Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Private Eyes

UC Davis professor Joshua Clover writes an op-ed in the California Aggie:
Over the last year, the UC Davis administration has pursued an extensive program to place staffers in and around student-worker protest. They have done so not, as you might expect, to join in the struggle against indecent cuts and backdoor privatization, but to deliver surveillance on participants.

This "Activism Response Team" was, for example, trained to "collaborate with police," and advised by university counsel on negotiating possible rights violations of those undergoing surveillance. When asked directly whether they were supplying information to the administration, ART members denied this. Once caught, the chancellor assured us that -- suddenly! -- she would like to make public what in truth had become public only via the legal compulsion of the Freedom of Information Act.

The chancellor's justification (see "Embracing Student Activism," March 14) has two main claims, strikingly different in tenor. First, the paternalistic hymn of "we have your best interests at heart." Second, the childish denial that resembles getting caught cheating on an exam, mumbling that you "could have done a better job of educating the campus community" regarding your scheme -- and would now prove your virtue by publishing your crib notes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

University of Minnesota Occupation

The Social Sciences Tower at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota was occupied yesterday. Occupiers apparently stayed in the building throughout the night even though it was supposed to be closed down at 11 pm. They have a blog and their twitter feed is @umnsolidarity. As of this morning, they have released a list of demands:
Because we are residents of Minnesota, and because this is a public, land-grant university,

We demand the right to peacefully occupy space at our university,

We demand that the general public has reasonable access to university resources;

We demand that the university respect the rights of all workers to organize and to earn at least a living wage;

We demand tuition and fee reductions;

We demand that regents be democratically elected by the university community;

We demand that the university treat student groups fairly and equitably with respect to funding and space. We demand student groups on the 2nd floor of Coffman Union be able to keep their spaces.

In doing so, we stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin, and students and workers worldwide.

Monday, March 28, 2011

M26 2011: London

Above, our compañero Brandon put together this video on the massive protests in London last Saturday, in which 500,000 people from many sectors came out to protest the government's devastating budget cuts.

Below, the Guardian obtained video from inside the Fortnum and Mason occupation in which the cops promise to let the occupiers go if they leave voluntarily. Then, as soon as they get outside, they're arrested.

[Update Tuesday noon]: Some interesting, critical thoughts on the day from Really Open University.

Growth of the UC Administration, 1991-2010


Charlie Schwartz is back with a bunch of new data documenting the astronomical growth of the administrative apparatus of the UC. Previously, we only had data for the decade running from 1996-2006, but now the range has been extended to 1991-2010. The results are even more dramatic. Schwartz is especially interested in the growth of the manager class -- those who take in, on average, $122,000 per year. In other words, we are not talking about our friends and allies who staff, for example, academic departments and work directly with students and faculty on a daily basis. We're talking about what Schwartz calls the management "excess":

Table 1. Campuses Ranked by Management Growth 1991-2010
UC Campus % Growth in Management Personnel % Growth in Total Employees “Excess” Management                FTE
Berkeley 336% 22% 778
Santa Cruz 324% 61% 197
San Francisco 257% 56% 776
San Diego 242% 63% 568
Los Angeles 234% 45% 1,035
Davis 223% 51% 473
Santa Barbara 188% 28% 184
Irvine 171% 47% 327
Riverside 163% 59% 91
OP 63% -17% 273

TOTAL UC 220% 47% 4,647

“Excess” Management FTE  is calculated as follows:
(2010 Mngt FTE) – (1+% Growth in Total Employees)x(1991 Mngt FTE)

The conclusion is clear: "With an average compensation for MSP staff of $122,000 per year, this total Excess costs the University around $560 Million per year." And for Berkeley campus in particular:
A rough estimate of Berkeley’s cost for Excess Management: over $100 Million per year. In a recent report to The Regents, Berkeley officials state that they are in the process of eliminating 240 management positions, with an estimated savings of about $20 Million. My data says that they need to do a lot better than that.
One final note: these kinds of investigations demonstrate convincingly why the administrative argument about the supposed transparency of the budget (recently seen in this debate, for example) is bullshit. Schwartz dedicates his time to doing precisely this kind of analysis and even he finds it difficult to figure out the numbers provided by the administration at every level. For example, referencing UCOP compensation reports, Schwartz notes that they are not transparent but instead organize the data in ways that seem designed to make it difficult to tease out, for example, the sources of money used to pay the salaries of those in management positions.

The UC administration makes the budget vague, obscure, and inaccessible for a reason -- their only raison d'etre is to tell us what it says. Fuck that -- abolish administration, we'll make the budget!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unlimited Wild General Strike

General Strike, or Unlimited Wild General Strike?

(burnt bookmobile, one and two)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Solidarity with the Goldsmiths Occupation!

... and all the other ongoing occupations in the UK right now: University College London, Glasgow, Manchester...

(video via the goldsmiths occupation blog)

[Update Wednesday 1:39 pm]: From Really Open University comes this update on the the University and College Union (UCU) strike so far, with which all these occupations are in solidarity:
Yesterday saw UCU striking in universities up and down the country. In total 60 institutions, including the entire Russell group, were on strike to defend pensions.

Students at Goldsmiths and UCL went into occupation in solidarity with the strike on Monday. They were joined on Tuesday by UEA, Kent, Edinburgh and UEL. In Glasgow, the Hetherington occupation (the longest anti-cuts occupation, running since 1st of Febuary) fell victim to a heavy-handed eviction by police, including 80 officers, dogs units and a helicopter. Several students were injured with one having to go to hospital for concussion. In response to this violent treatment, the occupiers joined a crowd of hundreds and marched to the main university building where they occupied the Senate. At the time of writing SOAS has also just gone into occupation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Student Conduct and Terrorism, Part 2 October, we reported on a proposal to incorporate into official UCOP policy on student conduct a specific violation of the Code that would be classified as "terrorism." Originally, it was going to be brought up at last November's Regents' meeting, but for some reason it wasn't addressed there. At the time, we thought it was because it was so ridiculous; but we have to keep reminding ourselves that the UC administration and the regents work hard to outdo themselves at every chance they get. On that note, at today's Regents' meeting, a "terrorism" clause was officially adopted into the "Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students." Here's the full text of the new sections:

Section 102.24: 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 those acting under his/her control. ‘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 oneself, of another, or of property.
Section 104.90: Sanctions [for any violations of Section 102.00, Grounds for Discipline] may be enhanced where an individual was selected because of the individual’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, or perceived membership in any of these classifications.
Obviously this is a long-delayed response -- a year and a half after the fact -- to the property destruction at the Chancellor's house, which then-Governor Schwarzenegger called not only a "criminal act" but went as far as to label it "terrorism" itself. In fact, the text of these violations is almost exactly the same as what we posted last October -- the only difference is that where the new version uses "those acting under his/her control" the previous version read "his/her confederates." A strange word choice, admittedly.

But the question this raises is the following: when have members of the university community had cause to fear bodily harm or death, perpetrated by the actor or those acting under his/her control? Oh right, it was when the Chancellor invited the riot police onto campus, and they, acting under his control, hit us with clubs, shot us with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and aimed their guns at us. We know what this is all about.

It's like the budget cuts, where the highest-level administrators have declared themselves exempt: one set of rules applies to them, another one applies to the rest of us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Fee Hikes, More Administrative Lies

Last Thursday, UC administrators including President Mark Yudof sat down for an interview with reporters for a number of UC newspapers. In between the bullshit and propagandizing, the following exchange took place:

California Aggie, UC Davis: So LAO [Legislative Analyst's Office] also recommended a 7 percent fee hike in the next academic year — what do you think about that?

Yudof: Well, my position right now is, we’ve hit you so hard I’m not planning on recommending a fee hike beyond what is already on the books, which is 8 percent in September.
Today, the UC Regents (among which Yudof counts himself) met at UCSF Mission Bay. Here's what came out of that meeting:
SAN FRANCISCO -- Students are likely to bear the brunt of the University of California's budget crisis for years to come.

UC likely will face a $1.5 billion budget gap in the next few years even under the rosiest scenarios, UC regents were told Wednesday.

As a result, administrators said, the university probably will need to lean on students for annual tuition increases. Among four scenarios discussed Wednesday, only one would come close to bridging the deficit: annual tuition and state funding increases of 8 percent.

But a rebound in flagging state money is unlikely, so the university most likely would rely on a combination of cuts and tuition hikes. If the state contributes no additional money in the next four years and UC does not make additional cuts, for example, tuition would need to rise more than 18 percent per year to make up the difference, the university said.
In other words, 40 percent in the last two years wasn't enough -- despite their "good intentions," despite their sympathetic words, despite their lobbying in Sacramento, despite their bullshit "advocacy," they're still raising our tuition. The decisions apparently won't be finalized until May. But whatever happens, we can say one thing with certainty: the administration lies. Fuck the administration, fuck their cuts, and fuck their fee hikes!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Students' Rights

Today the Daily Cal published an op-ed by the author of the blog post we linked to here, which builds on and develops a number of the ideas in the original. For us, the key question here is the nature of "students' rights." Check it out:
On Thursday March 4, I went to Wheeler Hall to teach section for Legal Studies 140 "Property and Liberty" -- a subject about which we learned a lot more than we expected that day!

Students were protesting in front of and on the balcony of the building, and police were standing around, but nobody stopped me from going inside. Students in my section showed up and we started the discussion.

Twenty minutes later, two police officers came and told us "the chancellor is closing the building."

But by what right does the chancellor get to close Wheeler Hall?

This campus exists because the land was donated by the state legislature to the university in exchange for its providing education to the citizens of California.

So who owns the university? If the labor of teachers is part of the educational mission, at what point do teachers get to decide what happens on school property? If you believe, as I do, that student labor is also part of education -- helping to create what is learned by all in the classroom, what right do students have to make use of the spaces whose existence is justified by an educational mission? If there is disagreement or diversity of opinion, who or what should arbitrate these rights?

I later got an e-mail from the chancellor saying that a "health and safety issue" in Wheeler Hall required its closing.

Immediately afterwards, a friend who was outside Wheeler Hall told me about police pepper-spraying and beating protesters with batons while attempting to remove them from the area. Was that the health and safety issue?

In November 2009, a police officer smashed the hand of and nearly took off the finger of a student participating in the protests, while at the November 2010 Regents' meeting, police pepper-sprayed nonviolent students in the face. On March 4, police prevented people from bringing water to those protesters who were thirsty and had requested it. Police presence appears to be a leading cause of these "health and safety issues," and yet they are still allowed on campus.

Another issue raised during previous protests was concern over damage to the building. But is damaging human bodies preferable to damaging buildings? Also, has anyone seen the bathrooms in Wheeler Hall? If police were to start beating people over building damage, 20 percent of students there on a regular day would need ambulances. Hiring back the laid-off janitorial staff would be a better response to this concern and a better expenditure of university resources than paying the wages of police who beat students.

Whose rights are being protected by the beatings, the pepper-sprayings, the denial of water to protesters?

Let's consider students' rights to pursue an education without disruption. We were carrying on our section without a problem until closure of Wheeler Hall happened, it was the police who kicked us out.

What of the rights of the students who have dropped out because of fee hikes (many of whom are locked into crushing debt), or the janitors and other staff members who will no longer be on campus because of the policies like fee hikes and the layoffs like those dictated by Operational Excellence? Did they have any rights to pursue an education? The founders of the UC system would have said that they did.

How do we measure these rights alongside those of students, protesting or not, currently attending UC Berkeley? Non-protesting students' rights to pursue an education have already been affected: Despite massive fee increases, the resulting funds have not gone towards actual education: Class sizes are increasing, labs are cut, libraries are closed or have shorter hours, teaching resources are cut, class sessions are cut -- my own course has four fewer classes than usual because of the cuts! Meanwhile, endless construction projects disrupt the campus more than any protest has, to date.

We all learned a tremendous amount about the power and meaning of property rights on March 4. We saw how the campus put property rights in objects over people's property rights in their own bodies.

Students' rights to bodily integrity, to pursue an education and to have a voice in University of California policy were less important than the chancellor's right to absolute control over the goings-on inside Wheeler Hall. But what, besides force of arms, supports the chancellor's right? What about the UC's mission as an educational institution?


"Zach." From thosewhouseit. Background here:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Open Letter to OSC

From the email:
Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards
2536 Channing Way, Building E
Berkeley, California 94720-2432

March 9, 2011

To Whom it May Concern:

This letter and the attached signed disposition confirm my acceptance of the informal resolution I have been offered in reference to campus actions I took part in two years ago as part of a mass, community-based protest against the financial mismanagement of this university that has detrimentally impacted its educational mission. I accept this resolution in recognition that the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards (CSCCS), despite its stated mission to aid this community in upholding the standards outlined in its Code of Student Conduct (Code), has acted in violation of the due process rights and procedural protections afforded me by this Code. The CSCCS's arbitrary and negligent application of the Code and the actions it has taken in violation of my rights under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) preclude me from proceeding to a hearing with any expectation of a just outcome.

Of the several due process and procedural violations the CSCCS has committed since it initiated disciplinary actions against me over a year ago, the following incidents are the most recent:
  1. CSCCS Student Conduct Specialist Jeff Woods refused to honor the timeline outlined in the attached Administrative Disposition which explicitly affords me three business days in which to consider, sign and return the disposition, a significant decision that impacts my academic record and student standing. Permitting me just two business days, Woods justified the shortened timeline with the justification that I had "had time to consider it" and that the offer was similar to earlier iterations. Regardless of the material content of this or any other disposition I've been offered, Woods effectively denied me the procedural protection outlined in the very document I was being asked to consider signing.
  2. In September 2010, I participated in a lengthy pre-hearing conference during which the Hearing Chair, Paul Vojta, made several rulings on procedural issues that would greatly inform my preparations for my hearing, including which version of the Code would govern the hearing and the role my legal counsel would be permitted during the hearing. As the conference was not concluded before I had to leave to attend class, we adjourned with the agreement that the second half of my conference would take place at a later date. Instead, in November, the CSCCS held a second, complete conference with its new Hearing Chair, Lynn Huntsinger, during which she made several rulings that directly contradicted the rulings from my first conference, without ever having informed me that those first rulings would be subject to amendment by a second Chair. Because I had relied on the rulings made by Chair Vojta in preparing my defense, Chair Huntsinger's arbitrary amendments -- some clearly less favorable to my position than were Chair Vojta's -- were detrimental to me.
As I have waited for the timely resolution to this matter that the Code provides for but the CSCCS has not delivered, I have seen indisputable evidence -- through the incidents I've cited and numerous other lapses and inconsistencies on the part of the CSCCS -- that the CSCCS is not prepared to uphold its part of the Code regulating this campus community.

If the CSCCS's mission is indeed to serve an educational purpose in encouraging this community to "hold each other responsible for living up to the standards outlined in the Code," consider this letter aligned with this purpose in holding CSCCS responsible for failing to live up to the standards outlined in the Code.

If the CSCCS's student conduct procedures are indeed governed by the value of "Responsibility," demanding "accountab[ility] for our own behavior and acting in accordance with community standards, including intervening when there is a concern," consider this letter an intervention motivated by great concern that the CSCCS has ceased to fulfill its stated function for this campus community.

And most importantly, if the CSCCS truly claims to uphold U.C. Berkeley's "Principles of Community," wherein "we believe that active participation and leadership in addressing the most pressing issues facing our local and global communities are central to our educational mission," I urge this office to consider the hypocrisy inherent in taking disciplinary, silencing, punitive actions against students who uphold this community principle by actively participating and taking tremendous leadership roles in addressing the most pressing issues facing this campus community and the state- and nation-wide public education system.

These students are standing with their local and global community of activists in demanding greater accountability from their public institutions and their governments. This letter serves as one among many voices demanding that the CSCCS recognize its failure to uphold the educational mission and community principles it claims to value, and its attending incapacity to justly determine and regulate standards for student conduct. The greatest educational benefit to my lengthy subjection to the CSCCS's disciplinary process has been the recognition that actions to challenge its assumptions and procedures are more urgent than ever.



Another Lawsuit Against UCPD (Davis)

Mrak Hall, November 2009. As occupations spread across the state, cops arrested 52 people in the administration building at UC Davis. Criminal charges -- the usual charges cops throw at people after beating them up: assaulting an officer and resisting arrest -- were only filed against one of them, Brienna Holmes. In fact, supported by a conservative DA (as we're seeing in Irvine now), Holmes was forced to go through a criminal trial, which was declared a mistrial last July and the case was finally dismissed.

Now, Holmes is suing UCPD, the Yolo County Sheriff's Department, and the DA. Pay close attention to what the pigs were posting on Facebook, and remember that cops always think that other cops "acted appropriately" -- even when they crush people's hands. As reported by the California Aggie:
[O]n Feb. 4, 2011, Holmes filed a civil lawsuit alleging unreasonable seizure, excessive force, malicious abuse of process and battery. She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the complaint, the arresting officers, Yolo County Sheriff's Deputies Ryan Mez and Gary Richter, violently slammed Holmes onto the hood of a patrol car and pinned one of her arms that had gotten tangled in the strap of her bag. The two officers repeatedly jerked and grabbed Holmes, ignoring her screams that her arm was stuck and in pain.

UC Davis Spokesmen Andy Fell said the police officers acted within their rights.

"Based upon the information available to us, we believe the officers acted appropriately and certainly have no legal vulnerability," he said in a statement.

While preparing for the civil lawsuit, Holmes and her attorney, Stewart Katz, reviewed Facebook updates by one of the arresting officers, Deputy Sheriff Mez.

In a Facebook status on Sept. 25, 2010, Mez posted, "is looking to ruin somebody's day! Anybody wanna go to jail today?"

Then a few months later in November, he posted, "I hate the people I'm with. Fucking Davis people!"

Katz said the Facebook postings might be relevant to the officer's state of mind during the arrest and whether or not he is liable for punitive damages.

"If he operated under ill will or malice, that would be a factor to be considered in terms of whether or not he should be assessed for punitive damages."

Mez was not available to comment in response to the Facebook postings.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Reasonable Adjustments"

As everybody who's been following this stuff is aware, UC Berkeley's Code of Student Conduct and the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) that administers it are a complete disaster. One concrete issue for which we've only just begun to scratch the surface has to do with systematically and structurally downplaying or overlooking sexual violence -- not to mention, in a number of cases, exacerbating its emotional impact on survivors. We will be following up on this in further posts.

But for now we wanted to follow up on a different thread. Another problem with OSC and the Code, which generally falls under the rubric of what's been called "the rule of the arbitrary," comes down to the fact that -- totally apart from the arbitrary uses to which pathetic OSC bureaucrats put it -- the Code enshrines the arbitrary as the basic mode of operation: "even when the Code is followed to the letter, its 'rule' is inescapably arbitrary and subject to the whims and political interests of the administration." There are two ways of making this argument: one frames it as a problem with the way the Code is written, that it contains certain unconstitutional provisions, for example, which could be resolved by re-writing them; the other sees these problems as structural, rooted in and basic to the daily operations of the neoliberal university, embedded to the point that no revisions could hope to resolve them satisfactorily. The latter formulation looks to abolish the Code and OSC, while the former looks to the administration-led Task Force that is currently working on a new set of revisions to the Code.

On this note, we've received an email that was sent by Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande, who is heading up the Task Force, to the rest of the members, in which he proposes inserting an additional clause in order to codify a certain "flexibility" with regard to the Code. As a suggestion, he includes a provision that appears to come from the UC Santa Cruz Code of Student Conduct. Here's the email:

I would like to discuss the possibility of having a clause in the code that would allow for the process to be suspended, but still allow for due process and provisions to remain. I think it would mostly result in being used in large disciplinary cases that the normal process has little ability to impact without it being an exception.

Below is text from another UC that allows that option. I would like to discuss this at our next general meeting.

"104.32 In the interest of fair administration of these regulations and procedures, and consistent with law and university policy, the chancellor or designees may interpret and make reasonable adjustments to jurisdictional and other provisions."
This clause would codify the "rule of the arbitrary" in the Code's provisions -- it would allow the administration to do literally anything it sees fit, from suspending the timeline, to eliminating the role of the adviser, to getting rid of the student's right to remain silent. Anything you imagine would be subject to the will of the administration. That this clause is currently part of Code at UCSC is extremely worrisome, and suggests that it's not simply a case of administrative overreach that will necessarily be overruled at the next Task Force meeting. But it is exactly what we should expect, to the extent that the university claims absolute jurisdiction over both the individual student's body and the collective student body. This is the paternalistic claim that Le Grande and his cronies in the administration stand for: "University knows best."

Friday, March 11, 2011

OSC and Rape

Today's conduct hearing, for one of the Wheeler Hall occupiers from 2009, was live-tweeted by @reclaimuc, @callie_hoo, and @sgnfr. All of these twitter feeds are conveniently available on a twitter list we've put together, appropriately titled "kangaroo court." The cast of characters includes Thomas Frampton, star counsel for the defense coming off a huge victory in his last case; Jeff Woods, prosecutor for the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) and widely seen as one of the stupidest and most incompetent people in UC Berkeley's administrative bureaucracy; Ron Fearing, professor of electrical engineering and the faculty chair of the hearing panel; and, in a minor role, Stacy Holguin, who interprets the Code of Conduct as OSC's "procedural adviser" and monitors protest actions as administrative spy. The hearing ended for the day around 5 pm, and will be taken up once again on -- and this is entirely appropriate -- April Fool's Day.

In the middle of the hearing, we received the following update from thosewhouseit:
What a joke this whole conduct process is. We just learned that Student Regent Jesse Cheng was found guilty of sexual battery by UC Irvine’s OSC. The sentence? Disciplinary probation. To put this in perspective, this fucking rapist gets off with probation, while one of this blog’s own contributors was given a stayed suspension and 20 hours of community service . . . for his participation in the 2009 occupation of Wheeler Hall. Even more egregiously, Cheng will not be removed from his position on the Board of Regents, in effect condoning sexual battery. Again: non-violent civil disobedience gets stayed suspension and community service; rape -- let’s dispense with the technocratic minimization as “unwanted touching” and call a spade a spade -- gets disciplinary probation, a markedly lighter sentence. What the fuck is wrong with these people?!
This is not a new or accidental phenomenon, nor is it only a question of Cheng's position as student regent. Rather, it speaks to the nature of the university's quasi-legal student conduct apparatus itself. The system operates according to assumptions of difference, inferiority, and hierarchy -- whether they are based on politics, age, race, or -- as is the case here -- gender. Again, this speaks to not some sort of idle speculation but a striking pattern of impunity. Take the following examples, just published in the last couple weeks. First, an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer discusses the case of a female UC Berkeley student who was raped four years ago by a "persistent upperclassman." Pay close attention to what OSC does and does not do in the context of these rape allegations:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Warts and All: On the Occupation at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Posted at the Burnt Bookmobile:
The occupation is a feast at which we may satisfy our hunger for beautiful and intense moments.
- Graffiti from the occupied UWM theatre building

The stage is set: years of defeat-induced, pessimistic depression and a more-than-healthy dose of cynicism; cut backs, layoffs, and foreclosures piled on top of already extreme levels of poverty, hopelessness and social disintegration; a context notable for its glaring lack of collective struggle against this misery.

Then suddenly an outburst of activity: the occupation of the State Capitol building in Madison; anti-austerity demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people; massive wildcat sick-ins, student walk-outs and murmurs of a general strike.

Of course this attempt to get back on our feet will include its fair share of missteps and stumbling. All the more so because for many of us, nothing quite like this has yet touched our lives. Even for those of us who desperately track such moments of conflict through the pages of books, across oceans and continents, this is a new and strange place we find ourselves in.

OSC Loses Another One
Usually, we're in solidarity with the workers. But there are some workers we just can't get behind. UCPD, for one. But another group that's caused us a lot of headaches over the past year and a half or so is the folks at the Office of Student Conduct (OSC). They're the ones responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases against student protesters. They're the ones who have suspended students. They're the ones who consistently violate their own rules and procedures, such as pursuing cases far beyond the timeline (i.e. statute of limitations) for their being resolved. As the counterpart to UCPD, the bureaucrats at OSC constitute the quasi-legal arm of the university's repressive apparatus.

On that note, we've just received some great news: Laura Bennett -- who has served as OSC prosecutor in numerous conduct cases since fall 2009, including that of our compañera Laura Zelko as well as a farcical performance against legal powerhouse Thomas Frampton -- is officially leaving her job! We were just forwarded the following email, regarding a currently ongoing student conduct case:
I wanted to email you to let you know that I will be leaving Cal -- I accepted a position at another school. My last day in the office will be Tues March 15. As a result, I want to inform you that after I leave, Jeff [Woods] or Susan [Trageser] would likely be the best contacts for you regarding your case. If you have questions before then, or would like to talk about an informal resolution, please let me know.

Our inside informant adds that OSC already has hired two people on contract in order to deal with the work overload. Just another example of the administration's inefficiency and waste. Why not just abolish OSC?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

General Strike

From burnt bookmobile:
Senators in favor of stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights figured out a way to split this section from the rest of the budget and pass it without the presence of the runaway Democrats who were stalling the passing of this part of the bill. People in Madison are running angrily to the Capitol and storming the doors, starting shoving matches with the police holding them shut until the police gave up and retreated. Once inside thousands of people filled the building and chanted “general strike” and “occupy”, amongst other things. Strikes seem more imminent than ever. They appear as certain. Thus chanting and marching in circles appear as more than obvious to everyone as finally and obviously inadequate. News sources are describing firetrucks driving around Madison blaring their sirens as sense of a state of emergency prevails across the city. They are joined by an endless stream of cars in traffic honking their horns constantly as well.

UPR Escalates

More info at occupyca, photos at Indymedia PR.

Friday, March 11 is the World Day of Solidarity with the Students of the University of Puerto Rico:
March 11, 1971 was one of the bloodiest single days in the history of the University of Puerto Rico. The main campus at Río Piedras was occupied by the Puerto Rico Police, unleashing violent confrontations that ended the lives of two police officers, including the then chief of the notorious Tactical Operations Unit, and one student.

Barely one year before, on March 4, 1970, during a student demonstration, student Antonia Martínez Lagares was shot dead by police. These tragedies influenced a series of decisions that helped reduce the intensity of on-campus conflicts during the following decades, including the removal of the United States’ Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), and an institutional commitment to resolving conflicts without police intervention.

Forty years later, the UPR community, led by the students, still struggles for a democratic and accessible institution, against the abusive and exclusionary policies of the latest colonial government. Among these, aside from its clear intention to privatize higher education as much as it can, said government has laid off over 25,000 public employees, and intends to build a gasoduct across the island that will displace entire communities and impact areas of high ecological and archeological value.

In this context, the Río Piedras Campus once again lived several months of police occupation, with the open support of the government and university administrators, in reaction to the strike democratically declared by the Río Piedras General Student Assembly, rejecting an unjust and arbitrary $800 hike in the cost of studying. The eyes of the world watched as Puerto Rico Police officers tortured peaceful civil disobedients with impunity, sexually accosted and attacked women students, discriminatorily harassed student leaders, and savagely beat people, even under custody, all before the television cameras.

There can be no doubt that the recent decision by Governor Luis Fortuño to withdraw the bulk of the police force from the Río Piedras Campus is a partial victory for the students, who with their bravery and determination have raised the political cost of sustaining that level of repression way to high for the government to afford. However, now is not the time to lower the guard. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Fortuño administration temporarily curtails its use of brute force, only to return even more violently under any pretext. We are convinced that if the Puerto Rico Police is not removed immediately, completely, and permanently from all UPR campuses, it will only be a matter of time before another March 11.

In addition, we are united by the firm conviction that the demands of the UPR community are just. The strike is still in effect, and the struggle (its current phase) will continue until the $800 hike is eliminated. In the longer term, we support a real democratization of the decision-making process in the UPR, so that it is the community that determines the best way to handle the institution’s financial and administrative problems.

For all of these reasons, Friday, March 11, 2011, fortieth anniversary of that fateful March 11, will be World Day of Solidarity with the UPR. On that day we will hold, in our respective cities, simultaneous demonstrations together with individuals and organizations that support just causes. At a time when the powerful voice of the brave Egyptian people and all arab nations is still ringing around the the globe, we are confident that the people of consciousness of the world will welcome this initiative and organize their own activities of solidarity on that day.
There will be a solidarity rally in San Francisco on Friday, March 11, 4:30-7:00pm at the 24th/Mission BART Station Plaza.

UC Davis Infiltrates Student Protest Groups

What follows is a chunk of an investigative report that will be published soon in The California Aggie. It's based on documents obtained through a request under the California Public Records Act, the same way we were able to get our hands on that 300+ page document dump filled with internal UC Berkeley administration emails from the protests in November 2009 and live week. The new documents on which this article is based are available here. (Note, for example, the reference to our compañeros at the Bicycle Barricade on page 8.) Anyway, the article has been circulating by email at UC Davis, so we figured we'd post it here as well:
For several months, administrators, students, and police have been coordinating an under-the-radar response team to infiltrate student protest groups, relay information to administrators and police leadership, and control peaceful gatherings in response to tuition spikes and budget cuts.

At least one undercover police officer infiltrated the most recent protests on March 2: Officer Joanne Zekany of the UCDPD was dressed in casual business attire as she marched with students last Wednesday afternoon. When asked about her affiliation, Officer Zekany lied to students, saying she was an administrator with the Neuroscience Department in Briggs Hall, and made a disparaging comment about the intelligence of a student. Officer Zekany has worked for the UCDPD for over two years and was caught disseminating information regarding the plans and whereabouts of the peaceful protestors.

This comes in tandem with discoveries that have been made about the existence of a complex protest response plan established jointly between police, students, and administrators, on the wake of protests throughout the 2010-11 academic year.

According to documents released in response to a filing under the California Public Records Act, UC Administrators established the “Activism Response Team”-- a network of student leaders, high-ranking administrators, and police leadership in the fall of 2010 to keep peaceful protestors under the administration’s control through direct communication with University leadership, including Chancellor Linda Katehi. The group served to “accompany students” throughout protests, “observe the [protest] situation”, “update staff” about the situation, and “point out safety issues and risks to students”, according to an agenda schedule from August of last year.

Within the program, a “Leadership Team” was established that included many top-ranking UCD administrators, including Vice Chancellor Fred Wood, Vice Chancellor John Meyer, former Provost and Current Dean of the College of Engineering Enrique Lavernia, and Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor Robert Loessberg-Zahl. According to program documents, this group “makes decisions in communication with Chancellor [Katehi], Chief of Police [Annette Spicuzza], and Assistant Vice Chancellor [Griselda Castro]”. The documents do not address the potential political implications of allying the Chancellor and Police against student protestors.

A “Student Activism Team” was also established, and included a far-reaching network of UCD administrators employed in ASUCD, CAPS, Financial Aid, SJA, the Student Academic Success Center, and Student Housing to help monitor student activity.

According to a document titled “Student Activism Response Protocol” dated August 18, 2010, administrators were given the responsibility to “receive information from all Student Affairs staff regarding any anticipated student actions, not just those of registered student organizations”, “inform police and request standby support if appropriate”, and “notify and maintain communication with news service”.

Furthermore, the program encouraged police collaboration at times: A “Support Team” was established to “provide a presence at student actions and rallies”, “offer action sponsors suggestions on how to handle the crowd”, and to “request ... Police presence if needed”.

Emails between administrators and police officers recovered under the Public Records Act also reveal that administrators and police were forwarding one another protest pamphlets, and Facebook links regarding protest information.
[Update Wednesday, 5:41pm]: Important follow-up from thosewhouseit, tracing the spread of surveillance and monitoring techniques on other UC campuses, from Berkeley to Santa Cruz.

Saif Gaddafi's London Mansion Occupied

From Indymedia London:
This morning a group calling themselves Topple The Tyrants have occupied the £10m Hampsted Mansion of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, in solidarity with the Libyan people and their struggle to overthrow the murderous Gaddafi regime.
A spokesman for the group said "We didn't trust the British government to properly seize the Gaddafi regime's corrupt assets, so we took matters into our own hands."
"The British government only recently stopped actively helping to train the Libyan regime in "crowd control" techniques, through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and a midlands based arms manufacturer, NMS Systems. As well as training the regime in repression, British corporations are also guilty of providing the same weapons that are now being used by Gaddaffi against the Libyan people."
The mansion is managed by Gaddaffi through a holding company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The spokesman for occupiers said "Gaddafi, Mubarak, the House of Saud and numerous other tyrants use front companies in British protectorates to avoid paying tax and above all to protect their anonymity. Britain actively assists tyrants, corporations and the super rich to rob their people blind. Our aim is to make sure that the assets stolen by Gaddafi are returned to the Libyan people and don't disappear into the pockets of governments or corporations. In the meantime we want to welcome refugees from the conflict in Libya and those fleeing tyranny and oppression across the world."
"We stand in solidarity with the Libyan people."
For media enquiries contact Montgomery Jones on 07767 808332
More information -

Contact email:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On the Edge

Photo: Marika Iyer and Alex Barnett, two of the nine protesters on the Wheeler ledge, take to the Daily Cal:
On March 2, a national day of action to defend public education, 17 people were arrested for refusing to leave Wheeler Hall. Less than 24 hours later, nine students locked themselves to a ledge atop the building, four stories above ground, with four demands:
  1. Stop the $1.4 billion in cuts to California public education.
  2. Allow democratic decision making in the budgetary process.
  3. An end to student repression through a politically motivated student conduct process.
  4. An immediate end to Operational Excellence (OE), the campus's budget cut program.
UC Berkeley sophomore Jessica Astillero recounts her experience: "I was sitting in one of the doorways studying, when all of a sudden riot police rushed up the steps and told us to move. As we did, they started shoving us and the next thing I know, I get hit with a baton in the face and then another officer maced me right in the eyes ... it was a ridiculously excessive use of force for such a peaceful demonstration."
Several questions have been raised about last Thursday's action:
What was accomplished? What does this demonstrate? This action witnessed the first concrete victories since protests began in fall 2009; specifically: one, a decisive end to past and present conduct charges which the campus has used to intimidate students from engaging in political action, and two, a meeting between Chancellor Birgeneau, the chair of Operational Excellence, and the students and workers on campus who are directly affected by its proposed implementation. The events of March 3 also clearly demonstrated the value and necessity of direct action. The administration has proven that they will not respond to anything but the most spectacular expressions of student dissent. Once again, this has exposed the administration's complete disregard for the collective will and well-being of students and workers and has brought to attention the authoritarian logic governing the campus.
Why is there so much scrutiny on UC Berkeley administrative decision-making, when all energy could be directed towards the cuts coming out of Sacramento? The concrete situation we are experiencing on our campus and systemwide has as much to do with the administration's prioritization of funds as it does with cuts at the state level. Operational Excellence - our university's internal restructuring program - comes out of last year's $3 million contract with consulting firm Bain & Company. Not only is it irresponsible for our administration to pay out that much in contracting costs in these conditions but also the move emphasizes their utter inability to "administer" the campus (the job they claim requires a six-figure salary) as well as their exclusion of those most affected by the restructuring from important decision-making processes.
Additionally, OE is branded as eliminating excessive bureaucratic and managerial layers, yet staff have already buckled under the added strain resulting from last year's layoffs. Rather than eliminating unneeded positions, OE is eliminating vital positions and reallocating that work to the remaining staff members; this is nothing short of exploitation. Top administrative ranks, however, remain untouched. We also shouldn't be quick to forget the university administration's use of promised fee increases as construction collateral as well as their opting for riskier investments which cost the university $23 billion in the 2008 recession. The administration does not have its hands tied as it would like us all to think - it very much has control over the allocation of what funds are at its disposal.
What's next? Chancellor Birgeneau should be meeting regularly with concerned students, not least the departments and programs that are being affected by such unilateral decision-making. He must be accessible. He cannot hide in an office or a house - we must have these conversations, and they must be public. The administration's attitude echoes that of President of the University of California Mark Yudof - "being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: There are many people under you, but no one is listening ... "
We are here to tell the administration: We are not corpses. The chancellor, provost, vice chancellor, dean of students and any other unilateral decision-maker on our campus must realize: This action was a response to their consistent refusal to make themselves accountable to those who work and study on campus. As students, we will not tolerate this any longer.
For more information, check out and

Fuck You Mitch

Yesterday we mentioned the need to keep a careful eye on the UC administration and especially on UCPD and its chief Mitch Celaya to make them follow through with the concessions made to the protesters on the Wheeler ledge. Now we find:
Misdemeanor Charges Are Filed Against 14 UC Berkeley Protesters

BERKELEY, Calif. -- A total of 14 people were charged Monday with misdemeanor offenses for refusing to leave Wheeler Hall during a protest at the University of California at Berkeley last Wednesday, according to prosecutors.

However, Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said no charges have been filed so far against another group of nine protesters who chained themselves to the ledge on the fourth floor of Wheeler Hall in a second day of protests on Thursday.

Drenick said UC Berkeley police are still finishing their report on that incident and have not turned it in to prosecutors for possible charges.
Fuck you and your "recommendations" Mitch. You better start making phone calls to the DA.

[Update Wednesday, 9:48am]: Mitchell is apparently very upset that people think he didn't follow through on his end of the deal. He insists he's made two calls to the DA, and that he recommended that the DA not bring misdemeanor charges. And, apparently, the DA doesn't give a shit. So, to be clear: yes, Mitchell, you made your calls. But based on the DA's actions, we are left wondering whether your recommendations were persuasive enough. So we repeat our earlier recommendation to you: push harder.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Health and Safety on the Wheeler Ledge

Protesters on Wheeler Hall ledge
Four stories below the ledge occupied by eight protesters (there had been nine, but one had been grabbed by the police earlier in the day), six of whom had locked themselves together with PVC pipes, Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande nervously walked out in front of the hundreds of protesters who were supporting the occupiers above in order to read a statement from Chancellor Birgeneau. (Actually, Le Grande first attempted to read the statement from the second-floor window, like a king addressing his subjects -- the response from below were deafening boos and angry chants.) The statement, in part, reads:

Yesterday was a Day of Action for Public Education in which you and many others made your voices heard in support of public higher education. Like all of you, I am dismayed at the staggering size of a $1.4 billion cut to all sectors of public higher education. I am fully sympathetic with your concerns about the State’s disinvestment in public higher education and have been working hard in Sacramento to address this issue.

However, you have chosen a method of protest that I cannot support. I am very concerned about your health and safety and urge you to end this unsafe action. In the interest of your safety and that of others, we have closed Wheeler Hall. Please consider your fellow-students’ right to attend classes.
These are some very strange things to say. What jumps out first are the usual propaganda strategies deployed by the UC administration: shift the target of criticism to dodge the blame. "Like all of you," Birgeneau writes in a desperate attempt to conjure up a feeling of solidarity -- the demands of the protesters on the ledge included rolling back the $1.4 billion budget cuts but Sacramento was far from the only target. The key target, which Birgeneau clearly understands, is the UC administration. As we wrote here last fall,
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 [in 2009] 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 [i.e. 2010] the regents came together to raise our tuition once again.
UC administrators were the ones responsible for turning to risky Wall Street investments, which cost us $23 billion when the economic crisis hit; UC administrators were the ones who committed themselves to using student tuition -- and the promise of future tuition increases -- as collateral for construction bonds to feed an insatiable appetite for capital projects. For their part, the UC regents are appointed by the governor -- they are extensions of the political center of the state, nodes in a plutocratic constellation of corporate interests and exploitation that hides behind the aura of the country's most "liberal" university. Sacramento, it bears repeating, is everywhere.

But there's a lot more here than just dodging the blame. For starters, look at the language: lots of "I" sentences. "I am dismayed," "I am sympathetic," "I cannot support." We don't care how you feel -- we just care what you do. "I am very concerned," Birgeneau writes, "about your health and safety." Health and safety. What is that most bureaucratic formulation? Not health, not safety, but health-and-safety. What is this compound noun, and what does it mean?

On the Limits of Protest

From thosewhouseit:
We have just learned that Tuesday’s issue of the Daily Cal will feature an explanation and analysis of last Thursday’s occupation by its protagonists, including a first stab at next steps. Once again we commend our comrades for their excellent work and look forward to seeing what they have in store for us. We are confident that these students are conscious of the limits of their achievements, but by the same token we scoff at accusations of reformism. To those who would reject this action on the grounds that negotiations with administrators is a source of legitimation; that we must immediately transform social relations and not ask for partial concessions; that Thursday’s victory is no more substantial than liberal calls to “defend public education,” we wish you good luck in revolutionizing the relations of production by yourselves, purity tests and all.
We are under no illusion that the content of the administration’s concessions is in itself meaningful. The latest Wheeler occupation was a step forward for two primary reasons. First and most apparently, we haven’t had anything representable as a concrete victory for direct action at Berkeley since the October 2009 occupation of the anthropology library. Some might argue that the original Wheeler occupation led Schwarzenegger to restore previously cut funding to the UC, but there’s no definitive evidence to suggest this is the case, save for a lone quote from his chief of staff that appeared in the New York Times. In any case, with a moribund student-worker movement on March 2 revitalized by the following day’s victory, there’s something to be said for the necessity of re-moralization if we are to get anywhere in our fight against austerity.
Second, as we’ve suggested before, militant confrontation with the cops should never be considered as an end in itself, but it is certainly desirable as a means of radicalizing students and workers whose consciousness remains to be developed in the process of struggle. The violent confrontation with the state’s first line of defense allows the dispossessed to experience firsthand just how far the administrative-managerial class is willing to go to protect its interests. As one student told the Daily Cal,
“The police hit us with the batons in the stomach with the tip of their stick. Absolutely full, full force,” said Khademi, a professional violinist who said he now suffers injuries to his left arm, making it difficult to play.
The number of students who were, or at least witnessed, their friends and comrades-in-struggle being pepper-sprayed and beaten with nightsticks is pretty alarming given that this was a nonviolent protest in the center of an elite establishment if there ever was one. No longer can these students deny how far the UCB administration is willing to go to suppress criticism of its austerity measures, nor will many of them likely remain dormant as before. When we build for the next action (and the one after that), we will have a community-in-struggle waiting in the wings.
We had something similar (though obviously to a much larger extent) after the first Wheeler occupation; we all remember how militant the student movement was that December. We’re not quite there yet, but we will hopefully be soon. Let’s use this recent victory -- and it must be represented as a victory -- to build a mass militant student movement. We’re not talking about some hypothetical notion of “mass” in which we have to wait around for a consecrated criterion that will never actually materialize, nor do we fetishize “militancy” as identical to spontaneous acts of violence. As we move forward, let’s be sure to remain conscious of the limitations of Thursday’s action without slipping into the morass of maximalist pessimism. It was unconditionally a victory, even if merely a means of building for the next more substantial action.
And P.S.: Fuck the Daily Cal for the most reactionary editorial we’ve seen it publish in years. This cryptic horseshit about the necessity of finding a “true leader” is laughable, especially given that one of their possible candidates was ASUC President Noah Stern. The most indicative sentence in the entire column was the following:
Protests should have a more cohesive message and be directed at legislators and other state officials who are actually making the cuts to public education.
And there we have it: typical Democratic politics masquerading as objective analysis. What a joke. We hereby challenge the Daily Cal to identify a single instance of American civil disobedience in which the targeting of legislators yielded success. If you still haven’t gotten the memo, the anti-austerity movement is not interested in asking Jerry Brown to change his mind, nor any of these technocrats. They have nothing to give us. Do you really think that a mass march with a couple dozen nonviolent arrests will convince these administrators to change their minds? We can’t ask for what’s already owed to us; we have to take it.

Direct Action Works: Some Follow Up

A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. The protesters who locked themselves down on the Wheeler Ledge won the following concessions from the UC administration:
  1. A meeting to discuss Operational Excellence (OE) will be held with Chancellor Birgeneau, the chair of OE, and a group of students and workers;
  2. Basically no action will be taken to punish the protesters on the Wheeler ledge: they will receive only a "notification" from the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) and trespassing charges will be treated as an infraction instead of a misdemeanor;
  3. Occupiers of Wheeler Hall in 2009 will receive a new offer ("administrative disposition," in bureaucratic lingo) from OSC to resolve their cases: instead of a "stayed suspension" (which basically means that if you get in trouble for literally anything you're automatically suspended) they offer will be for "disciplinary probation" (a somewhat milder version, but that entails an entirely new hearing process) until the end of the spring 2011 semester.
So far, the administration is following up on the deal. But what's important to remember here is that the administration would never have negotiated under normal circumstances -- they did so only because we made them, because they were forced to. Even after this agreement, then, we can't let our guard down -- the administration must always be kept in check. On that note, we're posting the following emails sent by key administrators who will be responsible for turning these negotiating points into concrete results. (Daniela Urban is a member of the Campus Rights Project and was the primary negotiator for the protesters on the ledge.)

The first email is from Associate Dean of Students Christina Gonzales, who oversees student conduct issues:
From: Christina Gonzales
Date: Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Subject: RE: Follow Up on March 3 Wheeler Ledge Sit-In
To: Daniela Urban
Cc: Jonathan Poullard , Mitchell Celaya ,

Dear Daniela

The Center for Student Conduct [i.e. OSC] has sent out a new administrative disposition (they went out on Thursday night) to students facing conduct charges from November 20, 2009. We received the signed copies of the new disposition by the participants of the ledge sit-in.

The notifications that were agreed upon for March 2 & 3, 2011 will go to students by the end of this week, I sent the names you shared with the Center for Student Conduct so that the letters could be drafted and sent out.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you

Christina Gonzales
Associate Dean of Students
The next email is from Mitch Celaya, the chief of UCPD. Note that he has not confirmed anything, but has merely made a "recommendation" to the DA. Criminal charges will most likely be minimal in any case, but this is definitely something to keep our eyes on -- Celaya is notoriously sketchy:
From: Mitchell Celaya
Date: Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Subject: RE: Follow Up on March 3 Wheeler Ledge Sit-In
To: Daniela Urban,, Christina Gonzales ,


I made the recommendation to the charging DA, because we field cited out the 9 students on Thursday I don't expect to get a reply from the DA until the end of the week at the earliest. I will advise you of the DA's response as soon as I get it. Mitch
Thanks, Mitch. More from the Daily Cal here.

[Update Tuesday, 1:12am]: Either Mitch didn't follow through, or his "recommendation" isn't worth shit.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whose Wheeler Hall?

A UC Berkeley grad student who teaches a class in Wheeler Hall sent the following reflections on property, the police, and the administration to her students:

The same questions I ask about the claims over "intellectual property" have always been worth asking about physical property. By what right do people claim the right to exclude? What rights do people who labor and create have to define access and share what they have?

Those of you who tried to come on Thursday, I apologize -- the police let several of us in and we were inside the building until police came and told us the chancellor was closing the building at which point we had to leave.
A question this course should lead you to ask is: by what right does the chancellor get to close Wheeler Hall? Whose property is it?

Know that this university exists because the land was donated by the state to the university in exchange for it providing free education to the citizens of California. In terms of labor theories of value, if the labor of teachers is part of the educational mission, at what point do teachers get to decide what happens on school property? If you believe, as I do, that students' labor is also part of education -- helping create what is learned by all in the classroom, what right do students have to make use of the spaces that were given as sites of education? If there is disagreement or diversity of opinion, who or what should arbitrate these rights?

I later got an email from the chancellor saying there was a "health and safety issue" in Wheeler which necessitated closing it. This seems odd to me. I also heard from a friend who was stopping by Wheeler (a volunteer medic) that police had pepper-sprayed and beaten protesters with batons while attempting to remove them from the area. (Was that the health and safety issue? If so, I can think of a few ways short of closing the building that could have protected people.)

I encourage you to think about the primacy of property rights in what happened at Wheeler Hall. Property rights in objects were supreme over rights over people's own bodies. The rights to bodily integrity of the students were not as important as the rights of the chancellor to control what happens in Wheeler Hall. It's true there may have been a concern about damage to the building -- but during the first occupation a police officer smashed the hand (and nearly took off the finger) of a student who was participating in the protests (nonviolently and not causing property damage), and yet police are still allowed on campus. The costs and the harm of  batons and pepper spray are not as much concern to the university as the right of the university to control property.
Whose rights are being protected by this? (Note that we were carrying on our section without a problem until this happened, it was the police who were limiting access.)

Of course there is the question of [a] student's right to pursue an education without protest. As above, who should be the arbiter between those different opinions about educational priorities in situations where protesters ARE disrupting classes?

But also, what happens if you include the rights of the students and former students, and also the janitors (speaking of keeping the building in good shape) who are no longer on campus because of the policies like fee hikes and the layoffs dictated by Operational Excellence? Did they have any rights? Milton Friedman (whom we read this week) would say no. But what about the founders of the UC system and its mission?

Also, the rights of nonprotesting students to pursue an education are affected anyway, because even despite the massive fee increases the resulting funds have not gone to education: class sizes are increasing, labs are cut, teaching resources are cut, class sessions are cut (this course has four fewer classes than usual because of the cuts), libraries are closed, construction disrupts the campus as much as protests.
I hope this is food for thought and future discussion!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Jerry Brown:
"As a matter of fact, if the taxes go down the cuts will be doubled, that's where we are it’s not easy, but I didn't come here to put sugar and syrup on the problem, I'm telling you the way it is."
Mark Yudof:
[K]nown for his love of pancakes, Yudof once had the largest private collection of maple syrup in America.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Wheeler Ledge

We're too tired to write anything right now, but we wanted to post a few links anyway. Also, check out our twitter feed for a minute-by-minute account of the day, and this twitter list from Student Activism for tweets from many of those on the scene.

- "Wheeler Locked Down Once Again" (thosewhouseit)
- "A Victory for Direct Action" (thosewhouseit)
- "Roof of Wheeler Hall Occupied" (occupyca)
- "Berkeley Students Occupy Ledge at Wheeler Hall" (student activism)
- "Wheeler Hall Occupied" (zunguzungu)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Occupation at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The kids in Milwaukee just published a press release on their webpage:
75 University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) students are currently occupying the Peck School of the Arts Theater Building.

Milwaukee, WI March 2, 2011 -- There are currently about 75 University of Wisconsin Milwaukee students occupying the Peck School of the Arts Theater Building. The occupiers adopted this solidarity statement: “We stand in solidarity with the workers and students striking and occupying the Wisconsin State Capitol building.  We demand immunity for all occupiers and strikers involved in these actions.”
“Students and workers across Wisconsin are fighting back against Governor Walker’s attacks on education, public services, and underrepresented groups. UWM students are occupying in solidarity with students and workers from Egypt to Madison,” said Jacob Flom.


Jenna Pope

Jacob Flom
Solidarity with the occupiers in Wisconsin!

More photos, thoughts at the Burnt Bookmobile.

March 3 [Updated]

(via @jpanzar)

The fallout: 17 students were arrested at last night at the Wheeler Hall sit-in. They were taken to Berkeley City Jail, probably to be cited and released. No update yet as of Thursday morning though, will post as soon as we hear something.

Meanwhile, students at the sit-in at UC Santa Cruz apparently decided to stay overnight.

[Update Thursday 8:47am]:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 2 [Updated with images]

(pdf here)

State-wide actions are listed here (via Mobilize Berkeley).

[Updates Wednesday 5:32pm]: Pictures from the rally that's happening now in front of Wheeler Hall.

(via @jpanzar)

... and, as always, the cops are hovering in the background...

Images from UC Davis here. Some details from earlier in the day are here.

Statement on Benefits Decentralization Plan

From the email:
The Berkeley Unit of UAW 2865 has recently learned of a draft, campus-wide Benefits Decentralization plan, which has been presented by the Budget Office as follows:

With this change, the Campus Budget Office will no longer process monthly transactions reimbursing campus departments for the actual cost of academic and staff benefits, including graduate student fee remission expense. Instead, departments will receive an allocation of central funding for this expense. The campus will, simultaneously with the decentralization of expense, establish permanent base budgets for units fully offsetting the initial cost and, assuming incremental funds are available, expects to provide annual budget adjustments to departments in response to changes in benefits costs. [emphasis added]

Among the main reasons for this change, the Budget Office mentions funding reductions from UCOP, and a desire to increase budgetary flexibility at the department level. While certain important details of the Benefits Decentralization plan remain undisclosed, based on the draft proposal circulated by the Budget Office, we feel a need to express strenuous opposition to this plan, and to make plain our intention to block this proposed reform.