Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Arraignment Tomorrow

We've received a report that the UC Merced student who is being charged with a felony (among other things) based on allegations stemming from the protest at the UC Regents' meeting in November, and who was subjected to a full-fledged manhunt organized and carried out by UCSF police, will surrender himself into custody today. He will be arraigned Tuesday (tomorrow) morning at 9am at the San Francisco courthouse at 850 Bryant St. Come out and support him!

[Update Wed 12/29]: From thosewhouseit:
Peter Howell, the UC Merced undergrad facing a felony count for the Regents' meeting, had his arraignment today around 10:45 am. Brought out in orange scrubs and cuffs, Howell's lawyer asked that the felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor given that the prosecution’s case is so weak and that there is video evidence demonstrating that Howell never touched the weapon. The prosecutor attempted to defend the position that he grabbed Kemper's baton, but the reasoning was incoherent. Here's Howell on the scuffle:
"I put my hands on my chest and backpedaled," Howell said in the interview. "I was trying to get away. [Officer Kemper] shoved through me, and he may have lost control of his baton. You can hear it rattle on the ground in a video. At no point did I strike him on the head, so I believe that statement was false."
Regardless, the judge refused to engage the debate, pushing it back to the hearing date, now scheduled for February 22 upon the request of the defense. The judge denied him release on O[wn] R[ecognizance] but reduced the bail from $30,000 to $15,000.


Howell's lawyer, John Hamasaki, is looking for anyone who witnessed the alleged incident on November 17 at UCSF-Mission Bay. Contact him at john@hamasakilaw.com if you are a witness, or else if you have photos or videos of the alleged incident.

Safety reminder: Please do not offer yourself as a witness if you have uncharged conduct from that day (that may also show up in photos or videos). This is not an assumption that anyone does, just a precaution. Also, please don’t discuss any possible evidence or witness testimony you may have in writing, including comments sections on blogs and over listservs. Due to the recent increase in state/university repression, we should actively consider being very careful with information, in order to care for each other and ourselves.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


The website Iupileaks has obtained a private email sent by the president of the Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), José Ramón de la Torre, in which he calls the students protesting the $800 tuition increase "bandoleros" (bandits) and likens the conflict to a hyperbolic fight to the death:
Felicidades: Yo de guardia las 24 horas. Para mi no hay navidades. Esto es lo que me ha tocado. Nadie me va a intimidar voy a dar la pelea contra viento y marea aunque los Bandoleros me quieran liquidar. Que Dios les bendiga. JR

[Congratulations: I'm standing guard 24 hours a day. No Christmas for me. This is what I must do. Nobody will intimidate me I'm [sic] going to fight against wind and tide even if those Bandits want to liquidate me. May God bless them. JR]
As the editors of Iupileaks point out, this is not the attitude of someone who wants to resolve a conflict but someone looking to impose his will no matter what. Of course, this doesn't come as a surprise to those of us in California who have seen government and administration officials refer to student protesters as "intruders," "illegal occupiers," "vandals," and even "terrorists." At the same time, these characterizations help explain the ease and speed with which these administrations repeatedly turn to heavily militarized police and violence to suppress political dissent.

(The Iupileaks project. modeled explicitly on Wikileaks, is worth taking a look at. They've posted some very interesting documents, including a letter dated December 10 and signed by 25 faculty members demanding the incursion of the police onto campus.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Book Bloc: Palermo

Studenti, scontri in piazza
Studenti, scontri in piazza
Studenti, scontri in piazza
(more photos here, some back story on the book bloc here)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Police Violence at the Universidad de Puerto Rico Strike

The strike continued today at the University of Puerto Rico. At the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales on the Rio Piedras campus, heavily armed police clashed with students protesting the new $800 tuition hike. Protesters marched through the building clapping and chanting to try to enforce the strike -- according to some news reports, they also used smoke bombs to force those inside to evacuate. At this point, the riot cops, which had been standing more or less on the sidelines, stepped in to shut down the protest. Police attacked indiscriminately with batons and tear gas, by the end of the day arresting at least twenty protesters and beating some as they lay on the ground. One of the arrestees, Germaine Ramia, had her left shoulder dislocated by a police blow. Despite the heavy police presence, protesters fought back, throwing rocks at the police, apparently popping the tires of a police car and, if we choose to believe the official police statement, injuring eight officers.

The arrested students were taken to the police station Hato Rey Oeste. At around 8:30 pm, about two hundred students and sympathizers arrived to protest in solidarity with those arrested. In part, they were responding to reports that they had received via text message stating that the police were beating them inside the jail. Again, riot police violently attacked the protesters outside. As of about 9:15 pm, police armed with long-range weaponry and machine-guns have cleared the street in front of the station, keeping a close watch on the protesters.

Like many universities in Latin America, the UPR is considered autonomous, which makes it illegal for the police to enter. Last week, however, the police invaded and occupied numerous UPR campuses, including Rio Piedras, Humacao, Bayamon, Cayey, and Carolina, for the first time in about thirty years. Furthermore, protests and demonstrations have been prohibited on university grounds. In this video from last week, riot cops at the Rio Piedras campus read what is essentially an expulsion order as they push students out: "You may not protest on school grounds: it is illegal" (No pueden manifestarse dentro de los predios: es ilegal").

Last week, a letter signed by 74 Puerto Rican professors was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, condemning the police occupation:
As Puerto Rican scholars teaching in the United States we have decided to write to you in order to express our deep concern with regard to recent developments at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). For the past months, the University has experienced a continuing conflict that began last semester with a call for a strike by the students in response to an increase in academic tuition and related to fears about the future of public higher education on the island. Unfortunately, university administrators, professors, and students have not been able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement. The whole process has recently culminated in the intervention of Governor Luis Fortuño and the deployment of a massive police presence on the main university campus at Río Piedras and on other campuses in the system, including a private security contractor and fully armed SWAT units.

On December 13, Chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe banned all meetings, festivals, manifestations, and all other so-called large activities on the Río Piedras campus for a period of thirty days. In our view, this represents a clear breach of fundamental constitutional rights. The justifications given by the Chancellor are that this measure is required in order to keep the campus open and to return it to normal operations. Furthermore, professors and workers are being asked (under the threat of punishment) to continue working despite the intense volatility caused by the police presence on campus.

We remain very concerned that such use of force may in fact increase the potential for violence and continued tension, especially if the guarantees of freedom of speech, association, and assembly have been revoked. Both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico guarantee these rights. Moreover, this week the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico (which, without the opportunity for serious public debate, was recently restructured by the government of Luis Fortuño in order to ensure a clear majority of judges in his favor) declared, in a disturbing resolution, that strikes will be prohibited at all UPR campuses effective immediately.
It appears they were right. The strike continues tomorrow.

(much of this report is culled from the minute-by-minute updates from el nuevo dia and primera hora)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

UC Police Ramp Up Repression [Updated]

[Update Sunday 12/19, 2:08pm] Just got word of some updates in the case. Most important is that Peter's arraignment will not be taking place tomorrow (Monday) morning, as previously noted. We'll post updates as we get them:
  • He has been informed that he will be charged with a felony count of 148(b) for the removal of an officer's baton;
  • The total charges are a felony and three misdemeanors;
  • He's arranging to turn himself in;
  • He won't be in court tomorrow and his lawyer is working on putting him on calendar soon (hopefully Tuesday).
Original post follows below...

This just came to us on the email, regarding the UC Merced student who learned the other day that he was facing four misdemeanor charges from the protest at the UC Regents' meeting in November [Update: the above link discusses a different student facing battery charges from the same protest; the student in the email cited below is facing charges for allegedly attacking UC Irvine cop Jared Kemper. Sorry for the confusion!]:
Tuesday morning Peter learned he was being charged with four misdemeanors arising out of the demonstration at the Regents meeting. Peter only learned that he was being charged after his attorney called the District Attorney’s office to check on the status of his case. Peter was informed that there was a warrant for his arrest issued at the behest of the district attorney’s office. Peter immediately arranged to appear in court in San Francisco at the earliest possible date.

Thinking everything was squared away, Peter spent the night at a friend’s house on Tuesday. Instead three cars full of police officers showed up at his house pounding on the door. His housemate tried to turn them away, but they asked for his ID which they ran to see if it was valid. The police were also looking in the backyard and the windows to see if they could concoct a reason to go inside. Luckily, his housemates knew their rights and told the police to leave, which they finally did after insinuating that the house was lying to them about knowledge of Peter and his whereabouts.

When he got to campus on Wednesday, he went to his professor to tell them what was going on. The professor offered to give him an incomplete, which is helpful but that means he'll have to re-study for his final over winter break. Peter found out later that police had been at the campus coffee shop looking around at everyone to see if he was there. Police also stationed themselves outside of the classroom where his final exam was to take place, and even went inside and lurked in the projector room during the entire test.

Peter, through his attorney, had himself placed on the court’s calendar immediately after he learned that the district attorney’s office was filing charges against him. Nonetheless, police have continued to hunt for the UC Merced student relentlessly. He now has two incompletes and must make the work up after break. Peter is rightfully outraged at the police's behavior and is astounded that something like this could happen in a country that says it values free speech and democracy. Also, he is disheartened that a university, his university, would use its police force to unjustifiably intimidate students, going far out of the way to make them feel hunted and watched.

We have learned that the Merced manhunt was orchestrated by the UCSF police, who traveled two hours out of their way in order to attempt to arrest and humiliate Peter in front of his friends, professors and classmates.

This situation is unique in a few ways:
  1. University police conducted a 24-hour manhunt (With UC student funds) for a student who is charged with a few misdemeanors.
  2. These police were from SF and went all the way to Merced to do this.
  3. Police created a situation of intense surveillance of the Merced campus, including a coffee shop that students use and call their own space. 
  4. Serious attempts were made to enter his house, including searching for a Plain-View Doctrine reason and questioning the integrity of his housemates. 
  5. He does not have a violent record of any kind and is not a flight risk. He has never given the police any reason to believe he would not show up for his court date on Monday.
We should consider some possible reasons that the UC has suddenly decided that its police force is best used to harass students at their homes and during final exams. Is it because they need to justify the unjustifiable act of Officer Jared Kemper of UC Irvine, pulling his gun on a crowd of unarmed protesters? Or have the UC regents and administration finally realized that the public education movement isn't a phase, and that we're not going to stop?

Peter deserves commendation for his cool head in this stressful situation and our support on Monday at his courtdate. Please show up, 9am in Department 13 at 850 Bryant Street in San Francisco to support this student who has been the target of oppressive police tactics.

Solidarity with the Georgia Prison Strike

From thosewhouseit:
The rally is on! We will be gathering in front of North County Jail in Oakland at 7th & Clay this Friday (12/16) at 4 pm. Shortly thereafter we will march to 14th & Broadway armed with reams of flyers, at which point we will hold a larger rally and concert in front of City Hall beginning at 6 pm. If we are going to successfully challenge this veritable media blackout and get across our message -- that demonstrating solidarity with prisoners is both legitimate and desirable -- we will need as many people as possible. We need to show the corporate media and the world that the Georgia prison strikers’ struggle is our struggle. We feel a certain affinity with all of their demands, and in fact their demands are our demands. Our struggle against preposterously high levels of incarceration in California, against oppressive prison and jail conditions, against police violence, and against austerity measures and privatization is their struggle as well. Our struggles are one and the same!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

US and Europe / Strategic and Tactical Differences

The recent wave of occupations and massive protests in the UK are incredibly inspiring for those of us in California who have been fighting the privatization of public education. There are some clear parallels, not only in terms of the economic and discursive forms the austerity measures take but also in the tactics being adopted and developed to challenge and combat them. But there are also significant differences.

In an essay published a couple weeks ago, Michael Hardt analyzed some of these differences. "Whereas in Britain, Italy, and other European countries students battle police in the streets and experiment with new means to protest such government actions," he writes, "there is a relative calm on U.S. campuses." What explains this calm? One relevant factor, he suggests, is that the movement toward privatization in the US has been much more gradual than in the UK. The broadest, biggest, and most intense protests in California took place in November 2009 when the UC Regents were voting to approve a 32 percent tuition hike; in the UK, parliament just voted in a 300 percent increase, and slashed the overall budget for higher education by some 80 percent. A second factor is the difficulty of national coordination, since the education policies vary from state to state.

But Hardt is most interested in the big picture, the roots of difference: "The most significant reason for less student activism in the United States, however, may derive from a much deeper national condition. The social value placed on education for all, especially higher education, has declined dramatically." Education is no longer a central mission of the US government as it was in the post-Sputnik era, and what Hardt (and Negri) identify as the shift toward "biopolitical production" has made the focus on hard sciences and engineering that dominated the industrial model less and less important:
University policies throughout the world have not kept pace with these changes. The private money that universities solicit to compensate for the decline in public funding is dedicated overwhelmingly to technical and scientific fields. The human sciences, which are increasingly relevant in the biopolitical economy, are deprived of funds and wither. In this case the student demands actually point in the direction of economic prosperity. The current student protests thus reconfirm a general rule of politics, that social struggles proceed and prefigure social development.
Hardt raises a number of questions that are clearly important for us to consider. In some ways, however, his broad vision obscures some of what I think are the most interesting differences at the micro-tactical level. Here I want to really briefly lay out two that I've been thinking about recently.

First, cops with guns. In this video from last week's protests in London, cops struggle to hold their own line as the "book bloc" of protesters attempts to push through using reinforced banners and shields in order to break out of the "kettle" where they're being kept against their will. In contrast, at the UC Regents' meeting at UCSF Mission Bay in November, the police used chemical weapons (pepper spray) and even drew guns to shut down protesters. What would demos look like here if the cops couldn't rely on such overwhelming firepower? How would we confront them?

Second, private property law. Dozens of universities in the UK were occupied in November, and many of these occupations are still ongoing. University College London, for example, has been occupied for about three weeks now. It's inconceivable for an occupation to last that long in the US. Even "live week," the open occupation of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley that took place almost exactly a year ago, lasted just four or five days. Not only was there a heavy police presence the entire time, we've since learned through a public records dump that the administration was scheming to shut it down from the start. They were just waiting for an opening to send in the cops, which they eventually did, making 66 arrests. But the legal context is different in the UK. As Angus Johnston wrote last week,
Some two hundred students at University College London have been occupying the Wilkins Building on campus for the last two weeks in protest against planned funding cuts and fee hikes at Britain’s universities. On Thursday the university demanded that they leave.

In the US, the university’s next step would have been obvious — call in the cops. In California, student occupations are becoming a regular occurrence, and police evictions accompanied by mass arrests are almost inevitable.

But this isn’t the US.

In the UK, you can’t evict students who are peacefully occupying a campus building without a court order, and the university has in this case so far failed to get one.
In comparison to the broad strokes of Hardt's brush, these examples may seem less significant. Obviously there are other critical differences -- for example, the strike culture that makes it possible to paralyze campuses in Puerto Rico, for example -- but the ones presented above are useful for thinking about horizons of possibility. Maybe what's at stake is the distinction between strategy and tactics. But sometimes this distinction gets blurry -- the normalization of cops with guns and the fetishization of private property shape the kinds of tactics we deploy and the kinds of violence we face in response. To some extent, they produce the field on which political action occurs. Actions or campaigns to push cops off campus or to disarm UCPD, for example, could significantly shift this ground and immediately add to the repertoire of tactics at our disposal. They won't turn California into London or Rome, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lawsuit vs. UCPD

Before dawn on December 11, 2009, UCPD illegally arrested 66 protesters and sympathizers who had been participating in the week-long open "occupation" of Wheeler Hall. While university spokespeople feigned concern over a concert planned for that night, internal administration emails reveal that in reality they had planned to shut down the action from the beginning, and were simply looking for the opportunity to strike. But the concert was held anyway at an off-campus location, and from there a group of protesters marched to the Chancellor's house to demonstrate. Some minor property damage occurred, the police arrived quickly, and the protesters scattered. Eight were arrested.

Two of those arrested were UC Berkeley students, who suffered abusive and unconstitutional punishment at the hands of the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) and the UC administration more generally. OSC and the Code of Student Conduct together constitute one arm of the university's repressive apparatus, but it can only be deployed against students -- not their sympathizers.

The other arm is UCPD. Also arrested that night was Indybay reporter David Morse, who had been taking pictures of the demonstration. After arresting Morse, the cops illegally tried to use his photos in order to gather evidence against the protesters. Morse had the search warrant they used to justify stealing the photos quashed, and they had to be returned. Now, a year later, he's posted some of the photos on Indybay (including the ones used here).
Furthermore, Morse has filed a lawsuit against UCPD for the illegal arrest. From the press release announcing the suit:
Oakland — On Thursday, December 9, veteran journalist David Morse filed suit against University of California, Berkeley Police officers and other defendants in U.S. District Court for violations of the First, Fourth and Eighth Amendments and for violations of a federal law barring the use of search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. The lawsuit follows Morse’s successful motion to quash a search warrant that issued for his unpublished news photographs.

Morse is a 42-year-old journalist who has covered hundreds of demonstrations and other events since 2002. He was arrested without probable cause at a protest he was covering at UC Berkeley on December 11, 2009. The arrest occurred after officers allowed a rowdy group of demonstrators, many of whom were wearing masks, to flee. Instead of giving chase, Morse’s arresting officer pulled his car up to Morse and said, “I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera.” Officers arrested Morse despite the fact that he informed them of his journalist status six times and denied all wrongdoing.

Officers jailed Morse, then increased the charges against him in order to buy themselves time to prepare a misleading search warrant affidavit that omitted any mention of Morse’s newsgathering activities. First Amendment Project successfully quashed that search warrant in June on the basis that it violated Section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code, which absolutely bars search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. Federal law also bars such warrants.

Although Morse’s charges were dropped at his first court appearance, the defendants refused to return his images for more than six months and even made surveillance photographs of him when he attempted to retrieve them in person.

The federal suit filed today seeks damages against the various defendants, as well as a judicial order mandating additional training. High-ranking UCPD officers are separately being sued under similar causes of action by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation for searching a newspaper office in 2008, litigation that was ongoing at the time of Morse’s arrest. Nonetheless, UCPD Captain Margo Bennett has been quoted as stating that UCPD has not considered changing the way it deals with journalists.
UCPD must pay for its authoritarian actions. In our efforts to get COPS OFF CAMPUS, anything that puts pressure on the police is helpful. More coverage of the lawsuit here.ucberkeleychancellorhouseprotest_121109e.jpg

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Bloc Front Lines [Updated]

Brave New World indeed -- the Book Bloc comes to London. Based on tactics used last week in Italy.

Also, negative dialectics:


[Update Tuesday 12/14]: The book bloc is back on the streets of Rome:
Youths rioted in the street, facing the police and demanding a change of government as parliament instead voted their confidence in scandal-plagued Berlusconi
Scores of anti-Berlusconi demonstrations were underway in cities across Italy during the vote
(more photos here)

[Update Friday 12/17]: A genealogy of the book bloc.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Updates on the NO Vote: How the UAW Works [Updated]

This open letter from a former Berkeley unit chair is a helpful addition to the numerous reasons we have for voting NO on the tentative contract agreement that the UAW leadership is pushing on us. But it's even more interesting in terms of the way it details some of the internal practices within the union, practices that make it completely unresponsive to and unrepresentative of its graduate student members:
The year before last I became, almost accidentally, first the acting then the elected Chair of the UAW for Berkeley. I was recruited to this position and agreed to it without much understanding what it entailed. This seems to be standard MO for the current statewide leadership; after I had agreed to stand for the position it was hinted to me that nefarious and disruptive people might try to challenge me for what is, after all, an elected position. As it turns out, no one did, I was “elected” by all of you without you having any idea, unless you actually read all those emails full of dense and formal bureaucracy-speak that you receive on a regular basis, and the leadership avoided having to deal with anyone who might make waves.

My position made me a member of the bargaining committee, and we prepared to negotiate a contract last year. Days before the first meeting with the University, in the midst of what was then the still-unfolding budgetary crisis, the state-wide president (do you know who your union president is? did you vote for her?) suggested we take the university’s offer of a one-year extension of the current contract with no changes at all. This was presented as fait accompli at a meeting of the committee, and we voted unanimously to accept it.

In the aftermath of all of that, I became increasingly frustrated with how poorly the union represented its members, how shockingly little democracy was actually involved, how easily the state-wide leadership quashed any dissent, and how wholly it bought into the University’s antagonistic relationship while capitulating on a regular basis to the University’s interests. I was in the perfect position to do something about this, but I was not the individual to do it for a variety of reasons. Clearly, that is why I was put in the position to begin with. So I resigned, and as I did so, I urged various people to step in and do what I was unwilling to do. I’m not proud of all of this, but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that Berkeley’s current representatives are a force for agitation among the state-wide leadership, and I support them.

Now, the University really is a vicious negotiator. You will note that we are only now, in the last week of November, voting on a contract, while these negotiations began last Spring and the previous contract expired at the end of September. You probably heard something about the switching of “fees” for “tuition” and whether or not that would invalidate our guaranteed fee remissions, a well-timed announcement that now puts the union in the position of touting as a win what is actually a holding of the status quo. The bargaining committee is not made up of evil people, nor are they secretly trying to shore up the UC’s bottom line at our expense; I’m sure they really believe that this is the best contract they can get. But they are tired of the process, they have been skillfully manipulated by the University, and they are actively quashing efforts to allow debate among the actual membership of the union around this contract.
Another form that the anti-democratic nature of the union might take is the real possibility of fraud in the vote count. This text comes from a flyer that was being handed out today on Sproul plaza:
The UAW Elections Committee, made up of elected representatives from each campus, agreed on voting procedures that require each campus to submit voting tallies to the committee, after which all ballot boxes are sent to one place and a final tally is made. The totals of the campus tallies and the total tally are compared.

On the morning of November 30th, the chair of UAW Elections Committee announced she would be withholding the daily campus tallies from the rest of the Elections Committee. Further, the Chair refused to hold a conference call with committee members to discuss this last-minute change in voting procedure. This unilateral act violates the November 28th decision of our Elections Committee -- duly authorized by the Constitution and Bylaws of the union.

Call Fawn Huisman, chair of the Elections Committee and express your concern over this unilateral and arbitrary violation of democratic procedure and the constitution of the Union.

In the last few days, a new blog called "UAW for Sanity" has appeared and begun to push back against the folks advocating a NO vote. It purports to be a "grassroots" blog, but at least three of the five authors are members of the UAW joint council. Not that that makes their opinion irrelevant, but it certainly makes the idea that this constitutes some surge of "grassroots" outrage laughable. As @santacruztacean put it the other day,

One final note: as of this moment, 946 people have pledged to vote NO. Last day of voting is Thursday. At Berkeley, you can vote at Sather Gate and North Gate from 8am - 4pm, and at Kroeber Hall from 10am - 2pm.

[Update 12/2]: More on the UAW's astroturf blog here. Also, an interesting recording of a confrontation at a polling station at UC Irvine is here. Paid UAW staffers (non-students) have been brought in to get people to approve the contract:
4 Paid and bias[ed] UAW Staffers were spotted on the Palo Verde (Graduate) Housing Bridge. Reports are that they were at the polling table and that one of them was “removed” and replaced by a less biased one.

Below, you may listen to the audio recording of the incident linked from the UC Rebel Radio Audio Archives. The louder voice at around 10:00 (and before) is the person operating the poll. He is a paid staffer, not a student. He talks at length to this graduate student about the contract, especially around 15:00, where he discusses what the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ would mean. He says things like “A ‘NO’ vote is not caring for childcare”. It is pretty fucked up.

At 16:20 Coral (a Union polling member) tells him he is out of line. Someone then text messages Fawn (UCI physics graduate, statewide elections committee person) to tell her this shit is fucking crazy. Someone tells Coral they want to put the recorder on the table. She then calls Fawn about this. Fawn shortly shows up to take over operating the poll.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NO VOTE Starts Tomorrow

Despite its claims to the contrary, the tentative contract that the UAW bargaining team signed with the UC administration is bullshit -- it would lock academic student employees (GSIs, readers, and tutors) into a salary cut in real terms for the next three years. But there's one good thing about the contract: it reveals clear lines of solidarity, dividing friends and allies from enemies. We see these lines in not only the concessions made to the university and the union's striking lack of transparency, but also in the bargaining team's adoption of the UC administration's own rhetoric of crisis:

While there is some difference of opinion about whether or not to agree to this contract, or to hold out and keep building for a strike in hopes of winning up to another 2% each year on wages, the majority of us believe that this a great contract. Especially in context of the economic devastation occurring in California and across the country (i.e., double-digit official unemployment, including huge numbers of public employee layoffs; skyrocketing healthcare costs; cuts to education and other public goods and social services), it would be unwise and ineffective to prolong the contract campaign. While we respect the rights of individuals to advocate that we hold out for more, we believe that protracted escalation and a possible strike could undermine the gains we’ve already reached agreement on with UC and weaken public support for our contract.
California's economic devastation has little to do with the UC administration's decision to impose austerity on the university. One of the most important goals of the protests on UC campuses last year was precisely to combat this rhetorical maneuver, to focus attention back on the administration. It's hard work -- politics is synonymous with government, and so it seems that the natural outlet for political protest is Sacramento. But Sacramento is everywhere. The regents, the administration, the built environment of the university itself. Not that it was necessarily our goal, but the protests last year caught Sacramento's attention -- they were the "tipping point" in the state government's decision to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars more to the UC in this year's budget. But as we've been saying all along, more money from the state is irrelevant without regime change in the administration. And, effectively, we've been proven right: this year the regents came together to raise our tuition once again.

The union leadership has taken sides: they have opted to be behind the barricades, behind the lines of gun-wielding riot cops, to stand with the administration. We know where they stand. They stand for business as usual, they stand against strikes and work stoppages. They stand against us.

To build for a strike, the next step is voting down this bullshit contract. Voting starts Monday and goes til Thursday. At Berkeley, here's where:
- Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm: North Gate and Sather Gate
- Mon 10am-2pm: Barrows Hall
- Tues 10am-2pm: Evans Hall
- Wed 10am-2pm: Moffitt Library
- Thurs 10am-2pm: Kroeber Hall
Now, voting NO on the contract doesn't mean that we're going on strike. All it does is send the bargaining team back to the table to start negotiating again. But this time they'll know we're mobilized and we won't put up with any shit. And if all goes well, maybe we can get some sort of strike off the ground. After all, a strike seems like the best way to connect the GSI struggle with the broader struggle against privatization in the university at large.

For more info, check out Those Who Use It, which has been covering this issue well. Some more links are here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Solidarity from California

The police van that was stranded in the middle of the kettle of student protesters in London.The Guardian is liveblogging the education protests in the UK. Real-time map of university occupations. Lists of and links to the occupations here and here.

[Update Wed 2:17pm]:
Students in front of police van

Sunday, November 21, 2010

ACLU Open Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau on Student Conduct

The ACLU of Northern California has written a new letter to the UC Berkeley administration regarding the flawed student conduct prosecutions that the university has been carrying out against last year's protesters. Last spring, the ACLU wrote a similarly biting letter regarding the cases of protesters who faced arbitrary suspensions for their alleged involvement in an incident at Chancellor Birgeneau's house on December 11, 2009. The university, stated the letter, "has imposed extremely restrictive suspensions on students without meeting the requirements of constitutional due process and in violation of constitutional guarantees of privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of association." Although the letter was very specific to that one particular case, it suggested that similar problems would continue to appear if the university did not fundamentally alter its Code of Student Conduct and the procedures by which it is applied.

Dated November 18, the one-year anniversary of the attempted occupation of the Architects and Engineers building ("Capital Projects"), the ACLU letter focuses in on two particularly significant procedural violations that have characterized the operations of the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) in its attempts to punish student protesters:
First, the University has violated the strict timelines in the Code. Over 60 charges resulted from the November 2009 incidents, and yet not a single student who requested a hearing received one within the timeline set forth in the Code. Second, the University has applied a patchwork of versions of the Code, including provisions nowhere set forth in writing and a version adopted after the conduct at issue occurred. We are troubled by the University's systemic violation of its own disciplinary procedures, especially, the express requirement set forth in the Code that the University hold hearings within 45 days of the notice of charges. The Code, published by the University and distributed to students, provides the basis for the charges that the University has brought against the students. But by denying students the protections guaranteed by these very same guidelines, the University is breaching its contractual obligations to students and violating basic principles of due process.
Each of these violations, in and of themselves, warrant the immediate dismissal of all conduct charges, and of all sanctions already proportioned to the few students whose hearings have taken place. After all, the ACLU writes, "[t]he University cannot seek to hold students accountable to the promises set forth in the Code if it is unwilling to be held accountable itself."

As lawsuits begin to be filed against members of the panels that oversee the conduct hearings, the support of the ACLU becomes increasingly important. The arguments laid out in the letter form the foundation of the lawsuit that will eventually be filed against the university itself.

Full letter is below the fold.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Faculty and the UC Protests [Updated]

There's an interesting conversation developing on twitter right now around faculty participation (or lack thereof) in the protests around fee hikes and budget cuts at the UC. It started with this post by Angus Johnston, who noted parenthetically in a discussion about the protest at yesterday's regents' meeting, where a cop drew his gun on unarmed students and pepper spray was used indiscriminately, that "The faculty, meanwhile, have mostly stayed silent and disengaged." Check out @studentactivism, @javierest, @reclaimuc, @santacruztacean, @dettman for their thoughts.

Here's an email that speaks to this discussion. It's a little old, and obviously is not really generalizable, but it's nevertheless a fairly striking statement on the interest, energy, drive, and engagement of the faculty. In part, this is because of who wrote it: UC Berkeley professor Ananya Roy, the star of that (in many ways problematic) New Yorker article from last winter about the student movement in the UC. The email comes in response to discussion on the faculty listserv about whether to hold a teach-in on October 6, the day before the October 7 Day of Action. In 2009, faculty led a teach-in on September 23, the day before the massive walkout in which 5000 people participated. The teach-in in the Wheeler Hall auditorium was packed to capacity, so much so that many of those who couldn't get in held their own teach-in outside on the steps. Clearly, faculty engagement contributed to the massive turnout in September 2009. Contrast that with Professor Roy's take on the situation in October 2010:
From: Ananya Roy
To: Saveplus
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 6:30 PM
Subject: Re: Re Oct. 6th teach-in

Dear Barrie [Thorne] and friends,

Thanks for the update. I teach a large undergraduate class this semester - as I did last Fall - and the difference is palpable. Only 2-3 students out of a class of 700 have spoken to me about Oct 7 or seem actively engaged in the planning for it. Our class midterm was scheduled for Oct 7 and I moved it to Oct 5 but I did so because I wanted to have the flexibility to honor a walk-out if one takes shape rather than because of a call by students to do so. I think there is very little energy or enthusiasm among the general student body about Oct 7. It is not that these students don't care about what is happening to public education in California - they do and they are experiencing it first hand. But I am of the opinion that the activist students, even brilliant activists like Ricardo [Gomez], are engaged in conversations with themselves - within SWAT, within the General Assembly. The task of building a popular movement seems to have collapsed. And perhaps this year we (faculty) are not as willing as we were last year to serve as mediators or interlocuters. I will honor Oct 7 but I am not sure what that will mean. But I am also quite convinced that a teach-in will not draw the students who most need to be energized and that a teach-in on Oct 6 is terribly late in the game to build momentum for Oct 7.

One way to read this would be that Roy is just being realistic -- the state of the "movement" was very different in October 2010 than in September 2009. But what's hard to reconcile is the sense that faculty are standing on the sidelines, observers of what is essentially a student movement. They are bystanders. It is the fault of the students that the movement is dead, and there's nothing faculty can do to change that. All they can do is wait for students to organize something -- but really, those students aren't even doing a decent job of it. They're talking to themselves, they're not getting anything done. They've failed. So much so that the faculty should not even put together a teach-in to mobilize for October 7.

In the end, a teach-in happened, and it was supported by SAVE and the Berkeley Faculty Association. It was much smaller than the year before, and only one professor spoke. The walkout the next day seemed large considering the level of mobilization on campus, but it too was still far smaller than the previous year's. Anyway, the point is not that there's some causal relationship between Roy's email and the smaller numbers on October 7. Rather, it provides a sort of snapshot of a faculty view of these protests -- student protests -- about their horizon of possibility, and about the ways in which faculty can (and cannot) participate.

[Update Thursday 12:04pm]: @javierest tweets, "worth noting:faculty leaders. TJ Clark: retired. gone to london.Nelson Maldonado:on leave.recruited away? wendy brown and judith butler: also on extended leave. pos leaving. who's left?"

In fact, from the Wheeler occupation on, almost all of these professors have had a highly ambivalent relationship with student protests. I'm going to copy some of the things that they've written here below the fold, so you can get an idea of where they stand. Of course, they've also said and done other stuff, so what follows shouldn't be taken as an across the board rejection of faculty support (although often the faculty seems to be condemning student action).

A Report on the Protests at the 2010 Fall Regents Meeting

On November 17, as the UC Regents met in San Francisco to discuss a proposed eight percent undergraduate tuition increase, as well as a reduction in pensions for university employees, a group of over 300 students and workers from across the UC system gathered at the site of the Regents meeting. As the regents arrived, protesters formed picket lines at all entrances of the building, such that police officers ultimately had to forcibly break up protest lines in order to allow individual Regents to enter the building. After the Regents had been escorted into their meeting, protesters massed on the east side of the building. They pulled down a police barricade, and began marching toward the east entrance, hoping to enter into the Regents meeting and interrupt a process that promises to delay their retirements and cast them even further into debt. Students and workers were attempting to reclaim their futures from the Regents, whose austerity proposals appear to be little more than unjustifiable ends in themselves, as the stabilization of state funding has rendered such measures unnecessary.

Protesters were initially met at the east doors with police who wielded billy-clubs as bludgeons, and with a brief dousing of pepper spray. Pushed back once, students and workers massed a second time in front of the police line, and began again to walk towards the entrance. This time, the police coated them with an extended, indiscriminate blanket of pepper spray. People who were more than ten feet away from the line of police needed treatment for the burning sensation in their eyes and on their faces caused by exposure to this chemical weapon. Those closer to the police required intensive treatment, and were, in some cases, still in pain over an hour later.

After these incidents on the east door, protesters moved around to the other side of the building and attempted to enter into the Regents meeting through an attached parking garage. A number of protesters were able to enter into the interior foyer before being beaten aggressively with batons, pepper sprayed at close range, and, in some cases, arrested. Again, those who were sprayed required intensive treatment. During this confrontation inside the parking garage, UCPD officer Kemper pulled his gun on students without provocation. Concerning this incident, spokespeople from the UC administration and from UCPD have claimed – despite conflicting video evidence -- that a student took officer Kemper's baton and beat him on the head with it. Video of the incident shows Kemper losing control of his baton as he rushes students, and then -- without provocation -- unholstering his gun. An open letter has been released calling on the UC and UCPD to account for their public misrepresentation of this incident -- an incident that has severely frightened students and workers, who recognize that one further false move on the part of officer Kemper could have resulted in serious injury or even death.

At UC Berkeley, concerned members of the campus community will meet tonight to respond to the fee increases and to the police violence faced by students and workers at the Regents meeting. We will be meeting at 6pm in Dwinelle 370. Please join us in carrying forward the protests against educational privatization and police violence on our campuses.


* For an account of how the Regents could reduce undergraduate tuition and treat UC employees fairly, even in the face of recent reductions in state funding to the UCs, see Bob Meister's latest report: http://reclamationsjournal.org/issue03_meister.html

* For another extended account of the protest, which includes links to video, see the Informant's article: http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/11/uc-regents-meeting-erupts-in-clashes-between-police-protesters/

* Open letter demanding that UCOP apologize for false statements regarding officer Kemper: http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=437696762184

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UC Regents Meeting: Day 2 [Updated]

Behind the fee hikes, a line of riot cops... with guns drawn.

(photo from sf chronicle, more details at occupyca, some analysis here.)

... pepper spray too.

[Update Wed 5:17pm]

[Update Thursday 4:59pm]: There's a lot of bad news coverage out there, where reporters repeat word for word the absurd story that the chief of police came up with. Cops lie. There's some better coverage and analysis at Student Activism, SF Bay Guardian, and the Informant.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

UC Regents Meeting: Day 1

In the early morning of November 16, students blockaded California Hall, the main administrative building at UC Berkeley. Heavy police presence made it difficult to maintain the blockade, and by 9am they had opened up an entrance to the building. But we're just getting started.

(photos via occupyca and thosewhouseit)

(critical analysis here)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Statement from Berkeley Law Organizing Committee

From the email, an open letter to Boalt law school Dean Christopher Edley:
No More Futile Discussion With Administrators. Action. Disruption. Reclamation.

Dear Dean Edley,

We sincerely hope that in the moments leading up to tomorrow's UC Regents meeting, you took time to pause and consider the real human impact of the Law School's privatization program. Before we came to Boalt, we considered ourselves to be human beings and were attracted to this school in our capacity as such. Now we know that everything we were told about Boalt is an empty promise and that we are in fact nothing more than biological collateral for federal loan dollars being spilled into ill-conceived expansion projects that have little to do with the quality of our or anyone else's education.

As you write to invite us to another Student Town Hall, we submit that our participation within this institution is now, just as it has been, barely a courteous formality. The one hour meeting offered by the law-school administration, we are told, provides “an opportunity for the community to discuss the overall state of the law school as well as student fees.” At least you are honest enough to concede that nothing we say at the Town Hall will have any effect on how the law school is actually run.

There is nothing to ‘discuss’. If privatization is a certainty, then so is insurmountable student debt, the evisceration of workers’ rights, the subordination of human need to the logic of the market. This is a future we will not accept. Privatization in an economy with rapidly decreasing real wages and insurmountable loan debt is guaranteed student death. We refuse to die. Since the administration has already implemented its project of privatization, our only choice is to halt its progress and work to destroy the process itself. So on November 16 and 17, 2010 we will.


Bob Meister's back with a new article that rips apart Yudof's "Blue and Gold" plan. Enjoy the whole thing. Here we've posted just the part dealing with B&G.
You have also recognized that financing higher education through increased personal debt is a growing problem for many students. That’s why you argue that UC tuition increases will not deter attendance provided that the Blue and Gold program, which relieves families from paying tuition, is available to a wider income band. Much of the press and the public seem to have bought your claim that higher tuition can actually make UC more accessible by extending UC’s Blue and Gold program to families with annual incomes of up to $80,000. But the high tuition burden still falls disproportionately on those just above this cut-off, so you mitigate this obvious problem by giving students a one-year reprieve on tuition increases if they are otherwise eligible for aid and if they come from families with incomes of $120K or less, after which they will simply have to borrow more. You then claim that higher tuition would leave the majority of UC students (55%) with undiminished or improved access. This claim is based on two assumptions: first, that the incomes of UC graduates will continue to grow -- and to grow much faster, than those of other Californians, much as they did during the high tech boom; and, second, that Blue and Gold means that most UC students on financial aid will need to borrow less in order to attend.

According to your own, internal, financial aid studies, both of these assumptions are false. The first assumption is false because the income of UC graduates has not increased at all for the past ten years, and neither has the willingness of most students who borrow to take on greater debt. As a consequence of their growing debt-resistance, UC has a growing middle income access problem -- it seems that students in the income band that takes on the greatest proportional debt are also transferring down within the Master Plan scheme -- and that 70% of Community College transfer students now go to for-profit institutions. So, we now have a Master Plan that seems to operate in reverse.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Schedule of Actions for November 16-18 UC Regents' Meeting

From thosewhouseit:
Once again, the Regents will meet to increase fees, decrease access to the UC and give themselves big bonuses. Let’s stop them!

Nov. 16: Early morning picket of California Hall. Be there at 6:30 AM so we can greet the senior administrators as they come in to work. We’re demanding that they actively oppose the fee increase, abandon Operational Excellence and its 200 layoffs, end the repression of student protesters via the widely-criticized Office of Student Conduct, and endorse and help negotiate a fair contract for GSIs and other staff in contract negotiations. Please arrive at 6:30 AM. We will be there all morning. Rally @ 12 noon.

Nov. 17: Early AM protest at the Regents’ Meeting (UCSF, Rutter Center). Let’s shut it down! We need as many people as possible at the Regents Meeting as early as possible. From the East Bay, take BART to the downtown San Francisco Embarcadero Station and then transfer to the MUNI T-Line. There are some buses leaving from UC Berkeley. You can reserve a seat here.

Finally, here are links to some inspiring news from London, where 52,000 people have mobilized in defense of education and against austerity. It’s nice to be reminded that we are part of a global anti-austerity movement:



The Lawsuits Begin

The other day, we reported that the UC administration appears to be feeling some heat on the legal front for the many reprehensible procedural violations it has committed in the course of subjecting student protesters to conduct hearings. But another target is feeling a more direct form of pressure. As thosewhouseit notes with regard to the second half of the conduct case for one of the Wheeler Hall occupiers:
In fact, the math professor chairing the commission was served with papers at the hearing tonight. Our comrade is suing him in small claims court. From now on we will take anyone who participates in this charade to court!
At the very beginning of the hearing, as the panel members were filing in, the chair Paul Vojta was served with court papers. According to the Campus Rights Project, Vojta had also chaired the panel of the previous hearing. Apparently, a suit has been filed in small claims court against him. In other words, the university itself is not liable, but it could be an effective tactic in terms of pushing back against those members of the university community who are complicit with the administration's repressive apparatus.

For further reading, check out Vojta's ratings on Rate My Professors.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Contextualizing the UC Conduct Hearings

From occupyca:
BERKELEY, California -- Last Fall saw a 32 percent tuition increase in the UC system, but perhaps equally memorable was the array of occupations throughout the UC and CSU systems. At Cal, dozens of occupiers, now better known as the Wheeler 43, took over Wheeler Hall on November 20, 2009. Only now, nearly a year later have we seen any judicial proceedings on the matter -- albeit, proceedings in a kangaroo court. Laura Zelko opted and fought to hold her hearing open to the public; even after 12 hours at the initial meeting that continued past midnight, the hearing panelists were unable to decide the verdict. This case will continue today at 5:30pm. (SF Chronicle published a story on Ms. Zelko’s case.)

According to ReclaimUC, the possibility of a lawsuit potentially being brought against the UC Berkeley Office of Student Conduct is unnerving the administration a little. Additionally, Cal is now paying tens of thousands of dollars on merely technical and staffing aspects of the hearings, let alone legal costs potentially yet unreported. So far, the sanctions against student protesters include such things as 7-month suspensions and reflective essays that serve more to “re-educate” protesters on the the proper protocols of innocuous political demonstrations than actually provide insightful ruminations. Seemingly, the high cost of punishing demonstrators is well worth it for the UC administration as long as it’s able to push its political will onto campus. With the coming 8% tuition increase and a slew of mini-crises hitting the UC -- including the troubling police and judicial repression of protest to the pension fight of low-paid workers to the contract struggle for teaching assistants -- it’s a wonder the university isn’t splitting at the seams.
Update [Wed 11/10, 12:25 am]: @reclaimuc live-tweeted the hearing. OSC recommended a sanction of a 1-year suspension. The panel's final recommendation, however, was:

Now the only question is whether the UC administration will once again arbitrarily impose a harsher sanction, as they did in the previous hearing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The New UC Fee Hike [Updated]

Earlier in the year, there was talk about a 20% fee increase in November, along with a number of student protests across the campuses. Now that we’re closer to the fee proposal being released, the fee increase will probably not be in the ballpark of 20% -- word has it that it’s in the low 10s or the single digits.
The fee hike will be announced later today. Stay tuned.

[Updated Monday 12:09pm]: The magic number is 8 percent.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The UC Berkeley administration is looking scared of the possibility of a lawsuit regarding the Office of Student Conduct's procedural violations in their prosecution of student protesters from last year, as well as the arbitrary nature of the process in general. Associate Dean of Students Christina Gonzales's comments are particularly revealing. (Gonzales, by the way, is directly implicated in all of this: she's the one who, as Associate Dean, improperly suspended the student conduct timeline, something that only the Dean can do.) She acknowledges, in the first place, that the fact that the administration arbitrarily upped the sanction is extremely rare, suggesting that the decision to do it in this case is purely political. Second, according to Gonzales, the answer to arbitrariness is more arbitrariness: the student can always, uh, go talk to Chancellor Birgeneau, or something. This from the Daily Cal, whose reporting on the issue has been great:
Frustration is growing among students charged with misconduct for their involvement in last November's protests after one student received harsher sanctions Monday than those recommended at his hearing, increasing talk of a possible lawsuit against UC Berkeley.

The student, who did not want to release his name for fear of retribution by the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, received a letter Monday morning from Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard's designee Steven Sutton imposing two sanctions - disciplinary probation and a reflective writing assignment - according to Daniela Urban, a student at the UC Berkeley School of Law and member of the Campus Rights Project, which has been advising students.

Urban said the sanctions are significantly harsher than what the student's hearing panel recommended in mid-October, which was a reflective writing assignment and a warning letter.

"I was shocked because on the one hand, I was expecting the sanctions that the hearing panel had recommended," the student said. "It blows my mind. Why did we have a hearing if the dean, or in this case his designee, was going to arbitrarily impose whatever sanction he wanted anyway?"

According to Christina Gonzales, associate dean of students, the sanctions initially proposed by the panel are only recommendations. Under the campus student code of conduct, the dean of students or his designee may impose different sanctions, taking into account factors including the alleged behavior the student was found responsible for and the impact to the campus community, she said in an e-mail.

She added that instances of the dean or his designee changing sanctions recommended by the panel are uncommon, citing only three or four such changes in the last four years.

While the decision on sanctions is final, concerns regarding the sanctioning process, alleged procedural violations and decisions made throughout the conduct proceedings can be appealed to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry Le Grande within 10 days of receiving sanctions, according to Gonzales.

However, the student said he is "skeptical that (his concerns) are going to be heard."

"There is no recourse within this system," said Neil Satterlund, a campus law student and member of the Campus Rights Project. "We are very close to believing that there is no longer any reason to participate in this process."

If the student's appeal is rejected, as the student said he predicts it will be, taking the issue to court is an option.

"We've talked about filing a lawsuit against the university," the student said. "I hope that happens. The only possible way that anything good can come of this situation is by going outside and levering some sort of external pressure against the university. They won't listen otherwise."

According to Gonzales, without a student actually having gone through the appeals process, it seems too "speculative" to state whether it would be rejected.

She added that going outside of the campus should not be necessary because should an appeal be rejected, there are still officials -- including Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau -- who would be willing to sit down and "talk about the issues."

"Whenever a decision is made, if there's anything that wasn't appropriate, there is always some policy that can assist a student, staff or faculty member to go to another route or bring up these issues," she said. "They shouldn't have to go outside of the university."
They shouldn't have to go outside of the university. Please don't go outside of the university! They're finally starting to feel the pressure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SF Giants Win the World Series!

(more at occupyca)

Spokescouncil #2, Thursday Nov 4

Second spokescouncil to get organized for the regents' meeting will take place on Thursday, November 4 from 6-9pm in 370 Dwinelle Hall. Here's the description (from Those Who Use It, copied from Facebook):
People are frustrated with the General Assembly model... so we’re trying something completely different!

Not a decision making body. It is a non-hierarchical means of communicating between/across affinity groups.
A spoke (or representative) of an affinity group goes to the spokescouncil to represent the intentions/plans/skills/offerings of their AG and sees how they might or might not collaborate with other... AGs... The spoke takes info from the spokescouncil back to their affinity group.

Small group of people that acts/organizes/makes decisions together, that trusts each other, and takes care of each other.

Unaffiliated people are welcome.

AGENDA FOR THURSDAY: coordinating for the Regents mtg
People were happy with the first spokescouncil and called for a second one. Please come prepared to talk about your group’s plans for plugging into action on 11/16 and ideas for 11/17.

Last week some groups sent a spoke while other groups came as a unit. You’re free to do either, but this time let’s try to give priority to having the spokes speak and the rest of each group (if present) hang back…


All: feel free to use the comment section below to add to this loose description/report/agenda...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grade-In at UC Berkeley Today [Updated]

Today, Sather Gate, noon. (More info here.)

Also, don't forget about the public student conduct show trial that's taking place at more or less the same time (bad timing!). It's at Clark Kerr campus, building 14. It starts officially at 1:30pm, but they're asking folks to get there between 1-1:15pm in order to be let in.

Updated [1:57pm]: picture from the ongoing grade-in...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Student Conduct and Terrorism

Last December, Governor Schwarzenegger invoked a rhetoric of terrorism to describe protests that had taken place on UC Berkeley campus:
California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders including educators. The attack on Chancellor Birgeneau’s home is a criminal act and those who participated will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law. Debate is the foundation of democracy and I encourage protestors to find peaceful and productive ways to express their opinions.
At the time, Schwarzenegger's hyperbolic language, along with that of UC Berkeley administrators, was widely ridiculed. But now the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) is looking to insert specific language about "terrorism" into the guidelines that determine how the Codes of Student Conduct on individual UC campuses are written. The proposal is to incorporate this language into the section on hate crimes.

The following was circulated in an email from Jerlena Griffin-Desta, director of student services at the Student Affairs Office of the President. These changes may be included in the discussion at the November Regents' meeting. The first point is particularly problematic, but note that the third almost as bad:
REVISED: Proposed Policy Changes to Address Hate Crimes

1. Terrorizing Conduct

The following new language would be added to the Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline (section 102.00 Grounds for Discipline):

“[The following is prohibited:] Conduct, where the actor means to communicate a serious expression of intent to terrorize, or acts in reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing, one or more University students, faculty, or staff. ‘Terrorize’ means to cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm or death, perpetrated by the actor or his/her confederates. ‘Reckless disregard’ means consciously disregarding a substantial risk. This section applies without regard to whether the conduct is motivated by race, ethnicity, personal animosity, or other reasons. This section does not apply to conduct that constitutes the lawful defense of one’s self, of another, or of property.”

2. Sanction Enhancement for Violations Motivated by Hate

The following new language would be added to the Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline (section 104.00 Administration of Student Discipline):

“Sanctions [for any violations of the Grounds for Discipline] may be enhanced where the victim was selected because of the victim’s race, color, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, ancestry, service in the uniformed services, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer related or genetic characteristics), or perceived membership in any of these classifications.”

3. Discipline for criminal convictions

The following new language would be added to the Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline (section 102.00 Grounds for Discipline):

“[Students may be subject to discipline, i.e., discipline is possible, not mandatory, on the basis of] A conviction under any California state or federal criminal law, when the conviction constitutes reasonable cause to believe that the student poses a current threat to the health or safety of any person or to the security of any property, on University premises or at official University functions, or poses a current threat to the orderly operation of the campus.”

Public Conduct Hearing, Wed 10/27 [Updated]

Updated [Tuesday 10/26]: The hearing will take place in the Krutch Theater (building 14) of Clark Kerr campus. Get there between 1-1:15 or during a break to minimize disruptions.

If all goes according to plan, updates will be published on the Reclaim UC twitter feed.

Update [Wed 6:06pm]: We've been live tweeting the hearing. Check out @reclaimuc; most of the tweets have a #ucstrike and/or an #occupyca hashtag. Also check out @joshwolf's twitter feed.

Update [Thurs 1:32am]: The hearing panel left to deliberate at about 11:30, returned at about 12:15 to announce that they couldn't come to a decision. Deliberation and sanctioning will be postponed until the week of November 8. Also, for a pretty complete record of the hearing check out this twitter list.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Open Letter to the UC Administration Regarding Student Conduct

Dear Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande et. al,

I am writing to voice my concerns regarding my interactions with the Office of Student Conduct and to inform you of my experience in dealing with the process as a student journalist accused of participating in the November 20 demonstration in Wheeler Hall last fall. I am one of about 40 students who the university charged with student conduct violations in relationship to the demonstration. As I understand it, the Code of Conduct doesn’t include a provision for an “interlocutory appeal,” but my experience last night calls out for intervention by your Office.

On Thursday, Oct. 20, Dr. Robert DiMartino led a pre-hearing conference to discuss my charges under the code of student conduct. The previous month I participated in a previous pre-hearing conference under a different chair, Dr. Georjana Barnes of the Department of Molecular Biology. Dr. Barnes aborted that meeting after the lawyer for the University of California Office of the President said he couldn’t stick around to see the meeting to completion.

In all previous meetings involving student conduct, the university officials permitted Thomas Frampton, a law school student and my advisor in this matter, to speak on my behalf. I had no reason to think the situation would be any different coming into my most recent meeting, but my experience yesterday differed dramatically from my previous experience.

Almost immediately after our meeting began, DiMartino ordered my observer Stephen Rosenbaum to leave. Rosenbaum is on the Berkeley Law School faculty and is also a practicing attorney. After returning from a discussion with Frampton about my charges, DiMartino announced that my advisor would not be allowed to speak on my behalf; not only is this inconsistent with my previous experiences, but it is a clear departure from other pre-hearing conferences on campus.

DiMartino’s position is that because an advisor is not explicitly allowed under the code to speak at pre-hearing conferences, there is an implicit prohibition on his doing so, which is the same reason he cited for ejecting Rosenbaum. DeMartino further suggested that I should be aware of this prohibition, despite the fact that his conclusion is based on a nuanced interpretation of the code that runs counter to my own past experience and that of others.

After explaining that I was not fully-prepared to argue all of the issues we planned to bring up at the pre-hearing, DiMartino countered with the option to file a written brief addressing two issues he deemed pertinent to the pre-hearing: Whether the hearing should be open, and what witnesses I planned to call in my defense, a provision which is itself not explicitly allowed under the code. After explaining that I wasn’t prepared to answer whether such a proposal would be acceptable, I asked for a recess and a new pre-hearing date.

DiMartino refused to reschedule the pre-hearing and said that any objection I had to proceeding this way could only be taken up after the panel has delivered its decision in the charges I’m facing. Have I therefore exhausted all of my administrative remedies available to me at this time?

I realize that it is important for the panel chair to retain some discretion over the student conduct process, but it is imperative that the code is clear on exactly what is within his or her discretion. Student conduct is heralded as an educational process, but I’m really fumbling over what I’m supposed to learn from this experience, and I know other students facing conduct charges feel the same way.

A few years ago, a federal judge sent me to jail for refusing to turn over my unpublished materials of a political demonstration I filmed in San Francisco. During the seven months I spent at a federal detention center fighting for the rights of a free press, many described my situation as Kafkaesque. It saddens me to realize that my experience at UC Berkeley has been a far more appropriate use of the term.

Given the clear deficiencies in the code of student conduct, which the university has acknowledged by calling for a task force to address these problems, I ask that you suspend this process for myself and others until there is policy in place that serves an educational function of the world-class caliber this institution offers in academics.

I would be happy to meet with anyone to address my concerns over the code of conduct, and I know that other students facing charges and members of the Campus Rights Project, an advocacy group comprised of law school students who are providing pro-bono representation to students facing conduct charges, would also be willing to make themselves available to discuss this issue as well.

Thank you for your consideration,

Josh Wolf

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
2011 Master’s candidate in documentary
Tel: 415.794.2401
e-mail: joshwolf@berkeley.edu

Robert Birgeneau

Jonathan Poullard
Dean of Students

Susan Trageser
Director of Student Conduct

Laura Bennett
Student Conduct Officer

Nanette Asimov
San Francisco Chronicle

Gerry Shih
The Bay Citizen

Rebecca Bowe
San Francisco Bay Guardian

Frances Dinkelspiel

Laura Dobler
Student Press Law Center