Dear Graduate Students,
We are writing to you regarding the events that took place last Wednesday, November 9. This email is meant to clarify our position, provide you with our perspective on the events, and inform you of the different responses from members of the campus community.
The Graduate Assembly (comprised of representatives from the majority of campus departments) overwhelmingly voted to support the Day of Action that took place on Wednesday November 9, organized by the ReFund California and Occupy Cal movements. This Day of Action was intended to raise awareness around the underfunding of public education in California and promote policy changes such as increasing taxes on the wealthy and reforming Proposition 13 as it applies to commercial properties.
This peaceful day of protest became overshadowed by the police violence that took place that afternoon. Not only did police officers use force to remove tents and tear down signs on Wednesday, but even after the tents were removed, police continued to violently interact with students. Batons were used to push and jab students off the grass and the Mario Savio steps, which were once home to the Free Speech Movement. Several Graduate Assembly officers personally witnessed the unprovoked use of force as police started beating students who were simply standing together with their arms linked. We commend the assembled students for not retaliating to this provocation.
The violence that took place has been well-recorded and is available to view on http://nov9sproul.wordpress.com/ .
The Graduate Assembly Executive Board condemns the unjustified and excessive use of violence in response to what we believe constituted non-violent civil disobedience. Over the past week, including on Monday, prior to the events on Sproul, we met several times with campus administrators and the Chief of Police stating that our priority was to avoid the use of force against students and asking for the campus to show flexibility in its response to student protests and encampments. We call for the following actions from the senior campus administration:
Take responsibility for the police response on Wednesday.
Submit these events to a thorough review by an external, independent party.
Avoid adding to an already excessive response by pursuing costly legal or student conduct procedures against the protesters.
Stop defending the indefensible and instead use Berkeley's lobbying and public relations resources to support students in the campaign to refund all sectors of public education in California, through progressive taxation and a reform of Proposition 13.
Responses from the campus community
Members of the faculty have issued a petition expressing no confidence in the senior administration’s decisions, which lecturers and GSIs are also invited to sign. It can be accessed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/uc_berkeley_teachers_condemn_violence/. The UC Student Association, the official lobbying arm of the UC students across the state, has also passed a resolution against the violence demonstrated on Wednesday.
The General Assembly, (the self-formed assembly of students, faculty, staff, and public present at Sproul and engaged in decision making) voted to hold a campus-wide strike at UC Berkeley on Tuesday, November 15, to demonstrate opposition to both the police actions on November 9 and the ongoing defunding of public education. The strike is intended to add to the growing momentum for statewide convergences at the CSU Trustees meeting in Long Beach and the UC Regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay on November 16.
As the GA Executive Board, we empathize with students’ frustration regarding the state of public education in California and the lack of support from our administrators and Regents. We encourage students who want to participate in the planned strike to discuss it with their instructor and/or the students they teach (if a GSI). As GSIs, while you should not directly tell your students to engage in the strike, you can ask your students if they would like to discuss the strike and the underlying events. Again, you may also hold class outside on Tuesday (via a teach-out). Additionally, we encourage all instructors to not penalize students who choose to walk out of class on Tuesday.
If students would like information about any of these events, please contact the GA President at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, students may seek assistance from the GA, the GSI Union (email@example.com), or the ASUC Student Advocate (firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://advocate.berkeley.edu/).
The Graduate Assembly Executive Board