Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Change of Pace: Ms Katehi Sez

Herself, Linda Katehi, Chancellor of the University of California at Davis, under guard during the Student Assembly at UCD November 21, 2011.

I've been on a tangent lately, dealing with Other Things That Must Be Done. My blogging has been intermittent and I have not touched much on the various reports and issues surrounding the incidents of police brutality and administrative incompetence last fall, especially throughout the University of California system, particularly at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

Teri49 in comments jogged me into thinking about these matters somewhat more than I have for a while, in part because of an incident in Santa Fe that wound up in Federal Court over the improper touching of Capital High School students by private security guards, and in part due to the fact that I'm surprised that the reports which have so far been released have been so highly critical of the University's administrators, essentially accusing them (accurately, I'd say) of pernicious ignorance of their student bodies and disinterest in their campus communities.


I really did not expect this.

And yesterday, Herself made an appearance at the California State Capitol wherein she averred she had personally erred last November in ways that led directly to the Pepper Spray Incident on the UC Davis quad.

Well. Who. Would. Have. Thunk?

Not I, that's for sure.

Look, the whole point of becoming an educational administrator is to avoid accepting responsibility for anything. Everybody knows that. The purpose of educational administration is to put the blame for everything on someone else, and preferably charge them for the privilege of being blamed.

In today's educational environment, it's about The Money, and that's just about all.

But there was Katehi over at the Capitol yesterday mea-ing and culpa-ing up a storm and a half.

What happened at Berkeley and Davis last fall (and other campuses, too) may have shocked the consciences of some members of civilized society, but it was no surprise to anyone who's been aware of or been around militant student protests for the last 30 years or so. It has been standard operating procedure for years for California university police to tase and beat the shit out of students who don't obey their commands promptly and with sufficient subservience. It has happened often enough -- and internationally notoriously, with numerous viral videos in the last few years -- for some people to recognize that this behavior on the part of campus police toward disobedient students is no anomaly, it is policy.

This is all tied in to the notion that obedience is the primary objective of public education, and has been for many a long year now, what with students at all levels of public (and some private) education being subjected to the arbitrary imposition of authority, often brutally, as a matter of course. As if they had no rights that anyone in a position of authority was bound to respect at all.

Public schools and colleges operate like -- and often resemble -- prisons, a factor that led to a spate of school shootings back in the '90's. Campuses are routinely put on "lockdown" -- just like prisons -- and students are routinely subjected to invasive and typically arbitrary search and seizure by campus police and administrators. This has been going on for decades.

"Disturbances" are routinely broken up with tasers, tear gas, batons and sometimes other weapons. Armed guards patrol not only the campuses but the nearby communities as well. There's a law school a few blocks from my house, for example, and the campus police routinely patrol and make arrests in the surrounding community. There is a school district police force -- actually in the school district that succeeded the one where I attended high school -- that is accused of using its powers of arrest to tail and arrest drivers in the area for various minor infractions as a money-making scheme for the district and the department. The level of administrative corruption in education has reached astronomical proportions. Michelle Rhee, for example?

This is the historic and backstory context of the Incidents at Berkeley and Davis last fall, something that so far as I am aware, none of the reports issued so far touch on, nor does the media seem able to pick up on the long-term pattern of brutal enforcement of Obedience in the American educational system.

But I have read the reports, and I am struck by how uniform they are in placing responsibility for what happened last fall on the administrations of the campuses involved, and the overall system administration, and for pointing out that these things have happened over and over again, reports have been issued over and over again, and for some reason, nothing changes...

Administrators are divorced from the student bodies and often from the faculty and staff as well; campus police forces are often left to do their own thing without guidance, or in the case of Davis, have been known to defy instructions (and did so on November 18); students and often the faculties and staffs of the university campuses have little or no trust in either the campus police or administrators.

This has been going on for decades.

This article from The Nation in March puts another angle on what is going on, the "Homeland Security Campus" angle, and I have to agree that the author has a point. There's a whole campus security back channel where the latest developments in repression are being discussed and means and methods tested. When Katehi and others of her ilk speak of the "health and safety" of the students, for example, and then in the next breath order the violent dispersal of a protest -- which has happened over and over again -- which often leads to broken bones and other serious health and safety consequences for the students, she's not speaking about the students' "health and safety" at all. She's concerned about her own health and safety -- ie: preserving her job and her $400,000 salary -- and about the financial health and the paramilitary "safety" squads who do the dirty work of stamping out unpermitted campus protest and enforcing Obedience.

I can recognize all this and more is going on, but I confess I don't know what to do about it apart from continuing and stepping up protests including occupations of campuses, and contrary-wise, refusing to utilize a University system that routinely brutalizes students and faculty.

One thing that's clear from the reports is that the administration of the University is very concerned with the reputation the system has gained for brutal and unnecessary police actions. The University has been heavily recruiting out of state and international students -- who pay even higher tuition and fees than in-state students do. They won't come if the campuses have a reputation for internal violence precipitated by the campus police.

So the adminstrators vow to clean it up by next year some time (ie: when the next cohort of high-value students is due to arrive.)

Meanwhile, the mess that public education has become in this country continues...

The following video is from last December in Sacramento:

And if you haven't already, read this article by Mark Ames to get a better picture of just who Ms Katehi is... layers and layers, wheels within wheels...

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