition associated with expanding enrollment by 20,000 students, and $138 million from the tuition increase. The request includes a proposal to raise pay for all CSU employees by 3 percent.

Later, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the board of trustees, blasted the university for making such big decisions behind closed doors.

“This issue is simply too important to not allow for a full and thorough public discussion or to contribute to the perception that this process is anything less than open and transparent,” Newsom said in a statement. “By doing so, I fear we are unintentionally inflaming the widespread confusion and acrimony that continues to build around the issue.”

Meanwhile, inside the state Capitol Wednesday morning, about 100 University of California students participated in a protest against budget cuts and tuition hikes, flooding elected officials’ offices with phone calls. They had planned to protest at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco, but were in the Capitol instead because UC canceled the meeting out of fears of violent protests.

“We wanted to let them know that canceling a meeting will not impede upon our efforts to protect and defend higher education,” Joey Freeman, a student organizer from UC Berkeley, said at a news conference on Capitol’s north steps.

Before the news conference, an organizer distributed scripts to students, and they spent about 30 minutes calling the offices of Brown and legislative leaders from their cell phones.

At UC Davis, about a dozen protesters remained inside the lobby of the Mrak Hall administration building for much of the day, after 50 to 75 protesters slept there overnight, said spokeswoman Claudia Morain.

At 2:30 campus officials closed the building and sent employees home, she said. Police asked the protesters to leave at that time, Morain said, and they did so without incident.

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