Monday, November 14, 2011

Next Up: Berkeley

The cowards who pass for Regents of the University were supposed to hold their meeting in San Francisco tomorrow. They got a report from the UC Police that there might be some unpleasantness having to do with the recent tumult at the UC Berkeley campus -- and other things -- so they advised the Regents to postpone their meeting.

This they promptly voted to do. Can't have any unpleasantness. Ick.

This is the story in the Daily Californian.

This is the Press Release announcing their cowadice:

Monday, Nov. 14, 2011
UC Office of the President
(510) 987-9200

Announcement from UC Board of Regents leadership

The following announcement was released today (Monday, Nov. 14, 2011) by Sherry Lansing, chair of the University of California Board of Regents, Vice Chair Bruce Varner and President Mark G. Yudof:

Late last week University of California law enforcement officials came to us with concerns about credible intelligence they had collected in advance of the Board of Regents meeting, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 16 and 17) at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus.

From various sources they had received information indicating that rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting.

They believe that, as a result, there is a real danger of significant violence and vandalism. They have advised us further that this violence could place at risk members of the public, students lawfully gathered to voice concerns over tuition levels and any other issues, the UCSF community, including patients, and public safety officers, UC staff and neighbors of UCSF Mission Bay.

They recommended to us, in the strongest of terms, that we cancel or postpone the meeting as scheduled.

After further consultation with these law enforcement officers, we have decided that, in fact, the most prudent course for us would be to postpone this meeting and reschedule it for another time and, possibly, an alternate venue. Failure to do so might constitute a reckless disregard of credible law enforcement intelligence. Ensuring public safety must be a top priority.

By rescheduling, it is our intent to allow the business of the University of California to go forward, but in a manner that will allow the public, including students, to express their views on issues related to the university without putting their personal safety in peril.

We will be announcing a new schedule for this meeting as soon as possible. We will not elaborate further on the law enforcement intelligence that prompted us to postpone, and we have asked our police officials to do the same.

Finally, we want to point out that the agenda for this meeting included updates from UC staff members on several initiatives that have been launched in an effort to offset state disinvestment in the university, providing alternate revenue streams beyond tuition and taxpayer support. This work will continue to go forward. Contrary to some public misperceptions, a tuition increase was never a part of the agenda for this meeting.

The arrogance -- and cowardice -- of the UC Board of Regents was legendary back in the Olden Days, but this announcement makes me believe it is even worse now than it was then.

Student Regents had a different take:

An Open Letter to Students, Administrators, Faculty, and the Regents:

The leadership of the Board of Regents has chosen to cancel this week’s Regents meeting. This letter addresses that decision, the recent protests on UC campuses, the continued defunding of public higher education by the State of California, and recent police brutality at UC Berkeley.
The State of California’s unprecedented and short-sighted divestment from public higher education is a disastrous moral and economic choice. In the short term, it hurts students. In the long term, it will hurt all Californians.

The University of California is a nationwide leader in educating students who are the first in their families to go to college, students who come from underserved communities, and first-generation students who are the children of immigrants. Collectively and through sacrifice, the State of California has built an institution that excels at providing a world-class education to students who have faced the greatest challenges to access it.

And yet the State is choosing to tear that institution down. The State of California cut the UC by $650 million in the past year, with a $100 million trigger cut likely on the way. These latest cuts come on the heels of decades of declining funding. The cost is felt first and foremost by students, who face nothing but bad choices: work multiple jobs to make ends meet, take out enormous loans that will be paid back in a terrible job market, or drop out and pursue an education somewhere cheaper or not at all. Generations of Californians attended an excellent UC at low or no cost; today, those same Californians are forcing the next generation of students to attend a university under threat, and at a high and rising cost. It is privatization of our greatest public good, and a morally bankrupt choice on the part of our citizens and our state government.

It is also a short-sighted economic choice. For decades, the University of California has fueled this state’s economic success, by driving innovation and entrepreneurship and graduating thousands of highly skilled workers into the California economy. Defunding this institution may ease our budget problems today, but doing so will bear bitter fruit for decades to come, as we become a less attractive destination for businesses and entrepreneurs. Cutting the UC hurts every Californian’s opportunity to get a well-paying job, decreases our future tax revenues, and delays or prevents entirely the research breakthroughs that advance our society and our economy.

The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate support the actions of students who call attention to the privatization of public education through courageous and peaceful protest. The police violence at UC Berkeley on November 9 was reprehensible and ought to be condemned, not defended, by campus and systemwide administration. We have additional concerns about freedom of speech – on the day of the protests, a Berkeley Law student was stopped by police officers while far from the events at Sproul Plaza simply for carrying a megaphone. When she was unable to produce a student ID, she was handcuffed, placed in a squad car, and cited for a misdemeanor. Free speech and providing equitable access to education have been hallmarks of the UC and particularly UC Berkeley — by suppressing speech that advocates for education access, we do violence to two of our most cherished principles.

The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate oppose the decision to cancel this week’s Regents meeting. We understand that local law enforcement authorities recommended the meeting be postponed in the interest of public safety. However, students have a right to protest peacefully and make their voices heard forcefully; this action eliminates their opportunity to do that. We would support finding a way for student attendees to exercise their constitutional and moral right to protest while excluding non-student elements that raise the specter of violence and vandalism. We urge students who had made plans to travel to San Francisco for the Regents meeting to travel to Sacramento instead, and make student frustrations known to the state’s ultimate decision-makers.

To fund the University of California, the State needs revenues. The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate support ending Proposition 13’s treatment of corporate property taxes and ending the two-thirds supermajority requirement for raising new revenues in the state legislature. The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate also support increasing taxes on the wealthiest Californians. Those at the top of California society have benefited the most from the fact that California is a vibrant, innovative, and diverse place; in times of struggle, they should give back to make sure that other Californians have the same opportunities to succeed that they did.

We hope that our fellow Regents and the administration of the UC will be forceful advocates for new revenues for state government. To not do so leaves us with only a single, cynical choice every year: submit a funding request to the State and lobby for it despite knowing Sacramento is unlikely to meet it; search internally for savings after yet another budget cut that we knew was coming; and fill the balance of our budget deficit on the backs of students, pushing those in the middle class further to the margins.

We have a responsibility to fight for an alternative. Students are leading the way. We hope that the University of California and its leadership can join students in the fight to preserve truly public higher education for all our citizens. As the Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate, we have a responsibility to be the students who partner with the Regents and the University’s top decisions-makers. We will continue to advocate from within the system for the principles and beliefs driving student energy and passion.

Alfredo Mireles
Student Regent

Jonathan Stein
Student Regent-Designate

Meanwhile, his Excellency the Chancellor of the University, has had something of a change of heart -- after students and others filed lawsuits and denounced him and the UC Police for their appalling brutality against students:

Calling videos of the demonstrations “disturbing,” Birgeneau stated that all students arrested during the protest for blocking police officers will be granted amnesty and will not face charges under the student code of conduct.

“The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community,” Birgeneau said in the message. “Sadly, they point to the dilemma that we face in trying to prevent encampments and thereby mitigate long-term risks to the health and safety of our entire community.”

Sure. Whatever.

Tomorrow is a Day of Action throughout the UC system; there are supposed to be strikes everywhere. What will actually transpire is anyone's guess. There are plenty of students in the UC system (and the related public university systems) who are delighted to see police brutality on campus or off. The tuition hikes don't phase them a bit.

We'll see...

As an addendum:

As of 8:00pm PST, over 1800 people had signed the Open Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley administration, and the UC Regents, regarding the unpleasantness of November 9, 2011, when the UC Police went on a rampage.

The Open Letter reads as follows:

We, the undersigned faculty, lecturers, and graduate student assistants—all of whom teach at Berkeley and are invested in the educational mission of this university—are outraged by the unnecessary and excessive use of violence by the police and sheriff’s deputies against peaceful protesters at UC Berkeley beginning on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.

We will not tolerate this assault on the historic legacy of free speech on this campus.

The protests on Sproul Plaza on November 9 were organized by a coalition of undergraduates, graduates, faculty, union members, and staff to clearly articulate links between the privatization of the university, the global financial crisis, the burdens of student debt, and the composition and power of the UC Regents, whose actions demonstrate a lack of concern with sustaining the public character of the UC system. The principles of these protests reach well beyond the Berkeley campus.

After a large demonstration at Sproul and a march into the city of Berkeley, the protesters formed a General Assembly that called for a non-violent encampment under the name Occupy Cal. As the encampment was being established, protesters were immediately met with physical violence by the police, including the jabbing and striking of students and others with batons. This assault by UCPD and Alameda County riot police against those peacefully assembled led to the forcible arrests of 39 protesters and one faculty member. Associate Professor Celeste Langan offered her wrist to the police in surrender, saying “arrest me, arrest me,” but was nevertheless aggressively pulled by her hair to the ground and cuffed. This began a series of tense confrontations—punctuated by further police violence—that lasted throughout the night and has persisted on our campus. The spectacle of police brutalizing members of our community does inestimable damage to our integrity, our reputation, and our standing as a public university.

We are appalled by the Chancellor’s account, in his November 10 “Message to the Campus Community,” that the police were “forced to use their batons.” We strenuously object to the charge that protesters—by linking arms and refusing to disperse—engaged in a form of “violence” directed at law enforcement. The protests did not justify the overwhelming use of force and severe bodily assault by heavily armed officers and deputies. Widely-circulated documentation from videos, photographs, and TV news outlets make plainly evident the squad tactics and individual actions of members of the UCPD and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. This sends a message to the world that UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and student protesters are regarded on their own campus with suspicion and hostility rather than treated as participants in civil society.

We call on the Berkeley administration to immediately put an end to these grotesquely out-scale police responses to peaceful protest. We insist that the administration abandon the premise that the rigid, armed enforcement of a campus regulation, in circumstances lacking any immediate threat to safety, justifies the precipitous use of force.

We call upon the Chancellor to comply fully and in a timely manner with the Public Record Act request made in writing by the ACLU on November 10. We also call upon the Chancellor to initiate an independent investigation, separate from that to be undertaken by the campus Police Review Board, to ensure a fair review of events and procedures to prevent such attacks on free speech from happening in the future.

We also express our concern with the repressive policing that has occurred around the wider Occupy Wall Street movement—including Occupy Oakland, where undue force has led to numerous injuries such as those sustained by Iraq veteran Scott Olsen. In solidarity with Occupy Cal and the Occupy movements around the country, we condemn these police acts unequivocally.

We call for greater attention to the substantive issues raised at the protests on November 9 regarding the privatization of education. With massive cuts in state funding and rising tuition costs across the community college system, the Cal State network, K-12, and the University of California, public education is undergoing a severe divestment. Student debt has reached unprecedented levels as bank profits swell. We decry the growing privatization and tuition increases that are currently heavily promoted by the corporate UC Board of Regents.

We express NO CONFIDENCE in the Regents, who have failed in their responsibility to fight for state funding for public education, and have placed the burden of the budget crisis on the backs of students.

We express NO CONFIDENCE in the willingness of the Chancellor, and other leaders of the UC Berkeley administration, to respond appropriately to student protests, to secure student welfare, and to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus.

Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, History of Art
Peter Glazer, Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies
Gregory Levine, Associate Professor, History of Art

[And here I thought I was verbose!]

Most of those who have signed, by the way, are current active UC faculty, grad students, and workers. And as many have pointed out, this is really an astonishing response given the real risks to their academic careers -- and even their department fortunes -- many of these people are taking. It was an astonishing response when there were only 600 signatories. Now, with over 3 times that many, it's stunning.

No comments:

Post a Comment