As expected, UCLA students and other protesters will be out in force at the Westwood Campus today as some of the UC Regents hold a meeting that could ultimately decide the fate of another tuition hike.
Some demonstrators are unhappy with the Regents' decision not only to postpone their last meeting out of fear of radical protests, but to then hold today's make-up meeting at four different locations (UC San Francisco-Mission Bay, UCLA, UC Davis and UC Merced) and vote via phone.
Demonstrators told us it was a clear attempt to diffuse the Occupy related anger over the tripling of student costs in the last 10 years.
The group ReFund California has helped to organize the protests and has attempted to connect the unhappiness with hikes to the anti-bank, anti-Wall Street movement.
The idea is that many of the Regents have connections to banks and Wall Street and should use their influence to help reduce students' increasing costs for a UC education.
Regents today will likely decide how much cash they'll request from the state legislature. That, in essence, could lead to another tuition hike: If the budget request isn't enough, students will probably have to make up the difference.
The protesters this morning plan to display banners that say "Make Millionaires Pay."
ReFund vows in a statement to "open up the Regents' sham teleconference at the 4 UC campuses where Regents will call-in."
The last meeting was canceled on fears of "rogue elements intent on violence," according to statement by top UC officials.
The one-quarter Regents meeting happens at the James West Alumni Center. Demonstrators plan to be there at 8 a.m.
We expect fireworks.
[Update at 11:05 a.m.]: UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea tells the Weekly about 100 demonstrators showed up outside the meeting and about 60 people were inside the building. No arrests were reported.
We were told by a witness to the events that about 81 officers, including LAPD cops, were present (see photos).
The school states that "the meeting began with remarks from Board of Regents chairman Sherry Lansing and UC President Mark Yudof endorsing free speech on campuses and decrying the use of force at Davis."
[Update at 2:57 p.m.]: The meeting is over, but demonstrators are occupying the James West Alumni Center. UCLA's Ritea tells us that Chancellor Gene Block said the protesters could stay until 6 p.m.
[Update at 6:11 p.m.]: Despite an interruption of the meeting thanks to raucous protesters and a CSU Trustees-like relocation of the pow-wow, Regents voted to ask the state legislature for enough cash ($2.7 billion, up from $2.3 billion) that they would be able to forgo another tuition increase next year.
UC president Mark G. Yudof:
If the state gives UC the $2.7 billion we are requesting, we can avoid the issue of a tuition increase entirely. We can begin the process of moving the university forward. If, however, there is no increase in state funding, then we must continue to do our best to pare spending and to raise other revenues.
Of course, this would ultimately be up to state lawmakers.