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.

1 comment:

  1. More heat needs to be applied to Chancellor Birgenea if his "status quo" is to change. When UC Berkeley announced its elimination of baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse teams and its defunding of the national-champion men’s rugby team, the chancellor sighed, “Sorry, but this was necessary!”
    But was it? Yes, the university is in dire financial straits. Yet $3 million was somehow found to pay the Bain consulting firm to uncover waste and inefficiencies in UC Berkeley, despite the fact that a prominent East Coast university was doing the same thing without consultants.
    Essentially, the process requires collecting and analyzing information from faculty and staff. Apparently, senior administrators at UC Berkeley believe that the faculty and staff of their world-class university lack the cognitive ability, integrity, and motivation to identify millions in savings. If consultants are necessary, the reason is clear: the chancellor, provost, and president have lost credibility with the people who provided the information to the consultants. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau has reigned for eight years, during which time the inefficiencies proliferated. Even as Bain’s recommendations are implemented (“They told me to do it”, Birgeneau), credibility and trust problems remain.
    Bain is interviewing faculty, staff, senior management and the academic senate leaders for $150 million in inefficiencies, most of which could have been found internally. One easy-to-identify problem, for example, was wasteful procurement practices such as failing to secure bulk discounts on printers. But Birgeneau apparently has no concept of savings: even in procuring a consulting firm, he failed to receive proposals from other firms.

    Students, staff, faculty, and California legislators are the victims of his incompetence. Now that sports teams are feeling the pinch, perhaps the California Alumni Association, benefactors and donators, and the UC Board of Regents will demand to know why Birgeneau is raking in $500,000 a year despite the abdication of his responsibilities.

    The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates.