Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Only Violence Is Violence Against the State

Birgeneau and Breslauer on last year's campus protests:
[Senior Editorial Board of the Daily Cal]: Continuing on the idea of unrest and going back to protests, there was a lot of mistrust between students and administration and campus officials after last year's various protests. Part of that was objection to the way police forces acted during the Wheeler Hall protest. Now that the Police Review Board has released its report and knowing that there is a protest scheduled for Oct. 7, what is the course of action for campus officials now, on that date, and in preparing for that date?

Birgeneau: George, you can talk about this, in part. So we learned ourselves from the Wheeler Hall protest, and students will have noted that there was nothing comparable that happened in any of the protests after that, and that there was essentially no violence after that. Good example of that was the hunger strike which occurred at the end of the semester, which I think in the end was handled probably as well as it could have been. We have a crisis management team and we also have a committee, by the way, that's looking at the recommendations of the Brazil report, again, to help us in terms of how we implement those recommendations. I would say, sort of my point of view, probably the biggest failure on the Wheeler Hall thing was communicating with the people outside of Wheeler Hall adequately and making sure that people understood what was happening. And of course, things were not helped by the fact that the first serious injury was to a policeman who was out of work for two and half months. So that set a tone for violence, which was really unfortunate. George, want to add to that?

Breslauer: I would just add to that, that occupation of buildings is not something that we can take lightly or tolerate. And if that is the form that protest takes, we may have no choice but to - and if it is intransigent - use police force in as discreet a manner as possible, as nonviolent a manner as possible, to end the occupation of buildings. On Nov. 20 last year, we were, throughout that day, sort of haunted by the fact that there were 3,800 students, in a week close to final examinations, that weren't allowed to take their classes in Wheeler Hall that day because of that occupation. And to whom do we owe the greater responsibility? And this is something we're...

Birgeneau: The Code of Student Conduct is absolutely clear. Especially in an era of high fees, the university's ultimate responsibility is to allow students to take the classes that they've paid for. That's unambiguous in the Code of Student Conduct and that's the responsibility of the faculty and of the administration to ensure that students are able to attend their classes. And, again, we hear a certain amount of noise from people who are unhappy about certain aspects of how things were handled, but we got huge numbers of e-mails from students who were very unhappy about their inability to attend class or having their classes disrupted. Students come here because they want to be educated. It's our obligation to ensure that students can obtain the education that they've paid for.

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