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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Editorial: Haven’t they learned?

Once again, student protesters were the victims of police violence.

Last Tuesday, a group of 30 activists were pepper sprayed while attempting to gain access to a Board of Trustees meeting at Santa Monica College (SMC). A small number of students were allowed into the meeting, presumably until the room reached capacity. Over 70 people were left outside protesting the $180-per-unit fee increase being discussed inside.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because similar events have been happening all across California, and the world, for the last few months. University systems are failing their students, students are reacting through activism, and campus police – at the will of the school – are responding with violence.

And though it happened at Montreal’s McGill University on Nov. 10, and at our very own UC Davis on Nov. 18, there is such a great disconnect  on campuses that nothing about the culture of public education has changed enough to prevent the incident at SMC. Campus administration does not understand its students, and in turn treats them as an enemy.

Following the pepper spraying at UC Davis, then-Police Chief Annette Spicuzza was quoted supporting the use of chemical weaponry and UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi sent an e-mail to the campus community citing the “health of the students involved in the protest” as justification for police action.

If you’re a regular reader of The California Aggie or have been paying attention to Occupy, these quotes are little more than trite relics of the uncharted territory that followed our own campus crisis. In response to unresolved campus anger, the Chancellor apologized for the pepper spraying.

Yet following the pepper spraying at SMC, school president Chui L. Tsang issued a statement saying the same bullshit. Students were pepper sprayed to “preserve public and personal safety.” Did he really think it would work this time?

If there is anything we have learned over the last few months, it is that campus administrations do not know how to work with students. From the community college Board of Trustees to the UC Regents, there is little to no student representation when it comes to tuition hikes. Both of the student regents at UC Regents meetings are graduate students, and only one has voting privileges.

This is why students want access to board meetings. This is why three UCLA students were arrested after the public comment session at the Regents meeting over spring break. There are student voices, and they’re not being heard.

A simple solution? Institutionalize more interaction between students and administrators. This means having more than an hour of public discussion at a meeting that affects hundreds of thousands of students’ livelihoods and the future of our state. This means finding a bigger room when there are not enough seats. This means listening to and addressing the concerns presented by protesters.

And most of all, this means not allowing police officers to use pepper spray, or any other form of violence, to silence student voices.

Police at SMC may have temporarily blinded 30 protesters, but we’re still watching.

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