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Protesters disrupt UC Board of Regents meeting in Riverside

January 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Protesters stormed a UC Board of Regents meeting on Thursday morning, disrupting a meeting where tuition hikes were to be discussed.

Several students had signed up to speak during the public comment section of the meeting, but they were dissatisfied by the one minute 15 seconds allotted per speaker.

"We didn't cause this economic and public education crisis, you did," said UC San Diego student Niko Smith told regents.

When the regents were prepared to begin discussing the rest of the items on the agenda, a number of students, in Occupy Wall Street fashion, decided to call for their own public forum.

Sixteen students linked arms and sat on the floor, while UC Riverside police stood by with zip-tie handcuffs in hand.

"The decisions they're making are just not right, and if they are for the UCs, then they should helping us, not preventing us from actually finishing our education," said UC Riverside student Tiffany Vasquez.

The regents walked out of the room, while the students continued to list off alternatives to fee hikes, including the reform of Proposition 13 to help fund public education, taxing millionaires and oil companies and to freeze or cut administrative positions that pay more than $125,000 a year.

The regents were going to discuss other funding options at the meeting in light of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, which counts on voter-approved tax hikes to avoid education cuts. California faces a $9.2 billion budget deficit, and without more money from the state, UC students could be hit with a 3- to 5-percent tuition hike.

Board chair Sherry Lansing told the students she was frustrated by their actions.

"If your sole intention is to disrupt the meeting, you have succeeded," she told the students. "If your intention, which I hope, is to have constructive dialogue ... you are welcome, and we wanted you to stay, but if you continue to chant, we can't do the business. We can't explore any of the options that you're talking about.

Outside the meeting, hundreds surrounded the Highlander Union Building, holding signs, beating drums and chanting.

The students inside the meeting eventually left, and officials say there were two arrests. The meeting resumed after about a 45-minute delay, but what was supposed to be an open meeting was closed to the public.

"We feel it's going good because we shut the meeting down like we wanted to. We want them to listen to us and open some dialogue," said Wesley Porter of the California Teachers Association. "They want to sit in board rooms and closed doors ... that's a problem for us."

A spokesman for the UC system said they do share students' concerns, and they do recognize that tuition costs have gone up dramatically in the last decade, which they attribute to state budget cuts.