Monday, November 21, 2011

Back From UC Davis

[The rally is still going on, so if you want to watch, go to one of the livestreams.]

This was Katehi's appearance:

I didn't take the video; it was posted over at dKos. The video is from Lee Fang, who has been doing excellent work on the Incident at UC Davis. All props.

I did get a video of Nathan Brown's challenge to Katehi, though, and I'll post it as soon as I can upload it. Warning: I was standing at the side of the stage, and a speaker cabinet and hand held signs blocked my view most of the time. That's OK by me. What he had to say is what mattered.

I'm still stunned by what I witnessed.

When I was (much) younger, I spent quite a lot of time on the Davis campus though I was never a student there. This was during my early theater career, and I was mostly involved with the staff of the Theater Arts Department who were generally very cooperative in helping to ensure projects I was involved with were completed as well as possible. Thinking back, I only have the fondest memories of my experiences at Davis and with the professors and staff there. These are still, to my mind, good people. UC Davis was also a primary venue for many musical artists that played the area. I became pretty familiar with the campus and the personnel.

But that was a long time ago. The campus has changed since then. Well, parts of it have. There is now a massive new performing arts center, and lots and lots of new buildings scattered around. But the core of the campus, the Quad, is pretty much the way it was many years ago.

I walked quite a distance through the campus to get to the Quad where the rally was to be held, and I was frequently among students, staff and faculty who were on their way to the rally as well. Many of them were talking about "what happened," and it seemed that most had a low opinion of Katehi, although a few -- who I noticed were dressed very well -- defended her and her actions, as well as those of the police. Oh my.

As I got closer to the Quad, the number of people headed toward it grew and grew, and finally, when I was on the edge of the Quad, just across from the Library, I could hear chanting: "Whose University? OUR University!" very loud and boistrous. There were thousands of people assembled on the Quad when I got there, and many more kept streaming in.

I would say, from my vantage point -- which was mostly on the left side of the stage -- there were at least 5,000 people there, and there could well have been many more as there were many people behind me and I didn't get very many pictures.

There were a number of people who testified about their experience being pepper sprayed, and I would say that David Buscho was the most effective in presenting both a first person statement and his case for the end of this regime of terror against students, faculty and staff. He was very emotional about it, and his emotion was just right. He's also the UCD student who put up the petition citing Nathan Brown's open letter calling for Chancellor Linda Katehi's immediate resignation. That petition has now been signed by almost 68,000 individuals.

The Regime of Terror was a common theme among the speakers. What happened the other day with the pepper spray was just a relatively mild sign of just how they are being forced -- to pay more in tuition and fees, to buckle under to more and more arbitrary impositions of authority, to submit.

My heart went out to them. I "knew" the situation at the Universities and other in public higher education institutions in the state had been on a downward spiral for years. And brutality toward those who got out of line was part of the process of the downward slide. Speakers mentioned that their experiences the other day were awful, but they weren't new. Campus after campus has been subjected to this sort of police state behavior at least since 2009, and in some cases since well before that.

Nathan Brown spoke eloquently about just how awful it is. He challenged Katehi directly -- she was standing by the side of the stage surrounded by media, her own functionaries, and others (I was surprised at who some of them were!) He faced her and spoke directly to her, demanding not just her resignation but the removal of all police from UC campuses. And justice. He was a powerful speaker, and I was reminded, just a little bit, of Mario Savio. Savio was a graduate student, however, not yet a professor!

He was followed by members of the English faculty who vigorously supported his call. Other speakers also called for strict controls on the UC Police Department, or in some cases, its complete disbanding. This is similar to the calls this summer to disband the BART transit police.

The problem, of course, is straightforward enough. Militarized police forces, whether in Oakland or on campuses or anywhere else are a danger to the rights, health and happiness of the American People, and that is what people are reacting so strongly to.

The efforts to but a shiny gloss on this turd of police brutality are failing.

People of Color spoke eloquently if bluntly about how this sort of brutal police behavior that the general public is just beginning to recognize (again) has been going on in poor and minority communities since forever. And police repression can be and often is -- see Egypt -- much worse abroad.

I think the assembled multitudes were clear about that. One thing to keep in mind is that the student body is pretty diverse ethnically (which it really wasn't in my day), and many of the students today have experienced or know those who have experienced the kind of police brutality that has long been routine in minority communities.

There were calls for Katehi to speak shortly after Nathan Brown had concluded his fiery oration, but the crowd was reminded that the Chancellor was "on stack" and she would have to wait just like anyone else. "She's not anyone special." So she waited.

Finally -- but not last to speak by any means -- she appeared. Downcast. Withdrawn. She had given an interview to Michael Krasny of KQED radio earlier today in which she repeated most of what she had to say in her Aggie TV interview from yesterday. Nathan Brown and some of those who were pepper sprayed also appeared on the program, separately as did a couple of police "experts."

At the rally, Katehi had little to say, but she did apologize for what happened to the students -- and many seem to think she was sincere about that. She seemed to choke up and even burst into tears when she saw signs held up by students that read, "17 November 1973. Athens. Do you remember?" She mentions a "plaque" with that date on it and says she remembers it. She was there.

This is what poster Panglozz has to say about Katehi and the events of November 13-17, 1973, in Athens:

Athens NTUA (aka Polytechnic) was the site of a ground-breaking student strike from November 13-17, 1973. To this day, Nov. 17 is a national student holiday in Greece.

The Greek Junta rammed the gates of the University with a tank, killing students, and sealing the end of the dictatorship scarcely 6 months later.

Katehi graduated from NTUA in 1977, and was present at the time of the student strike.

Katehi knows visceraly that a student rising, and political suppression can spell the end of the regime. She appears to be of "mainstream" political views, not overtly reactionary, but dislikes the trajectory of modern Greek politics in favor of a more technocratic or corporatist guidance.

Her current position is that of the Greek Junta in November 1973. That knowledge must be deeply painful to her, since the facsist Junta is universally discredited.

She also knows that a single campus revolt can light the spark that burns a corrupt system to the ground.

In an interview, she explains some of her political philosophy vis-a-vis
Despite the rhetoric though, the political system is not addressing these issues. Why is that in your opinion and what is the solution to actually re-launching the next Apollo Program? Are President Obama’s goals realistic without a willingness on behalf of the broader political system and the American people?

The answer to this is very complex. For starters, our current political system is weak and true leadership is badly needed but lacking. We have a society that has created needs that are expensive. We are experiencing demographic changes such as the aging of the baby boom generation, advances in medicine that prolong the average lifespan, an expectation for better health care and a higher quality of life. At the same time, we have a societal crisis of values and an unwillingness to see that this course is unsustainable in the long-run. The result is the creation of serious political gaps, polarization along party lines and our leadership and voters losing the sense of what our country’s strategic goals should be.

What about Greece? What are your thoughts on the sovereign debt crisis there? What caused it, who was responsible and do you see the country emerging from the doldrums? What policies do you think need to be implemented to successfully improve the situation?

Let me start by saying that I cannot speak with much certainty about Greece. I haven’t lived there for a long time, so my information and empirical experience is limited on that subject. What my belief is that the political leadership in Greece made grave directional mistakes during the late 70s and the 80s. It had an opportunity to develop a functioning democracy and bring its economy closer to European standards but it failed. There were decisions made that compromised education and light manufacturing and drove away whatever productive capacity existed. The policies implemented lead to what we see today: heavy indebtedness, outdated infrastructure, a counter-productive culture and eroded educational institutions.

What do you make of the leadership of George Papandreou?

I am hopeful with the direction of the new government. Hard choices need to be made and the new leadership seems like is making a good effort at addressing them. In Greece you have a good talent pool but also an anachronistic bureaucratic system that needs to be fundamentally changed. Only time will show which one will prevail.

by Panglozz on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:46:56 PM PST

The point is that she has seen how a student movement and an attempted -- over the top -- crack down can lead to the toppling of fascist dictatorships. She knows. She's been there. She's seen it for herself.

And somehow, I suspect that somewhere deep inside she recognizes that what is going on throughout the UC system is way too close to what was going on in Greek universities back in the day. She knows exactly where it can lead.

I saw her leave the stage, apparently in tears, and I followed the scrum of news media as she was walked across the campus, apparently headed back to the administration building. I saw her face a few times, and she was clearly devastated and abject. Defeat? I couldn't tell. But emotional devastation, absolutely. She was walked (there were two fellows from Occupy Sacramento on either side of her) back toward the administration building, but at an intersection in the road the scrum stopped. A car that I'd just passed in front of crossing the street pulled to a stop. After a moment or two hesitation, she was escorted to the car and she got in the back seat. The car drove away to shouts of "Don't come back!"

People around me asked what just happened. I said she'd gotten in a car and was driven away. One said to me, "That's too bad. I wanted to shake her hand."

No matter what happens, views differ, eh?

I decided to come back and post what I could about it. I understand there is a call for a general strike on November 28 -- system wide. This is the day the University Regents have cowardly set for a video conference meeting. Should be interesting.

And what to do about the militarized UC Police force and how to restore the system to the People is still a quandry.

I've been to many demonstrations over the years, but this was really something else again. It wasn't just young people speaking their minds, it was them taking charge of their fate.

Nothing is going to be the same again.

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