WESTWOOD (CBS) — More than 100 students, angry over rising tuition fees and the pepper-spraying of peaceful protesters by University of California police, converged on the UCLA campus as UC regents held a meeting for the second time this month.
The meeting attracted overflow crowds to the James West Alumni Center at the south end of the UCLA campus in Westwood, prompting school officials to take their meeting elsewhere and send in the police.
“We could not do it, we could not talk,” said one of the regents.
Later on, two regents and UC Chancellor Gene Block came back and met with students to discuss their concerns.
“It’s not the regents who are increasing the fees — they’re only increasing the fees because there’s a reduction in state support,” Block said.
Protester Kyle Arnone believes UC officials haven’t explored all options.
“If it’s true that the regents’ hands are tied then why don’t they sign this pledge – pledging to support finding resources of public tax revenue to refund public higher education,” Arnone said.
UC students typically pay $12,000 a year, but, if there’s another increase, tuition could double by the time a first-year student graduates.
Some students said the tuition hikes have forced students to drop out.
“At least seven people who I know have dropped out of UC Irvine because they couldn’t afford it and that doesn’t make sense,” said UC student Arwan Liwana.
UC regents say they are listening — and have asked the state for $2.7 billion for next year’s budget. If the funds aren’t approved there will be an 8 percent tuition increase.
“I think we made progress but students aren’t satisfied at this point,” Arnone said.
Earlier in November, UCLA students blocked the busy nearby intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards.
The UC system has also been rocked by amateur video of UC Berkeley police using batons against limp protesters, and a UC Davis police officer releasing large quantities of pepper spray into the faces of sitting students who refused to move.
Students protesting at the UCLA campus said they would not be silenced, emphasizing this point by placing duct tape over their mouths.