Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Cross posted from Occupy CA:
The Former Bank
at 75 River Street in Santa Cruz
Has been occupied!
This building is being re-purposed in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz. Formerly a bank, the building was bought by Wells Fargo, closed, and has been vacant for the past three years. The company leasing the building manages foreclosures for Wells Fargo.
The building is being re-purposed under Federal and State laws surrounding “adverse possession.” This law states that space is most beneficial to the people who use it. Spaces like this one, reclaimed from the wealthiest 1%, are places where we can seek redress to our grievances.
In the years to come, this space will be used to organize humanitarian efforts, house a library, and provide a forum for discussion. The General Assembly of Occupy Santa Cruz is also invited to use this space.
This building will be a space for the expansion of our movement; please respect it as our new home.
Come join us now at 75 River Street!
If we want to keep this space for our movement it is critical that we have hundreds of people defending it today and tonight. Bring your sleeping bags and snacks and come see our new space. Call and text everyone you know and tell them to hurry down!
Pictures on Indybay, here and here.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Open Letter to the Public
I keep hearing, "Why can't Occupy UC Davis be like those great protests of our past? Like the peace protests? Everyone was behind those students at Kent State."
A Gallup Poll conducted one week after the Kent State shootings found that 58 percent of the public blamed the students themselves, while only 11 percent blamed the National Guardsmen. Newsweek, May 18, 1970, p. 30. They got what was coming to them.
We look into the past at successful social justice movements and idealize them. Of course the civil rights movement was right. Of course women should have the right to vote. Of course abolitionists would prevail. We take these things for granted; who could ever have disagreed with these sentiments? We forget that these movements had an uphill battle for a reason, that, in their time, their heroes were condemned as radicals, thugs, troublemakers, dirty bums, agitators, and more, just as protesters of today are condemned.
We also have a very selective memory. Many people mention Kent State, but have you ever heard anyone ever invoke the massacre at Jackson State University, just ten days later, where police indiscriminately barraged a student dormitory, killing two students of color? When creating our glorious narrative of that era of civil disobedience in the name of social justice, how easily we gloss over certain events and emphasize others. We must remember, after the pepper spray wears off and the necessary inconveniences of a protest continue, not to apply the standards of this idealized past to the activists of social conscience of today and tomorrow.
Bernie Goldsmith, Occupier
Monday, November 28, 2011
From the Bay Citizen:
Regents of the University of California, meeting for the first time since campus police used pepper spray and riot batons to disperse student protests at Berkeley and Davis, listened to nearly three hours of public complaints about those incidents and tuition increases before chanting protesters disrupted the meeting and drove them from the room.(pic via Daily Cal)
The Regents then reconvened in a smaller room down the hall from the protesters, where they voted to raise the salaries of nearly a dozen university administrators and lawyers by as much as 21.9 percent.
The regents also approved salary raises for 10 administrators and managers, including a 9.9 percent increase for Meredith Michaels, vice chancellor of planning and budget at UC Irvine, whose annual salary will increase to $247,275 from $225,000.
Six campus attorneys also received salary increases. The largest increase, 21.9 percent, went to Steven A. Drown, chief campus counsel and associate general counsel at UC Davis. His yearly salary will rise to $250,000 from $205,045.
From bicycle barricade:
The UCD general assembly inside occupied Dutton Hall has unanimously agreed to continue occupying the building for 2 weeks to blockade the university’s administrative and financial functions. Following UCSC’s lead, the GA also decided on 3 main demands:
1) The immediate resignation of Katehi
2) Cops off campus, replaced with an alternative safety group
3) Freeze on tuition increases
[Some Regents Arrive At UCLA Today]
CA GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 11120
"It is the public policy of this state that public agencies exist to aid
in the conduct of the people's business and the proceedings of public agencies
be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed."
- Rivolta Femminile
Our universities are fraying at the seams. At schools throughout California, across the UK and in New York, we've seen waves of protest this November, including student walkouts and class cancellations unimaginable a month ago. As I write, another UC strike approaches, with others likely to follow over the coming weeks and months.
Our unsettled present is extraordinary, and unexpected. That much is clear to all. But there are different kinds of surprise, different reasons for shock. Some, particularly those speaking on national television, seem surprised above all at the severity of police attacks on our bodies and our encampments. They're shocked at images of seated students casually being pepper-sprayed, or at the unrelenting baton blows endured by those of us who linked arms around a small circle of tents. How, they ask, could such violence be visited upon students, especially when they acted non-violently, only wanted to set up a few tents, and issued little more than anodyne calls for universal public education?
Without question, we reply, the violence was severe, disproportionate, and hideous. Many of us are still hurting, and those videos are sickening. But those with whom I've spoken, those who endured violence, aren't particularly surprised at what they faced. After all, it's all happened before. At every single anti-privatization protest that's occurred in northern California since the fall of 2010, university police have shot pepper spray at students. Last year, a cop pulled a gun on a group of us. Our friends have had their hands crushed on police barricades, their ribs bruised and fractured by baton blows on the highway, and their partially-clothed bodies dragged from sleeping bags at five in the morning, first into the cold air and then to cold cells.
We knew what they were prepared to do to us. We just didn't know anyone would care this time. And neither did our assorted chancellors and police chiefs, who treated the initial round of protests in the same viciously perfunctory way they've treated other, recent actions. They are now shocked at mounting calls for their resignation; while we are surprised by – and at times unsure how to use -- our mounting collective power.
In navigating the current sequence of university protest, we've leaned heavily on each other, and have looked for words, however imperfect, from other sites of struggle. In particular, students in the bay area have followed, and have joined, recent uprisings in Oakland, from the street actions in response to the police murder of Oscar Grant, to the mobilizations this fall in defense of the Oakland Commune. When the encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza was raided last month, dozens of university students participated in the march back to the Plaza, enduring waves of tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets. The following day, we joined thousands in retaking the Plaza and declaring a city-wide general strike for the following Wednesday. During the strike, students marched down Telegraph from UC Berkeley, and then, with tens of thousands, marched to shut down the Oakland port.
These mobilizations in defense of the Oakland Commune gave university students a striking vocabulary of resistance, a repertoire of text and image that we've drawn upon and revised in shaping recent campus actions. In Oakland, the image of the mass assembly was sutured with the term “general strike” – each of us had seen the picture of the evening assembly framed with the phrase: “strike while the iron is hot” – so, at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, the moment our assemblies expanded beyond the boundaries of our quads and plazas, we similarly called for general strikes.
It's worth asking, however, just how general these strikes have been, and relatedly, whether our strike calls have been properly-tailored to their political moment. Some on the left have accused us of misusing the term general strike, of diluting the meaning of the phrase insofar as absenteeism hasn't been universal. Their point is well taken, of course: we haven't yet organized a full-scale shutdown of a city or sector of social life. Many in Oakland went to work on November 2, while nearly all university employees (excepting instructors) carried out their jobs on November 15. Nevertheless, these strikes have been remarkably widespread and effective; they've blocked, for a time, the operations of particular industries and institutions. And our repeated use of the phrase general strike seems to have enabled, and rendered legible, certain important dimensions of these events – dimensions that other terms (i.e. shutdown, blockade, boycott, or student walkout) would have failed to capture or set off.
To call a strike general is to give it a predication that puts off, or qualifies, all particularizing predications it might otherwise be given. A general strike is not a strike carried out by a clearly-demarcated body of workers; it's not called in order to effect some particular change of policy or economic practice; in terms of tactics, the general strike is promiscuous, embracing flying pickets, occupations, wildcats, mutual aid, and widespread sabotage. A strike is general only if its limits are unsettled, expansive, indistinct: if it gives birth to unexpected subjects and sites of struggle.
Our recent strike actions are perhaps most notable for their expansive quality, for how they've inspired and enabled surprising lines of struggle. In calling for a general strike throughout the city of Oakland, for instance, those gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza didn't necessarily know they were calling for the shutting down of Oakland's port, since the shutdown was planned in the days following the strike resolution. Nor did they know that, a few weeks after the successful port action, a new call – for a general, west coast port shutdown on December 12 – would be crafted and endorsed by assemblies from Portland to Los Angeles. The call for a citywide general strike released a contagion at the ports that has not yet subsided.
A similar logic of contagion has animated recent university struggles. On November 9 – a statewide day of action for public education – university police attempted to repress with force a small encampment at UC Berkeley. Students (and a few faculty members) formed soft blockades around the tents and endured two rounds of severe baton blows. While the tents were ultimately taken from us, our numbers grew throughout the day and we were able at night to hold the Sproul steps and plaza – space enough for a mass general assembly. There, we called a November 15 general strike of higher education – a call that was taken up, to an uneven degree, at other university campuses. Students at UCLA established an encampment, while those at Davis held a mass rally on the 15th, which led into an extended building occupation. When they were forced out of the building, they established an outdoor encampment. The images of Lt. Pike casually pepper-spraying students as they surrounded this encampment have gone viral, just as the general strike call issued last week by the Davis assembly has set off a rash of solidarity actions throughout the state, set to intensify in the coming days.
Both Berkeley and Davis' general strike calls have been criticized for casting too wide a net. Why not call for campus-wide, rather than system-wide, strikes, we've been asked? While it would be easy enough to simply say in response that the expansive calls have enabled a kind of campus-to-campus relay that may have been foreclosed by more narrowly-tailored calls, it's also worth noting that narrower calls might have fractured our assemblies. At Berkeley, an initial call for a system-wide UC strike was challenged by CSU and community college students, who pushed for an expansion of the call to all of higher education. Similarly, students from other UC campuses edited the strike call so that it would be more legible on their home campuses, while activists with Occupy Oakland worked to compose a supplementary call to encourage east bay residents – students and non-students alike – to march up to UC Berkeley for the November 15 general assembly. What these anecdotes reveal is the cross-sectoral heterogeneity of our assemblies – a heterogeneity that effectively disallows more conventional, narrowly-focused strike calls.
The openness of our assemblies and encampments to all is a large part of what makes them politically effective. Not only does this openness compel those who keep up the encampments to face the need for ever more meaningful forms of mutual aid, thus allowing our encampments to become actual sites of social reproduction, this openness also strengthens regional solidarities. The lesson of the 1969 TWLF strike at UC Berkeley – which succeeded only when east bay municipal workers initiated a sympathy strike – is that student movements are most effective when they are supported by, and coordinated with, social struggles outside the universities. Campus administrators are aware of this fact, and work assiduously to re-assert, through various disciplinary techniques, the political disarticulation of students from non-students. Most recently, at UC Berkeley, we've been informed by our chancellors that we might be able to keep a few tents up on Sproul if we can figure out a way to ensure that only students will sleep in them. We've yet to honor this grotesque declaration with a response.
Our insistence that occupations remain open to all and that everybody should have the capacity to reproduce their lives, free of financial exchange, within and beyond the bounds of our campuses, is not capricious; rather, this insistence is aligned with the politics of recent university struggles, insofar as these struggles have challenged prevailing, privatized regimes of social reproduction. It's worth remembering, for instance, that one of the demands advanced by the Wheeler occupiers in November 2009 was that the university renew its essentially rent-free lease with the Rochdale student housing cooperative. Or that a recent makeshift tent on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall bore a sign that read: “affordable student housing.” Ours is a struggle for autonomous social reproduction, and as such, it shares much with revolutionary feminist movements.
In The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James call for strikes in the sphere of social reproduction, rolling refusals of unwaged domestic labor that bear certain resonances with recent university strikes and occupations:
We must get out of the house; we must reject the home, because we want to unite with other women, to struggle against all situations which presume that women will stay at home, to link ourselves to the struggles of all those who are in ghettos, whether that ghetto is a nursery, a school, a hospital, an old-age home, or a slum. To abandon the home is already a form of struggle, since the social services we perform there would then cease to be carried out in those conditions, and so all those who work out of the home would then demand that the burden carried by us until now be thrown squarely where it belongs – onto the shoulders of capital.... The working class family is the more difficult point to break because it is the support of the worker, but as worker, and for that reason the support of capital. On this family depends the support of the class, the survival of the class – but at the woman's expense against the class itself.... Like the trade union, the family protects the worker, but also ensures that he or she will never be anything but workers. And that is why the struggle of the woman of the working class against the family is crucial (41).
What Dalla Costa and James indicate in this passage is that strikes in the sphere of social reproduction, while similar to 'conventional' labor strikes insofar as they directly counter exploitative forms of work discipline, appear different from such strikes in two crucial, and seemingly contradictory, respects – first, that they seem to directly undermine the survival of working class subjects, and second, that they carry with them the promise of liberating the working class from the requirement to labor in order to survive. If we translate this analysis into the university context (something that Dalla Costa and James also do, at times, in their essays), we can see certain resonances with recent student strikes. On the one hand, such strikes appear self-defeating, as evidenced by the ubiquitous refrain that a walkout in support of public education is a self-contradictory gesture. How, we are asked, can one defend public education by refusing to teach class or to attend lecture? On the other hand, such strikes appear to promise the liberation of the student from her social and economic role: such liberation would entail the abolition of student debt; the decomposition of hierarchical relations between students, professors, and university workers (which we saw hints of during the November 15 open university); and ultimately the realization of her capacity to live free of the requirement to work for wages.
What we saw with the open university at Berkeley on November 15, and what we will likely see in coming days at Davis, was a form of learning that emerged out of our collective refusal to participate in official university schedules. Our strike gave us time to meet together and to discuss, without the usual formalities or hierarchies, theoretical questions of direct relevance to our lives. This experience confirmed for us the falsity of the notion that a strike in support of public education is self-contradictory – now we know from experience that a better form of education is possible, that it lingers in the shadows of our universities, and that only through concerted strike actions will it reemerge.
If the open university made apparent the fact that we don't need grades or rigid course schedules in order to learn, in doing so it implicitly showed what these administrative forms accomplish: the sifting, training, and credentialing of future workers. Of course, we've known this about the universities, at least unconsciously, since the student movements of the 1960s, during which activists insisted that universities existed to train the next generation of technocrats and managers, and thus to enable the reproduction of capitalist social relations. This “reproductive” function of the university has itself been reproduced into the present, to be sure, but now there is another, more direct and consequential way that universities reproduce capitalist social relations – namely, through the saddling of students with massive debt burdens. As George Caffentzis has recently argued (in writing as well as at a workshop he convened at the Occupy Cal open university):
Student debt is a work-discipline issue because it represents a way of mortgaging many workers’ future, of deciding which jobs and wages they will seek and their ability to resist exploitation and/or to fight for better conditions. The overarching goal of capital with respect to student loan debt is to shift the costs of socially necessary education to the workers themselves at a time when a world market for cognitive labor-power is forming and a tremendous competition is already developing between workers. Employers’ refusal to massively invest in education in the US is not, in fact, a misreading of its class interests as theorists like Michael Hardt maintain. It is the result of a clear-cut assessment of the new possibilities opened up by globalization, starting with the harvesting of educated brains as well as muscles from every part of the world. Capital’s strategic use of student loan debts to enforce a harsher work-discipline and to force workers to take on more of the cost of their reproduction makes the struggle for debt abolition one that necessarily affects all workers. Accepting student debt is accepting a class defeat...
Caffentzis here offers us essentially half of the story of how student loan debt reproduces contemporary capitalist relations – the half pertaining to the reproduction of labor-power. The other half of the story – the story of how student debt enables the accumulation of capital – has been gradually filled in over the past two years through a series of open letters written by Robert Meister. Meister has shown how those who govern the university profit from rising student debt levels (both because student fees finance lucrative building projects, and because university regents have a stake in for-profit education firms), as well as how student debt – which now exceeds a trillion dollars nationally – is increasingly bundled and profitably traded by the financial services industry. Such debt now fuels a speculative bubble that is threatened by the specter of mass student loan default.
There are two ways that ongoing university struggles have begun to, and could yet more effectively, counter the reign of student debt, and thus directly impinge upon the reproduction of capitalist relations: first, by halting increases in tuition, and even perhaps rolling tuition levels back, we'd deactivate the primary cause of rising student debt burdens. At the UCs, we've already effectively stalled tuition increases this year, and seem to have turned back the 81% fee hike proposed by President Yudof. Further strike actions would allow us to put on the agenda the reduction of student fees. And second, by formulating and disseminating a call for mass, coordinated student debt resistance, general assemblies in New York and California have already encouraged hundreds of debtors to sign a pledge of refusal, and thus have made possible a future debtor's strike. Ongoing university struggles could make thousands of student debtors confident enough to brave default, knowing that legions of other debtors in defiance would have their back.
Given that these are the stakes of current university struggles, it's not terribly surprising that our strikes and encampments have been met with such severe police repression. But each time we're struck, we return again, stronger than before.
We're new subjects of class struggle, uttering unexpected words with ever more confidence.
Unexpected Sub Zine
Sunday, November 27, 2011
CUCFA Letter to President Yudof objecting to hiring William Bratton to investigate UC Davis pepper-spray incident
November 27, 2011
President Mark G. Yudof
University of California
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Fax: (510) 987-9086
Dear President Yudof,
The Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) protests your decision to hire the Kroll Security Group, and its Chairman William Bratton, to conduct what you call an independent investigation of police violence at UC Davis. We take no position here on Mr. Bratton's personal qualifications; our objection is to the conflicts of interest of Kroll Security itself, which is already a major contractor with UC on security matters. According to its website, Kroll's services are not confined to securing databases and facilities from attacks by criminals and terrorists. It also protects many global financial institutions and other multinationals against threats to "operations" that may come from public criticism and direct political action.
By deepening UC's links to Kroll, you would be illustrating the kinds of connection between public higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting. Kroll's parent company, Altegrity, provides data-mining, intelligence and on-the-ground security to financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest. In addition, Altegrity's parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education.
We already know that Kroll has provided security services to at least three UC campuses for the past several years. This in itself would disqualify Mr. Bratton from participating in the investigation you propose, even if the role of Kroll and its affiliated companies in defending the financial sector against OWS did not raise further questions about its pro-Wall Street and pro-privatization bias.
A truly independent investigation that would allow UC to provide a credible response to the events at Davis (and the other campuses) needs to address several questions that would not be seriously considered if you hire Kroll.
- What was your role and that of UC General Counsel in the events at Davis? Did you, as a distinguished first amendment scholar, tell chancellors and campus police chiefs that protests (especially protests against UC's own policies) are "part of the DNA of this University" that should not be addressed using the same techniques that UC has developed (likely with the help of Kroll) to deal with terrorists, shooters, and cyber-saboteurs? (Even if you have been a zealous defender of the rising student movement to restore public higher education, such a conclusion would not be credible coming from an investigation tainted by Kroll's conflicts of interest outlined above.)
- What was and is the role of Kroll in helping banks and public institutions (including UC) investigate and defeat movements such as OWS and their campus counterparts? Is Kroll now acting as a liaison between universities, city governments and the Department of Homeland Security in defending the financial sector against protests occurring on what used to be considered public spaces? Are protests against Wall Street in such spaces now considered a threat to the security of the nation, the city and the public university? (The growing securitization of public space has been a major obstacle to first amendment activity since 9-11.)
- How much money has UC and its individual campuses paid to Kroll for security services? Were these contracts issued as sole source contracts or was there open bidding? Were Kroll's services confined to protecting, for example, the privacy and integrity of data systems and faculty and staff conducting animal research or did they extended to what Kroll's website calls "organizational threats" arising from "the dynamic and sometimes conflicting needs of the entire campus population?" (This could be a description of the student protests that you rightly regard as "central to our history" as a university.)
- What led to the issuance of false and misleading statements by University of California officials (Chancellors and their assistants, spokespeople, and police chiefs) in the aftermath of police violence at Berkeley and Davis? Did you encourage these efforts at spin control? (Dishonest statements seriously damage the university as an institution devoted to truth and protect only the individuals whose decisions are in question.)
The broader issue is how protest can be part of what you characterized as "our university's DNA" when the right to protest is not formally recognized within the university's own codes of student and faculty conduct. It could be and should be. The CSU student code states explicitly that "[n]othing in this Code may conflict with Education Code Section 66301 that prohibits disciplinary action against students based on behavior protected by the first amendment." If such language were included in the UC code of conduct, students would have a clear first amendment defense against disciplinary action arising from peaceful political protest-and there would be strong grounds for questioning the legality of a police order to disperse a peaceful protest from a public site on a public university campus. The explicit incorporation of constitutional limits on UC's power to break up demonstrations that threaten its march toward privatization would go a long way toward recovering UC as a public, rather than a private, space. We urge you to see that the UC codes of conduct are amended to parallel those in place at CSU.
Events at Davis and the other campuses have shown the University of California in a negative light, and we agree strongly with the need for an independent investigation. We believe, however, that your appointment of Kroll to investigate the university's response to last week's protest could itself become a basis for new protests, and that you should ask Speaker Perez (or someone unaffiliated with the University) to appoint a genuinely independent committee with representatives from student, faculty, staff and civil liberties groups. Such a committee should be given a specific charge to investigate and report on all of the questions set forth above.
President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Professor History of Consciousness and Political and Social Thought, UC Santa Cruz
The Campus Rights Project (CRP), a student-led clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law, obtained over 300 pages of internal University communications between top administrators relating to the Fall 2009 student protests. These documents provide an unusually candid look at how top University officials have responded to past incidents of police violence on campus. In light of the Faculty’s upcoming “no confidence” vote, CRP is releasing these documents and a new summary of their contents. See "BEHIND THE CURTAIN: BIRGENEAU, BRESLAUER, and LE GRANDE’S PAST RESPONSE TO STUDENT PROTEST AND POLICE VIOLENCE."
Saturday, November 26, 2011
“The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has lost confidence in the ability of Chancellor Birgeneau, EVC Breslauer and VC LeGrande to respond appropriately to non-violent campus protests, to secure student welfare amidst these protests, to minimize the deployment of force and to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus.”
The resolution was proposed by a group of professors in the immediate aftermath of the November 9th Occupy Cal action, at which students, workers and professors were brutally beaten by police officers for constructing, and linking arms around, a small group of tents. Protesters were acting in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and were trying to create a space on campus for discussion and organizing in response to fee hikes, the laying off of campus workers, growing student indebtedness, and attacks on public education generally.
While the police violence that occurred on the 9th inspired the campus to strike the following week, and while Occupy Cal has effectively opened space for critical discussion and debate on campus, the chancellors and the chief of police have not yet been held accountable for their use of indiscriminate force on the 9th, and they have taken no concrete steps to ensure that such police aggression won’t occur in the future. A faculty no-confidence vote would begin to hold our chancellors accountable for the violence they authorized, oversaw, and subsequently justified.
In order to show that the campus community stands in solidarity with members of the faculty who are bringing the no-confidence resolution, we call on all those who were brutalized on November 9th, as well as all whose friends and classmates were hurt that day, to attend a silent demonstration outside of the Faculty Senate meeting. Please join us as we gather this Monday, beginning at 2pm, in front of the International House.
We’ll compose and wear placards that declare, in simple terms, either what happened to us and our friends on the 9th, or what the movement for public education means to us. Then, we’ll line up and stand silently as faculty and administrators enter the International House for their 3pm meeting.
We take our inspiration for this action from the students at UC Davis, who linked arms and silently watched as their chancellor walked from a press conference to her waiting car. This powerful action was a symbolic turning point at UC Davis, and helped strengthen calls for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. Please join us as we echo the silent power demonstrated by the students of UC Davis.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
November 23, 2011
Dear President Yudof , Chancellors, Academic Senate Chairs, and Regents:
We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom** to condemn in the strongest possible terms the egregious attacks by police forces on protestors at UC Davis and UC Berkeley in these last weeks, to object to the violation of their rights of protest, free assembly, free speech, and academic freedom. We have watched with great concern as waves of revulsion and shock have swept across the global media at the violent and injurious actions on the University of California campuses. We propose the following immediate steps.
We petition for an independent investigation of these actions to be conducted by faculty senate members and student representatives appointed by their own assemblies from the UC system free of administrative intervention or oversight. The mandate of such an investigation should establish who has authorized the police to unleash such brutal tactics of suppression and injury on protestors, and to establish a precise chain of command so that subsequent and appropriate actions, which would include censure demands for suspension and resignation, can be brought to bear on all those responsible.
It is completely unacceptable to appoint a former LAPD police chief to investigate police brutality within the UC system. William Bratton’s role as police chief during instances of police brutality against those at an immigrants’ rights rally in Los Angeles in 2007 hardly qualifies him to oversee an independent investigation into police brutality. In terms of Bratton's approach to "excessive force," he specializes in training police to deploy space-cordoning and crowd-control methods that are less violent, but which end up eliminating the idea of public space and public visibility altogether. This kind of vision is problematic for public spaces, but utterly incompatible with the notion of common spaces in public universities. More importantly, such an investigation should be led by those whose interests were directly affected by such police violence, and those whom this University is designed to serve, namely its students and faculty.
These attacks on students, staff, and faculty have been repeated over the last few years against peaceful demonstrations that have objected to the privatization of the public university system, the devastating hikes in student tuition and fees, the extreme burdens of student debt, the cutting of long-term and essential staff positions, and the increasing precariousness suffered by part-time laborers in the university system.
In particular, we object to the use of police forces with weapons to quell peaceful protests and civil disobedience actions. Protestors have a constitutional right to free speech under the US constitution, but they also have, as members of the university community, specific rights to exercise their academic freedom unimpeded and free of violent attacks.
At the time of this writing, it remains unclear who precisely authorized the violent attacks on student demonstrators during the weeks in November, 2011. It will not do to say, as President Mark Yudof does in his missive of November 20th, that he is “appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses,” without taking any responsibility for these acts of police violence against peaceful protestors. Nor will it be sufficient for the President to initiate reviews of these incidences at all campuses, or to propose engaging in “discussions’ with all of the chancellors. Vague gestures designed to give the impression of administrative action—without any assignation of responsibility or any revision of policy- remain both implausible and inadequate. Although Chancellor Katehi of UC Davis claims not to have anticipated the use of pepper spray, she nevertheless takes full responsibility for her action. If she did not authorize those actions, who did? And the Chancellor of UC Merced claims that she “will neither order nor condone police aggression or force during a protest on campus in the absence of an imminent and substantial threat of harm to persons or property” (11/20/11). If this is so, does she break with UC system-wide policy in making this claim?
If the UC administration claims that it was following “established procedure,” and that established procedure violates the academic rights of students, staff, and faculty engaged in peaceful protest, then that established procedure must also come under scrutiny. The Regulations Governing Conduct passed recently by the UC Regents provoked many objections from faculty and students in the notice and comment period. The justifications offered by the administration for much of the violence of the last few weeks are spurious, citing the university’s prohibition of (among other things) structures and tents on campus (something that happens regularly for sports events, freshman receptions, and large parties). In defending the police brutality at UC Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgenau disqualified the linking of arms as a “nonviolent” act. Do President Yudof and the Regents endorse these blatant attempts to cast peaceful protestors as violent thugs and terrorists, by twisting the very definition of nonviolence? In the absence of any response to the contrary, these assertions suggest that the UC administration needs reminding of what kinds of actions constitute peaceful, nonviolent, and morally-motivated political protest, and require protection as such. The definitions of civil disobedience and non-violent protest are well-established and cannot be subject to ignorant or strategic interpretations of police or administrators.
It is unacceptable for any campus to criminalize free speech, freedom of assembly, and academic freedom. It is unacceptable to unleash police to commit criminal acts of violence against those who are exercising constitutionally protected rights or who are expressing viewpoints that are critical of the UC administration. It is unacceptable to pretend as though police officials who are hostile to the idea of public visibility, with records of involvement in instances of police violence, can “independently” oversee any investigation of such matters. And, it is unacceptable to distort the very meaning of nonviolent protest in order to justify such acts of institutional violence.
Finally, we propose that if the chain of command is clearly established and those responsible for authorizing the use of police force to injure protesters can be clearly documented and named, that (a) those responsible be relieved from their official duties, and (b) that the UC system, in tandem with the CSU system, develop a policy that requires police to forego the use of any weapons in the monitoring of free and peaceful demonstrations on any of our campus.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom**
Maxine Elliot Professor
Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
University of California, Berkeley
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz
Carole H. Browner
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles
Tel: 310 825 4119
Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies
University of California
Davis, CA 95616
Department of Anthropology
Professor, Middle East History
Dept. of History
University of California, Berkeley
Global & International Studies Program
University of California, Santa Barbara
**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR FREEDOM is a four-year old group of more than 150 academics who teach in 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a response to rash violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the 9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violation and to the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks were aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim, or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities. Our goal of protecting California Scholars and students based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.
Photo from flashmobyoga.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
From Rei Terada (on fb):
In appointing LA Police Chief William Bratton to investigate UCPD police brutality and Berkeley law school's Dean Christopher Edley to "to lead an examination of police policies in handling student protests at all 10 UC campuses" (LA Times), Mark Yudof travesties the independent thought and autonomy that students and faculty are now calling for. Bratton has made his career as an advocate of less physically violent police tactics that control and diminish public space in precisely neoliberal terms. The last thing the UC system needs right now is advice on how to make UCPD even more like a contemporary municipal police force. Similarly, Dean Christopher Edley is one of Yudof's closest companions, best known for his end-run against the expansion of online classes in the face of faculty governance policies. A commission run by Edley is the opposite of an independent commission. Everyone who signed the petitions of outrage against the police violence at Davis and Berkeley ought to mobilize against this. (I hope the owners of the petitions can use any emails attached to the petition process to re-contact literally everybody.)
There is one thing that is good about Yudof's move: it makes in the most public of circumstances the same move that he has made throughout his career as a privatizer of public goods. Yudof has done to the UC at every level and in detail the same thing he is doing now: passing off as reform what is actually vulgar cronyism on behalf of the 1%. Now this will be visible to everybody, even far outside the UC -- if we make it so.
Monday, November 21, 2011
What will depose this authoritarian administrator is not letters or petitions; it is your direct action on this campus. That direct action must continue until the Chancellor resigns. The Chancellor has said that it is not appropriate for her to resign at this time. We know that the Chancellor is not a very good judge of what is appropriate.
I propose two demands moving forward:
1) The immediate resignation of Chancellor Katehi;
2) All police forces ordered permanently off of UC campuses.
Chancellor Katehi and police forces are the primary threat to the health and safety of our university community.
Following two successive years of sharp tuition increases, accompanied by millions in department and resource cuts, layoffs, and furloughs, the board had the audacity to propose a new 81% fee increase and drastic budget reductions.
Undergraduate student fees have tripled over the past ten years, as we have seen an unprecedented explosion of student debt; and departmental budgets have shrunk, as academic and non-academic workers experience diminishing benefits, swelling workloads, and non-existent job security.
In the midst of the economic crisis, the Regents have intensified their pursuit of the project of privatization and de-funding that diminish the quality of education and quality of life for those across the UC, while consigning students’ futures to greater and greater sums of debt.
The Regents’ theft of an ostensibly public resource to fund “capital projects” such as construction projects and private research initiatives, demonstrate a clear conflict of interests that benefits a narrow administrative elite—both the Regents and their local appointees (chancellors and vice chancellors)—at the expense of the greater faculty, staff, and student body.
The familiar rhetoric of austerity demands our resigned compliance, as our learning and working conditions progressively deteriorate. We have seen recently and in years past that political dissent is met with increasingly violent displays of force and repression by University police.
The continued destruction of higher education in California, and the repressive forms of police violence that sustain it, cannot be viewed apart from larger economic and political systems that concentrate wealth and political power in the hands of the few.
Since the university has long served as one of the few means of social mobility and for the proliferation of knowledge critical to and outside of existing structures of power, the vital role it plays as one of the few truly public resources is beyond question.
The necessity of reclaiming the UC has never demanded such urgency, as it continues to shift towards the corporate model, pursues dubious fiscal partnerships (such as those with the defense department and international agribusiness), and engages in disturbing collusion with financial institutions like US Bank (which is one of the largest profiteers from student loans).
As such, I propose that in light of the upcoming Regents’ vote [concerning the possible 81% student fee hike] on Monday the 28th, (which will be occurring on four campuses simultaneously, one of which being UC Davis), that we call for a general strike this same day, with the aim of shutting down campuses across the state and preventing the Regents from holding their vote.
In response to the intolerable effects privatization and austerity and the horrific repression of student dissent that has occurred throughout the last month, the GA, as a governing body of all concerned UC Davis students, will prevent the Board of Regents from continuing its unbridled assault upon higher education in the state of California.
This will entail total campus participation in shutting down the operations of the university on the 28th, including teaching, working, learning, and transportation, as we will collectively divert our efforts to blocking their vote[s]. In doing so students, faculty and workers assert the power—and the will—to effectively represent and manage ourselves.
The following statement was read to a crowd of thousands during today's rally at UC Davis and posted on the front page of the UCD English Department's website:
The faculty of the UC Davis English Department supports the Board of the Davis Faculty Association in calling for Chancellor Katehi's immediate resignation and for "a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protesters by police on the UC Davis campus."
Further, given the demonstrable threat posed by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members on our campus and others in the UC system, we propose that such a policy include the disbanding of the UCPD and the institution of an ordinance against the presence of police forces on the UC Davis campus, unless their presence is specifically requested by a member of the campus community. This will initiate a genuine collective effort to determine how best to ensure the health and safety of the UC Davis campus community.
Aerial View of UC Davis Today From http://publiclaboratory.org/home
By now much of the world has seen video and photos of Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police department as he discharged a canister of burning chemicals into the faces of students seated in the center of the university quad. Most viewers are outraged, and justifiably so. Much of the outrage has been directed at John Pike. He deserves it. But we should remind ourselves that Friday’s police violence was only an aberration because it happened on a university campus not easily assimilable to the stereotype of “Berkeley radicals” and to students who are perceived or portrayed as mostly white and as resisting passively. Whiteness is brought up here, not to chastise those who only now denounce police violence that has been routinely applied to non-white communities and individuals—this itself is a misperception of Friday’s events: a majority of those arrested were not white—but to invite readers, new and old, to extend the critique of police violence beyond the walls of the university to the communities whose life it damages every single day.
Friday’s punitive violence, as terrible as it was, is not an example of bad policing. It is an example of policing.
We’ve seen this kind of violence used before on California campuses, and not just in response to the anti-privatization protests and occupations of the past two years. We’re seeing it used now to suppress dissent in cities across the world, from Oakland to Cairo.
When UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza says she is “very proud” of her officers, who “did a great job,” she is convinced that this is true. It’s not simply a public relations strategy, it’s a reflection of the fact that her officers did what cops are expected to do: employ violence against those who challenge authority.
This is why we do not demand the dismissal of Lt. John Pike, although it would be welcome.
Our demand is COPS OFF CAMPUS. Period.
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi is working feverishly to control the media narrative about Friday’s police attack on protesters. She tried to hold a press conference yesterday, but we shut it down with our voices and bodies. It’s telling that the press conference was held in a building meant to accommodate satellite trucks and internet broadcasting, but whose size and peripheral location bar students from attending. Katehi’s press conference was meant to calm a national public outraged by her use of force against students. Addressing students and, more importantly, listening to them, was not part of her agenda. We were locked out of the building yesterday, but we let ourselves in and stopped the propaganda session.
Although we posed no danger to her, Katehi refused to leave the building for two hours, perhaps waiting for rain, or nightfall, before walking past a silent wall of students and ducking into her luxury automobile. She could have addressed students there, of course, but she preferred the leather-lined cocoon of the car and the comforts of a phone interview with CNN, conducted immediately after she left.
For Katehi, students are a nuisance, an obstacle standing in the way of her plans to privatize and internationalize the campus. This is apparent in the email missives that she sends to everyone, trying to justify her use of force. She invokes safety and health concerns.
[T]he encampment violated regulations designed to protect the health and safety of students, staff and faculty.Here, the health and safety OF STUDENTS become empty abstractions that must be protected FROM STUDENTS.
Similarly, in the Chancellor’s tiresome rhetoric about the university’s mission and standards, the word EXCELLENCE loses any educational significance it may have had; it becomes a quantifiable property of the university, indistinguishable from reputation or ranking. “Excellence must be maintained,” recite the administrators. Like health and safety, it must be protected from students, whose disruptive protests mar the university’s image. The careful construction of this image often takes the form of actual construction—the so called capital projects, the gleaming buildings featured so prominently on university websites.
The fee increases, pepper spray, beatings, arrests, and student disciplinary procedures of the last two years are not the unfortunate consequences of a dismal budgetary situation. They are the primary vehicles for maintaining “excellence.”
Katehi makes repeated references to the presence of non-students among the protesters who were attacked by police, as if community members and alumni had no right to set foot on the campus of a PUBLIC university, as if they had no stake in the fate of a PUBLIC university. Our administrators prefer the university’s connections to the public to be mediated by formal contracts with agribusiness giants. They prefer alumni to mail checks from a distance. They prefer that the city not interfere with its project to increase the size of the student body and expand its physical footprint. They prefer visitors to be chaperoned through campus on tours that highlight statistics, amenities and, most of all, the buildings—the shiny new buildings and construction projects financed by student debt. Against the administration’s attempts to keep the community at a distance, the students of the University of California, Davis invite alumni, community members, and everyone else to the Quad on Monday, November 21 at noon, for a conversation about the university’s future. We ask Davis residents to support us in our struggle against a university administration at war with students and with the notion of a public university.
We second calls for Katehi’s resignation. She must go. But we don’t want to replace her with another Regental appointee or an interim chancellor. We don’t want to replace her.
The administration, as a managerial class for whom the ideal university is a massive corporation in imperialist partnership with other massive corporations and banks, will never accede to our demands for self-management, greater student and community participation in university governance, and better working conditions. The administration at UC Davis and every other UC campus has proven that, when faced with these demands, they will unleash violence in our learning spaces.
We demand the abolition of the administration and the transfer of all their functions to workers, students, and faculty.
As a necessary precondition to self-management and for our safety, we demand that UCPD be disbanded and that the University be declared a sanctuary space, free of interference from law enforcement personnel. Universities outside the United States already enjoy this freedom. We must demand it here.
Cops and administrators off campus!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
From Occupy UC Davis: accepting donations of pizza and tents for the rally on Monday. Those wishing to donate pizza can order some for delivery at Woodstocks, (530) 757-2525. Those wishing to donate tents can order them online through this link http://www.amazon.com/gp/
From Occupy Cal: Open University. Monday, November 21: Noon -2pm, Sproul Plaza. (If it is raining, follow the signs and join us in the Multicultural Center (MCC) in MLK.)
Why the Open University at Occupy Cal?: Coalitions and the Open Classroom
How can we think about the classroom and the University as spaces to build coalitional politics? How can we link questions of sexuality, immigration status, age, disability, race, gender, and class in our political actions?
Open University Teachers for the day:
Jeff Chang: Cal alumnus; founding member of CalServe; author of award-winning Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, founding editor of Colorlines magazine; Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts + Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University.
Juana María Rodríguez: PhD in Ethnic Studies, UC-Berkeley; Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies; Director of the LGBT minor; author of Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces.
12:00: Introduction and Welcome to the Open University
12:15: Presentations by Jeff and Juana
12:45-2pm: Open Discussion
2:30: Meeting of the Open University Working Group, all are welcome!
[Update: As the title of this post mentions, this was not written by Reclaim UC
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi
Lt. John Pike
It has now been covered in the NY Times, USA Today, Time Magazine, CBS, CNN, and across the entire mediasphere. The various UC Davis police assault videos have been watched hundreds of thousands of times. Various searches related to UC Davis and pepper spraying were the *top searches on Google* in the US today — think of what that means. By mid-afternoon, UC Davis had already backed down and the Chancellor had released a damage-controlling and mealy-mouthed promise to investigate. But it was too late.
By monday, millions will know about Lt. Pike and his chemical assault squad, and the $400K per year (plus free housing, travel, and vehicle) Chancellor who gave the order to cut the protesters down to the point that some were hospitalized, and including forcing open students’ mouths and spraying directly into them. I kid you not.
And something remarkable happened at Davis tonight. I’ve been watching the live streams and following the blogs since late this afternoon. It was a very important moment.
Chancellor Katehi was preparing to give a news conference to take another crack at spinning this story and controlling the growing, viral character it has acquired.
UC Davis students showed up in large numbers to this conference, and were kept out of the small building (Surge 2, for those who know the campus) for lack of press passes (ha ha). They surrounded the building and their numbers grew over several hours to over 1000 student protesters. Reports came that Chancellor Katehi was afraid to leave and go through the student protesters, or even that she was being kept from leaving, as if it were a hostage situation. Cops were *not* summoned, however — or at least they were kept back. UC Davis appears to have learned at least a tactical lesson already.
Through patient OWS style organizing, worked out over dozens of mic checks, they arranged to clear a wide path, determined that they would be silent and respectful when she came out, and sent word that they were not keeping her hostage in the building, just there to call for her resignation. Hours went by as the situation got more and more tense, but the students showed remarkable discipline and organization as their numbers kept growing. Finally, they negotiated with Chancellor Katehi’s people and she left the building to walk to her taxpayer-paid $70,000 Lexus SUV with one aide. The students maintained *absolute, total order and silence* — really, not a word — and stood aside, except for the couple of journalists asking her questions on the livestream feed. It was eerie and powerful and Chancellor Pepper Spray was clearly feeling the shame of a thousands of eyes on her around the nation (the livestreams were overloaded as they were joined by students across California and then the nation).
Only once she began to pull away did the crowd erupt into a roar: WHOSE UNIVERSITY? OUR UNIVERSITY! dozens of times as they marched off to consume the pizza ordered for them by people around the nation.
It was so powerful — and remember this all happened on a day when virtually no news (except Demi and Ashton’s divorce or the 30 year old Natalie Wood death investigation) gets reported on mainstream outlets. This *all* happened online, and drew a huge national audience in the process, enough so to force a major university into damage control freakout.
Last night’s video now has nearly 25,000 views. A better one has now been released of Katehi’s “Walk of Shame.” Turns out that was not just any “aide” — it was the UC Davis police chief (Spicuzzi) walking with her [Update: we've heard that the person accompanying Katehi was actually Kristin Stoneking, a minister who wrote a brief analysis of her role in the walk of shame here]. This new video shows the final mic check to get everyone to be silent and stand back before Katehi and Spicuzzi leave the building. If you are sending this story around, this video is better in that it shows how deliberate and well orchestrated the silence was:
Saturday, November 19, 2011
By Eric Hoover
Original Post Here.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are poised to announce a national "student-debt refusal" campaign that would begin next week, says a prominent scholar within the movement.
On Wednesday night, Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, said members of an Occupy Wall Street working group were finalizing drafts of three "pledges" related to student debt, including a debtors' pledge, whose signers would refuse to make payments on their loans after one million signatures have been collected.
The other pledges are one for faculty members who support those who refuse to pay, and another for nondebtors, including parents and sympathizers, who also want to show their support.
The pledges, Mr. Ross said, are to be based on four beliefs: that student loans should be interest-free; that tuition at all public institutions should be federally funded; that private and for-profit colleges should open their financial records to the public; and that students' "debt burden" should be written off.
Mr. Ross, an expert in academic-labor issues, is a member of Occupy Wall Street's Education and Empowerment working group. On Wednesday, he described how his personal interest in student-debt issues had developed.
"Like many faculty, I see a lot of suffering and humiliation among students in taking on this debt," Mr. Ross said. "There was the recognition that my own salary is debt-financed. ... There's an element of complicity. It's an incredible burden for faculty to bear."
The campaign is scheduled to begin with an event at Zuccotti Park, in New York, on Monday afternoon, followed by a protest at the City University of New York's Baruch College.
The DFA Board calls for the immediate resignation of Chancellor Katehi. The Chancellor’s authorization of the use of police force to suppress the protests by students and community members speaking out on behalf of our university and public higher education generally represents a gross failure of leadership.
Given the recent use of excessive force by police against “occupy” protestors at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, the Chancellor must have anticipated that, by authorizing police action, she was effectively authorizing their use of excessive force against peaceful UCD student protestors. The Chancellor’s role is to enable open and free inquiry, not to suppress it.
We also call for a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protestors by police on the UC Davis campus. The University of California should be taking a leadership role in encouraging the exercise of free speech, not in suppressing it.
Cecil Brown Sat, 19 Nov at 7:40am
Occupy Sproul hoto by Rami Taibah, http://www.flickr.com/photos/22663008@N04/6355698267/in/photostream/
God could not have sent us a more fitting setting for Occupy Cal at the University of California, Berkeley, as the sun rising, yellow and warm. I was going devote today to observing and reporting on the social movement Occupy Cal.
Before I headed out on my jaunt, I phoned Ruben Elias Sanchez, a student organizer that I had met at the last Berkeley rally.
“Today, we are going to reconstruct the Occupation to focus on people of color,” he informed me.
Being a person of color, I was down with that.
“We are going to talk about Prop 13, how it put a cap on the amount that corporations have to pay.” I’m down with that too. “We are going to talk about getting rid of Prop 209, the affirmative action ban.” Now, I’m really down with that.
At the entrance of Barrows Hall, I see the chair of the African American Studies Charles Henry, and three of his colleagues, Sam Mchombo (who teaches Swahili), Ula Taylor, (who teaches American History) and Leigh Raiford (who teaches American Studies.) Raiford told me that she was going to give a Teach Out. There were going to be more than 20 Teach Outs, including George Lakoff, professor of Cognitive Science, who was going to discuss framing public education and the Occupy Movement. At 8 p.m. that evening, Professor of Public Policy and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich would bring it all to a close with a speech honoring the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture.
With the African American Studies delegation, I marched down into the plaza, which was packed to the gills with people. Everybody was in a great and zesty mood, more like a rock concert than a political rally. I saw several people I knew. There was professor Linda Williams snapping pictures with her iPhone. There was the chair of the English Department, Sam Otter, in a suit, smiling. There was other distinct members of the faculty. My impression was that the powers that be wanted to be on the scene, because they agreed with the message that the university is fumbling the ball.
We had arrived on the Sproul steps and at that moment, soothing and ebullient gospel music caressed our eardrums and lifted our emotions high to the blue sky. People were chanting to the music of the University Gospel Choir singing social justice songs.
The leader of the choir was Rev. Doctor Mark Wilson, UC adjunct professor. A stout, energetic, hefty individual, Wilson, with his cap turned backwards and wearing a CAL T-shirt, was energetic and effective. He waved his invisible baton to his choir, which consisted of Cal students.
“Another day’s journey, and I'm glad 'bout it!” This traditional African American song fitted perfectly in with the optimistic mood. “Im so happy to be alive,” the choir sings, and we sang with them, about 1,500 of us. Indeed, with the music, and the sky, and the packed Sproul Plaza, the song captured the moment in time - a true zeitgeist.
Then, they sang a classic song from The Staples Singers, “Move Along.” The mood of the people was at its height when Rev. Wilson, turned to the keyboard player, an Asian with a long pony tail, and gestured for him to bring the chords up higher. And higher. And higher than that.
“I’m going to stand. I can’t bow to racism, injustice,” he said, leading the choir and the rest of us in his deep tenor voice, “I’m going to stand!”
The reverend did several songs that kept our spirits high. The last one was by the famous gospel composer Hezekiah Walker, “I Need You To Survive and You Need Me.” He had the audience turn to the next person and say these words, “I need you to survive!”
Each member of the audience turned to the person next to him and said, “I need you to survive.”
The input of the black gospel tradition, here administrated by an African American, set the tone for a movement that is fueled by black people and black concerns, even though nobody mentions it.
Before he was finished, Wilson invited Carol Walker, assistant at the financial aid and scholarship office at the UC to come up. Also, African American, she sang a beautiful song.
If Occupy Cal had ended right after this performance, it would have all been worth it. Even though, no one had mentioned race, it was obvious that blacks contributed a lot to the movement already.
I asked a few questions about the songs right after Wilson's performance.
“Most of them adapted well to the Occupation Movement. I started to change the word ‘racism’ to ‘capitalism’ to fit the theme. But then, I decided to leave it the way the Staples Sisters wrote it.”
Wilson, who is a Harvard graduate, said he wished that these students had been as enthusiastic 20 years ago when we were fighting for Proposition 209 that banned African Americans from the campus.
“They didn’t come out 20 years ago,” he told me. “When Amos Brown and others were fighting against anti-affirmative action.”
At the end of the gospel performance, Yvette Felarce took the mic. A member of the BAMN - By Any Means Necessary - she reminded the audience why the ban on Affirmative Action 209 must be dismantled. The audience was happy to listen to her and gave her a roaring response of hands and cheers.
Gradually, the rally broke up into groups. The Teach Outs began to form on various parts of Sproul Plaza.
Seated on a bench near the plaza, Professor Raiford lead a discussion on what she suggested as “the possibility of decolonizing and reclaiming space and funding within the university.” Traditional disciplines (like English, Rhetoric, History) dominate the funding still. Funding for minorities studies is still scarce and unavailable.
I wandered up the path from Sproul and found Michael Cohen, lecturer in American and African-American studies, under a tree, pacing the green grass as he expounded on the connection to the “Prison Industrial Complex” and “the Current Crisis.”
The prison complex in California spends more money on keeping young blacks locked up in San Quentin (where as it turns out, Professor Cohen teaches a class) than it does on Cal Students. He traced the history of this back to the '70s, when Ronald Reagan was elected to governor and then to the presidency. According to Cohen, there has been a policy by the state to keep blacks out of the classroom by putting them into prison.
As I left to check my car (ticket maids are particularly sneaky in Berkeley), I was accompanied by Zackery Manditch-Prottas, a white graduate student in the African American Studies department, who engaged me in an insightful commentary on the current state of hip-hop.
Next, I visited the American Studies group lead by Kathy Moran, the associate director, who sat with a small group of students. This group, like almost all of them, had no black students.
This, of course, was very disappointing. When I asked, Moran, why were there so few African American students or African American professors, she said, turning the palms of her hands upside down, no money.
I went looking for Professor George Lakoff’s Teach Out. A few days ago, I ran into him on campus walking with the aid of a cane. He had had back surgery and was recovering nicely. I walked with him to the elevator in Wheeler Hall.
“The problem with the Occupy movement,” he explained with a smile, “is that they don’t know how to frame their arguments.”
At around 3 p.m., the rally reunited into a march, exiting Telegraph at Bancroft, and headed west to Berkeley High School. After picking up an additional girth of students, it headed to the banks at downtown Berkeley.
As night fell, the students began to gather en masse around 8 p.m. to hear the long anticipated speech from Robert Reich.
For all of the anticipation, Reich’s speech was very short, about 15 minutes. In the first five minutes, he summarized what he took to be the students attitude towards Occupy movements.
“Some of you are here because you have a problem with the banks, but some of you are here because you have a problem with the university. But you are all here for a good reason. I am so proud to be a faculty member of the best university in the world.”
Big thunderous applauses. “When I was a boy,” he said, getting into something very personal - his height. “As a kid I was short,” he joked. He said kids use to bully him; and the audience sighed loudly. “The solution I had to prevent the bullies from beating me up was to hang out with the guys bigger than they were. One of these guys was named Mike. His full name was Michael Schwerner. Then in 1964, the summer of Freedom Riders, he went down to Mississippi to help sign up minorities. He was caught by white Southern men and murdered.”
Reich didn’t mention that one of the other men was a black man. When he finished the anecdote he waited for applause. Few of the thousand of young Berkeley students knew that he was making reference to one of the most historical events in American History. They were killed by members of the KKK. Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman disappeared June 21, 1964.
A few minutes before, he had congratulated them on being students at that best university in the world and now it was like watching Jay Leno. “Who were Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman?” (Answer: “They ran an Ice Cream Company?”)
Then Reich was gone, swallowed up by a crowd of admirers. Thousand of students milled around, not knowing quite what to do. Then, somebody put on some music from the '60s.
A young woman named Amanda told me that she had come all the way from Australia to study Hip-hop but ran, unexpectedly, into the Occupation Movement instead. After she left, I ended up having a conversation with Dylan, a young white boy about 20. He said he had been to all of the Occupy movements in California: San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Oakland. He said the race relations was improving. The main reason, he said, is that most white kids have no contact with black people. Their parents saw to that, I suggested, and he agreed. Like the generation represented by Reich, they blew smoke up their children's behind about being the best and going to the best schools, but they shelter them from the real world, where there are lots of poor people and black people. By working in Occupy Oakland, he said he had met so many black people he liked. He had to learn all kinds of stuff, about how to get food, and how to stay warm, and how to - well, basically - to survive.
I turned and looked at Dylan. He had the most gentle eyes.
Wow, I'm thinking, maybe he is right: things are looking up for young white people. Maybe they will use the Occupy to soul search, and maybe they will pull themselves out of their trance their parents have put them in.
I said goodnight to Dylan, finally, and walked past the crowd, headed back to my car, and drove home. It was about 10 p.m. and it had been a long day.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Chancellor Linda Katehi calls in riot police to remove peaceful student protestors. Seated students are maced at close range. At about min. 6 students encircle police and then force them off campus. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Davis officers are present.Davis Chancellor’s office (530) 752-2065, UC Davis police (530) 752-1727, The officer who pulled out the pepper spray was Lieutenant John Pike. 530-752-3989 firstname.lastname@example.org.
And after the pepper spray, the batons, and the 10 arrests, an open letter is written to UC Davis Chancellor Katehi:
Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.
What happened next?
Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.
This is what happened. You are responsible for it.
You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.
Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.
I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
It’s beautiful to see so many of you here today. On four day’s notice, this is an incredible turnout. Let’s remember how much we can do in so little time.
I’m an English professor, and as some of you know, English professors spend a lot of our time talking about how to construct a “thesis” and how to defend it through argument. So today I’m going to model this way of thinking and writing by using it to discuss the university struggle. My remarks will consist of five theses, and I will defend these by presenting arguments to support them.
1. Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.
2. Police brutality is an administrative tool to enforce tuition increases.
3. What we are struggling against is not the California legislature, but the upper administration of the UC system.
4. The university is the real world.
5. We are winning.
THESIS ONE: Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.
In 2005 tuition was $6,312. Tuition is currently $13,218. What the Regents were supposed to be considering this week — before their meeting was cancelled due to student protest — was UC President Yudof’s plan to increase tuition by a further 81% over the next four years. On that plan, tuition would be over $23,000 by 2015-2016. If that plan goes forward, in ten years tuition would have risen from around $6,000 to around $23,000.
The administration tells us that tuition increases are necessary because of cuts to state funding. According to this argument, cuts to state funding are the problem, and tuition increases are the solution. We have heard this argument from the administration and from others many times.
To argue against this administrative logic, I’m going to rely on the work of my colleague Bob Meister, a professor at UC Santa Cruz and the President of the UC Council of Faculty Associations. Professor Meister has written a series of important open letters to UC students, explaining why tuition increases are in fact the problem, not the solution to the budget crisis. What Meister explains is that the privatization of the university—the increasing reliance on tuition payments (your money) rather than state funding—is not a defensive measure on the part of the UC administration to make up for state cuts. Rather, it is an aggressive strategy of revenue growth: a way for the university to increase its revenue more than it would be able to through state funding.
This is the basic argument: privatization, through increased enrollments and constantly increasing tuition, is first and foremost an administrative strategy to bring in more revenue. It is not just a way to keep the university going during a time of state defunding. What is crucial to this argument is the way that different sources of funding can be used.
State funds are restricted funds. This means that a certain portion of those funds has to be used to fund the instructional budget of the university. The more money there is in the instructional budget, the more money is invested in student instruction, in the quality of your education. But private funds, tuition payments, are unrestricted funds. This means there are no restrictions on whether those funds are spent on student instruction, on administrative pay, or anything else.
What Professor Meister uncovered through his research into the restructuring of UC funding is that student tuition (your money) is being pledged as collateral to guarantee the university’s credit rating. What this allows the university to do is borrow money for lucrative investments, like building contracts or “capital projects” as they are called. These have no relation to the instructional quality of the institution. And the strong credit rating of the university is based on its pledge to continue raising tuition indefinitely.
Restricted state funds cannot be used for such purposes. Their use is restricted in such a way as to guarantee funding for the instructional budget. This restriction is a problem for any university administration whose main priority is not to sustain its instructional budget, but rather to increase its revenues and secure its credit rating for investment projects with private contractors.
So for an administration that wants to increase UC revenues and to invest in capital projects (rather than maintaining the quality of instruction) it is not cuts to public funding that are the problem; it is public funding itself that is the problem, because public funding is restricted.
What is happening as tuition increases is that money is being shifted out of instructional budgets and into private credit markets, as collateral for loans used for capital projects. Because of this, and because of increased enrollment, as university revenue increases the amount of money spent on instruction, per student, decreases. Meanwhile, students go deeper and deeper into debt to pay for their education. Using tuition payments as collateral, the university secures loans for capital projects. In order to pay their tuition, students borrow money in the form of student loans. The UC system thus makes a crucial wager: that students will be willing to borrow more and more money to pay higher and higher tuition.
Why would students do so? Because, the argument goes, a university education is an investment in your future—because it will “pay off” down the line. This logic entails an implicit social threat: if you do not take on massive debt to pay for a university degree, you will “fall behind”—you will be at a disadvantage on the job market, and you will ultimately make less money. The fear of “falling behind,” in the future, results in a willingness to pay more in the present, which is essentially a willingness to borrow more, to go further into debt in order to make more money later.
But is it actually true that a university degree continues to give students a substantial advantage on the job market? It is now the case that 50% of university students, after graduating, take jobs that do not require a university degree. It used to be the case that there was a substantial income gap between the top 20% of earners, who had university degrees, and the bottom 80% of earners, who did not. But since 1998, nearly all income growth has occurred in the top 1% of the population, while income has been stagnant for the bottom 99%. This is what it means to be “part of the 99%”: the wealth of a very small segment of the population increases, and you’re not in it.
What this means is that the advantage of a university degree is far less substantial than it used to be, though you pay far more for that degree. The harsh reality is that whether or not you have a university degree, you will probably still “fall behind.” We all fall behind together. The consequence is that students have recently become less willing to take out more and more debt to pay tuition. It is no longer at all clear that the logic of privatization will work, that it is sustainable. And what this means is that the very logic upon which the growth of the university is now based, the logic of privatization, is in crisis, or it will be. Student loan debt is a financial “bubble,” like the housing bubble, and it cannot continue to grow indefinitely.
To return to my thesis: what this means for our university—not just for students, but especially for students—is that increasing tuition is the problem, not the solution.
What we have to fight, then, is the logic of privatization. And that means fighting the upper administration of the UC system, which has enthusiastically taken up this logic, not as a defensive measure, but as an aggressive program to increase revenue while decreasing spending on instruction.