Nearing midnight and with the sting of pepper spray in the air, Santa Monica College trustees wondered how their plan to offer a selection of higher cost classes this summer had come to be so misunderstood.
For many on the eight-member panel, which includes a humanities professor, an ACLU board member and a college counselor, the plan was conceived as a progressive response to drastic state funding cuts and was intended to increase access and allow more students to graduate and transfer.
The plan, said one, was socialism in action. But just an hour before, angry demonstrators had nearly beaten down the door, hurling accusations that a two-tier pricing system would shut out low-income students and lead to privatizing public education. A campus police officer used pepper spray to stop the surging crowd.
"It's an opportunity to make a very progressive policy, an opportunity to be Robin Hood," said trustee Rob Rader, who summed up the frustrations of many of his colleagues near the end of the April 3 meeting.