Thirteen people were arrested Wednesday in a raucous demonstration outside a San Francisco hall where University of California regents were meeting to discuss controversial proposals to raise undergraduate fees and boost the numbers of out-of-state students. Four UC police officers suffered minor injuries during the protest, officials said.
At one point, a UC San Francisco police officer who had been rushed by protesters and hit on the head with his own baton, pointed his service gun at the demonstrators but did not fire, police said. Police used pepper spray on an estimated 15 protesters, most of whom received treatment at the scene.
UC San Francisco Police Chief Pamela Roskowski defended the officers' actions, saying that "an angry and unruly and aggressive crowd" of about 300 protesters had gathered outside the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus and inside an adjacent garage.
Roskowski said protesters had thrown barricades and other objects at the 90 or so university and city police there. She said a video proved that the officer was justified in drawing his weapon and that he had shown "great restraint."
However, a number of students said that police overreacted and that most of the demonstrators were seeking entrance to the meeting to hear the regents' discussions.
"It's very sad to see how the UC students are being treated outside," Claudia Magana, president of the statewide UC Student Assn., told the regents. "They are not here to hurt you." She later said students had hoped to persuade the board to vote against the proposed 8% fee increase when the meeting continues Thursday, but she said approval seemed likely.
Most of those arrested were UC students, according to police. Twelve of the 13 could face misdemeanor charges, and a UC Merced student arrested in the baton incident could be charged with a felony, assault with a deadly weapon, Roskowski said.
UC leaders, coping with higher costs and continuing tight state budgets, have proposed raising basic annual undergraduate fees by $822, to $11,124 for next year, not including campus-based charges and room and board. The plan would also expand financial aid and offer a one-year reprieve from the hike to students from most families with incomes up to $120,000. If approved, the increase would follow a 32% tuition boost imposed last year, an action that triggered much larger protests.
The official name for the charges students pay also seems likely to change. Echoing recent action by Cal State trustees and tradition at most other colleges, a regents committee Wednesday unanimously approved new terminology: UC students' basic education charges will now be termed "tuition," not "fees." The change reflects the reality that the hefty fees are no longer incidental charges, officials said.
The committee vote, expected to be approved by the full regents board Thursday, was taken without any discussion. That surprised student regent-designate Alfredo Mireles Jr., who opposes the wording change because it retreats from the affordability stressed in the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, he said. "It feels wrong," he said. "It's disappointing."
The regents also discussed a proposal to increase the proportion of out-of-state and international students at the university from the current 6% of UC undergraduates to a maximum of 10%. A vote is expected at a later meeting, but the regents were divided on the issue Wednesday.
Supporters said the extra $23,000 a year that UC charges students from outside California helps to pay for classes for in-state students and that they expect no major displacement of in-state students. They also said they welcome more geographic and cultural diversity.
"I think people will benefit from having points of view from Kansas as well as from the U.K. and Germany," said regent Leslie Tang Schilling.
But regent Odessa Johnson said she was concerned that California parents would worry that their children might be denied UC admission to make room for out-of-staters. "You are going to have to preach a better sermon to me," she told administrators who presented the proposal.
The regents began to discuss changes in pension plans that would require additional paycheck contributions from employees and the university and would raise the retirement age for new employees. Those proposals, meant to plug huge deficits after UC and its employees made no contributions to retirement funds for 20 years, alarm labor unions. A special meeting on the changes is being scheduled for next month.