Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zombie MOOCs: UC Online's "Pilot Project Cross-Campus Courses"

If you've been paying attention to the MOOC debate over the last year or so, you may have seen that for all intents and purposes the debate is pretty much over. MOOCs are dead. Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, recently acknowledged that his company makes a "lousy product." Soon after, Daphne Koller admitted that her company Coursera could in no way compete with the traditional, brick-and-mortar university which teaches through face-to-face interaction: "The best place to acquire [much deeper cognitive skills] is by coming and getting an education at the best universities."

But UC Online has always been, well, a ways behind everybody else. From the beginning, the project was unable to raise the private capital needed to get off the ground. The head of the project, former UC Berkeley Law School Dean Chris Edley, infamously claimed that he "should be shot" if he wasn't able to raise that money himself -- he was only able to put together the paltry sum of $748,000 -- but in the end he had to crawl back to the administration begging for an interest-free, $6.9 million loan.

If the program had been successful, that might not matter so much. But after a $4.3 million marketing campaign, only one student signed up for a UC Online course. A single student. Literally just one person. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported last February, while hundreds of thousands of students have signed up for MOOCs offered by other companies, "UC's approach snagged one high school girl who paid $1,400 for an online precalculus course at UC Irvine and four units of UC credit."

But the UC administration refuses to acknowledge its failure and continues to push UC Online. Below we publish an email written by Michael P. Clark, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning at UC Irvine, which forwards an email from Aimée Dorr, UC Provost and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. The email describes a pilot project in which faculty are asked to identify and approve UC Online courses at other campuses that meet the major requirements of their own programs. This move, of course, would serve to integrate UC Online, parasitically, into already legitimate UC programs. UC Online, in other words, would become a zombie, feeding off the legitimacy of those programs in order to bring itself back from the dead. But there is a possible response. Here's a counterproposal: units ought to be urged to ignore, if not declare outright that online courses do not fulfill their requirements in their opinion. Faculty are being asked by the administration, so in that sense it's actually an opportunity.

 ---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: FW: ILTI Pilot Project Courses and Credit for the Major/GE
Date:    Mon, November 18, 2013 1:52 pm

Deans, Academic Senate Chair, CEP Chair, Chairs,

I am forwarding my October 17th email again as a reminder that ILTI
courses offered via UC Online and listed in the PDF attached are due to be
open for registration mid-November.  Departments are requested to decide
which online courses offered at other UC campuses through this pilot can
count toward major and GE requirements at UCI.  A following email will
list all of the syllabi for these courses.  Please send your decisions
about the courses in your area to Rob Ameele (
Your academic advisors may soon be fielding questions from students
about using these course offerings to complete their major or GE


Thank you,

Mike Clark
Vice Provost for Academic Planning


From: Deborah Chennault
Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 4:07 PM

Subject: ILTI Pilot Project Courses and Credit for the Major/GE

To:  Deans and UCI Academic Senate Chair
CC:  Chairs and CEP Chair

Starting Winter 2014, the UC Innovative Learning Technology Initiative
will launch a pilot project offering selected courses by UC faculty to all
UC students.  This pilot uses existing courses and is not directly
connected to the RFP for new course development that is currently under
way.  You can learn more about ILTI at

As part of this pilot project, ILTI has asked campuses to decide which
online courses offered at other UC campuses through this pilot can count
toward major and GE requirements at UCI.  A list of the courses to be
offered in this pilot is attached as "Pilot Project Cross-Campus Courses."
 Additional information about the courses is attached at "Online
Cross-campus Course Info."

At UCI, authority to make that decision usually lies in the academic units
(for major requirements) and the Senate (for GE requirements).   Please
ask the Chairs and other people who will make that determination in your
unit to review the list of courses to be offered in the pilot program.

Enrollment in these courses is scheduled to open in mid-November.  It
would be helpful if you could make your determination about credit by Oct.
31 and let me know what you decide about the courses in your area(s).

We will publicize this opportunity to all faculty and students soon.  That
notice will include advice for students to check with their advisors and
counselors before enrolling in a course at another campus to make sure
that course has been approved at UCI for use as the student intends (GE or
major requirement).  If the enrollment process works as planned, we should
be notified as UCI students enroll in courses offered by faculty at other
campuses, so departments can contact students for additional advising as

Please let me know if you have any questions about your role in this pilot

Mike Clark

Michael P. Clark
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning
Professor of English
535 Aldrich Hall
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA  92697-1000
(949) 824-4501

From: Aimee Dorr
Date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 2:38 PM

Subject: Online Cross-Campus Course Offerings


October 8, 2013


Dear Colleagues:

At our last COVC meeting, I provided an update on the status of Online
Education at UC and asked for your support and assistance in moving
forward with cross-campus online course offerings for Winter and Spring
2014.  This letter presents the help we are requesting now, assuming your
campus is willing to participate at all.

As you already know, we are undertaking a 2013-14 pilot project that will
jump start cross-campus offerings during the academic year, help identify
what is needed to make cross-campus academic year offerings work for
students, faculty, and campuses, and help guide development of the hub
that will be created to provide technological underpinnings for
cross-campus courses in the long run.  We plan to build on lessons learned
from this pilot as we continue our work to offer during the academic year
high-quality online courses to undergraduate students across the UC
system.  The project will involve the following:

1.     A limited number of courses for which ILTI will cover the
additional costs incurred when UC undergraduates from other campuses
enroll in the course (see two attachments, one a current preliminary list
and the other a PDF with basic information about each course on the list),

2.     Efforts to publicize the courses at every campus willing to have
its students participate,

3.     Efforts we will help organize to obtain approval on participating
campuses so that each course will count not only for units toward
graduation but also toward satisfaction of GE, pre-major, or major
requirements, and

4.     Use, to the extent possible, of a technological "mini-hub" system
to handle the cross-campus processes (see attachment with technical
information) and use of the current paper-based system otherwise.



Aimée Dorr
Provost and Executive Vice President

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Frederick Wiseman’s “At Berkeley,” or, Seeing Like an Administration

Frederick Wiseman’s films often document the insipid, noxious operations of bureaucracies. This is certainly the case with High School, released in the auspicious year 1968. If At Berkeley can be read as a sequel to that earlier film, what becomes clear is that it is not only the character of educational institutions that has changed over the past fifty years—like the Fordist factory in the era of globalization, the factory-like public school has faded as well (although many schools have at the same time become increasingly prison-like)—but also the character of the director, who has become, notes one reviewer, “something of an institution himself.”

Another way of putting this comes from Wiseman’s reflections on the documentary form itself. The following comes from a Q&A panel after a screening at the New York Film Festival (above), but it’s an argument Wiseman repeats in nearly every discussion of the film:

People don’t want to believe that other people can act the way they sometimes do. Both good and bad—not necessarily just because it shows people doing difficult, uncomfortable or occasionally sadistic or cruel, but it’s equally true that some people don’t want to admit that other people can do nice, kind, helpful things. And in part that’s related to the idea that documentary film should always be an expose, should reveal something bad about government or people’s behavior. . . . I think it’s equally important when people are doing a good job and care and are kind and sensitive to other people, that’s an equally good subject for a documentary.

Ambiguity is certainly important, but in his critique of the exposé Wiseman may have moved too far in the opposite direction. He explicitly glosses At Berkeley as a kind of reverse-exposé, a study of “people [who are] doing a good job and care and are kind and sensitive to other people.” And it’s not just any “people” he's talking about. In an early interview with Daniel Kasman, Wiseman fleshes out the same argument by identifying the person he’s talking about:

From what I saw, he [then-chancellor Robert Birgeneau] commanded the situation. What impressed me most about him, aside from his obvious intelligence, is he cared, and that’s really nice. He cared about low-income students, and middle class students, and he was in a position to do something about it and he did. There are a lot of people who think the only true subject of documentary films are unpleasant things and nasty people, but it’s just as important to show people who are intelligent, sensitive, and responsible.

Wiseman’s documentary technique is well known—long takes, no voice over narration, no interviews, no identifying information for any of the figures who appear, and so on. To some, these techniques give the impression of objectivity, that the scenes were filmed essentially at random, that no story or argument is being presented. Of course, this is a mistaken impression. Wiseman explains how he constructs a story through the editing process during the Q&A:

I’ve got this great glob of material, 250 hours, which has no form except insofar as I impose a form on it as a consequence of editing. So it’s a question of watching the material a lot and trying to think my way through the experience, so that in one sense the final film is a report on what I’ve learned as a consequence of studying the material, and the experience of being at the place.

The question, then, is what kind of story is crafted, what kind of narrative woven, what kind of form imposed. Wiseman explains to Kasman that he is “concerned about avoiding didacticism.” When Kasman asks whether this meant that the documentary was something like an open text, Wiseman responds: “Not open in the sense that it doesn’t have a point-of-view or well defined points-of-view. Whenever you deal with reality as a subject, it should be complicated and ambiguous.” The form of the film, then, is one of apprehending, making sense of, and in the final instance managing the complexity and ambiguity that define and traverse the institution.

One way of approaching that question is to see how other reviewers have seen and talked about it. What you find is strikingly consistent. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise—although the film appears to do away with many formal elements of narration, Wiseman is, as he acknowledges, imposing a form. The fact that so many reviewers read the film in similar ways reveals his skill at doing so.

What most reviewers see is this: a public university in crisis, balancing budget cuts with a public mission, costs with affordability—and a caring, capable chancellor working to hold it all together. The brutish principal of High School has matured into the sensitive, capable chancellor of At Berkeley. And he is everywhere, the only figure in the film who escapes anonymity: “Birgeneau, who is easily picked out by his bright white hair, distinctive Canadian accent, and near-constant presence.” He is not only in organizational terms the one responsible for holding all the disparate parts of the university together, but also in formal terms the common element tying together the otherwise fragmented scenes that make up the film. “[The film’s] star is the university's chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, a Canadian-born physicist with white-blond hair and a flashing smile, whose placid, diplomatic manner makes him the perfect academic administrator.” He is the administrator’s administrator. “The then-chancellor of the school seems to be everywhere . . . like he’s this omniscient presence. He seems so calm and in control, he’s a very strong character.”

Contrast this with Wiseman’s view of the student protesters (which differs significantly from his view of both the rest of the student body and of workers on campus). We will look a little more at the context below, but for now what’s important is that there’s a protest toward the end of the film. Wiseman discusses it with Kasman:

KASMAN: It was very moving when he [Birgeneau] was genuinely incensed that students who were protesting fees didn’t even know the statistics, which had changed positively. What was your impression of the protest?

WISEMAN: My impression is what you see in the movie, what did you see?

KASMAN: It seemed like it was going OK until the students started talking!

WISEMAN: [laughs] That’s the problem!

KASMAN: It reminded me so much of Occupy Wall Street, which happened just about a year later. The confusion that the students feel as a unified body is not something you sense in the classrooms, it’s in their group protest. When they’re in the classrooms they’re different people with different opinions but the moment they’re together and given a microphone…

WISEMAN: They’re intelligent, but…

Respect for authority, insults for protesters. Here Wiseman goes out of his way to elicit a reading from his interviewer, and the response seems to resonate with the director's own feelings. It is also more or less consistent across the reviews. Serena Golden’s piece at Inside Higher Ed is representative:

But the film’s climax, insofar as there is one, is anticlimactic. When the day comes, students march chanting through campus and take over a library reading room, sending Birgeneau a list of their demands. But the protest is fragmented, disorganized, the demands many and divergent. A variety of speakers agree that the protesters must formulate a goal, but each offers a very different vision of what that goal might be.

“It’s actually helpful that the list [of demands] is so crazy,” we hear Birgeneau tell another administrator via speakerphone. “If they had a list of three things that we could conceivably be able to address, that would be much more effective.”

His administration responds with a deliberately vague statement in support of accessible public education, which the protesters boo – but the rally dies down quickly, with no evident impact. A shot of the same reading room later that evening shows it to be neat, empty, silent. A worker begins taking down the protest banner tacked above the library door.

In an administrative meeting afterward, Birgeneau dismisses the protest as “classic oppositional politics; there was no underlying philosophy.”

What stands out most in this analysis is not so much that Golden seems to have been asleep during the Occupy movement but rather that she has projected the film’s formal characteristics onto the character of the protest itself. The film has no clear plotlines to develop or narrator to explain the gaps to the viewer; its “disparate elements” are juxtaposed and spliced together and as a result “[t]he effect is at times disorienting.” Similarly, she describes the protest as “fragmented” and “disorganized,” with demands that are “many and divergent.” Like Birgeneau (and many a political pundit in the era of Occupy), Golden would prefer for the protesters to make their demands more focused, more reasonable. The implication is not so much that the film is doing the PR work of the administration—though this may be the case as well—but that it ends up reproducing the administration’s way of seeing the world. What Golden has read in the film is the form that Wiseman has imposed, and that form resembles in important ways the lens of the UC Berkeley administration.

In spite (or more accurately because) of the fact that he had dismissed the protesters in the film, Birgeneau, who along with his second-in-command George Breslauer participated in the Q&A in New York, attempts to moderate his scorn:

Actually one thing I wanted to say in defense of our students, since I was quite harsh on them in terms of the incoherence of the protest, there were many very coherent protests which were quite effective, actually. But they focused on undocumented students, black students, the Black Student Union organized really terrific protests in terms of the challenges that African-Americans face on our campus and every other campus, the Multicultural Center. So you know protests are part of the Berkeley culture, but somehow during the time period that Fred [Wiseman] was there it happened to have deteriorated. [interviewer chuckles]

There’s a lot we could say about those comments—it’s interesting, for example, that the neoliberal language of diversity seems to be the one that the administration best understands—but the point we want to insist on here is simply that the logic of the film, as articulated by Wiseman himself, parroted by reviewers, and stated by the film’s main protagonist, mirrors the logic of the administration. Whatever its intention, At Berkeley creates the conditions, at the level of both form and content, for the viewer to see like the administration.

One last consequence of Wiseman’s documentary technique, at least for our purposes here, has to do with what we could call a structural asymmetry of context. Nearly every reviewer remarks on a scene in a meeting among top-level university executives in which Chancellor Birgeneau details ongoing budget cuts, to the point that the state, which once provided 40-50 percent of the UC budget, now provides just 16 percent. These data act as a sort of mini-history of the institution, usefully framing the film as a study of the public university in crisis and locating it at the end of a long trajectory of what Birgeneau calls a “progressive disinvestment in higher education in the state of California.” It is a true, though partial story, one that students and workers have spent a lot of time and energy trying to correct. But what we want to highlight here is the differential between the administration on one hand and the protesters on the other. Because Wiseman spends so much time with administrators and especially with the chancellor, he affords them the chance to frame their own story. In this way, their actions are not only contextualized but through that context rendered reasonable.

In contrast, the protest—dismissed by administrators, ridiculed by director and reviewers alike—has no context. It appears out of nowhere, disconnected from everything that preceded it, further compounding the reviewers’ view of its “fragmented” and “disorganized” character. Although Wiseman appears to treat administrators and protesters on more or less the same formal plane, here the asymmetry is revealed. The chancellor constructs the administration’s present through a narration of its past. The protesters, on the other hand, lack the same position from which to narrate their own history. In part this is due to the difference between the univocal and stabile character of the administration, an institution defined by (and for that matter funded on the basis of) its continuity, and the polyphonic character of a protest movement, defined by multiplicity and change over time. But it also has to do with the film’s attachment to the chancellor and by extension to the administration. It leaves no place from which to tell the recent history of struggle at UC.

Whether or not Wiseman himself knew about the occupation movement that swept across the UC campuses in the fall of 2009, this history is entirely absent in reviews. The administration situates itself within a concrete historical trajectory, while the protest has no history. This temporal isolation is in part why so many reviewers specifically indict its efficacy—Golden, for example, asserts that “the rally dies down quickly, with no evident impact.” In this context, the only history of protest that can be traced is one that has been fully mythologized and commodified by the UC Berkeley administration itself. That is, of course, the “free speech movement” of the 1960s. So we find critics dismissing the protesters’ “ill-considered list of demands” next to Bob Dylan references. The only critic who at all perceives a connection to a contemporary political movement is Kasman, who declares that the “misguided student protest . . . shockingly predates by a year the inspiring but confused muddle of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” The genealogical connection to the Occupy movement is perceptive and important, but it is incomplete and one-directional. It is in the sequence of student occupations in 2009-2010 (which actually began in New York in late 2008) that this history is rooted. Locked into the structure of At Berkeley, however, this counter-history cannot be told.

The “Day of Action” that took place on October 7, 2010, in which a central reading room of the main library on the UC Berkeley campus was briefly occupied by 600-800 protesters, was part not only of a longer historical trajectory but also of a geographically dispersed movement of struggle against austerity and the privatization of higher education, one that resonates at both a national and a global level. It was a system-wide day of action across both UCs and CSUs. There were rallies, sit-ins, and banner drops at every UC campus. There was a virtual sit-in that temporarily shut down the website of the UC Office of the President. Around the country, from Louisiana to Wisconsin, October 7 saw 76 coordinated actions take place. The point, then, is not that the protest at UC Berkeley was in reality highly effective or even particularly well executed. In fact it was highly criticized from within the student movement at the time. Rather, what’s missing from the film is any sense that the protest was part of something bigger, a wedge of antagonism both distributed across and situated in time and space. The lack of context thus intensifies the illegibility of the action.

“I didn’t want the protest to be the subject of the film, because I thought that would be completely unfair to the university,” says Wiseman at the end of the panel discussion. As a result, what we have is a film that is eminently fair to the “university”—whose representation is inevitably channeled through and controlled by the administration—and completely unfair to everyone else. Whether intentionally or not, At Berkeley not only toes the administration’s line but faithfully brings to life the administration’s way of seeing. Students and workers are rendered (if, that is, they appear at all) as anonymous data points, the personification of tasks (e.g. mowing the lawns) and economic flows (e.g. scientific research), and occasionally inconvenient, illegible, and irrational obstructions. It will take both a different director and a different technique to tell these stories.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Problems Always Come From Outside, or, UC Administrators Defend Their Little Fiefdom from the Barbarian Hordes


Generator explosion on campus, September 2013:
[UC spokesperson Dan] Mogulof said the cause of the explosion, which followed a widespread power outage at 4:30 p.m., “appears to be related to an incident of vandalism on our electrical system.” He said vandals had been digging up copper grounding wires on campus, “which caused extensive damage to the electrical system.” The vandalism was discovered late last week, but “it appears it had been going on for quite a while.” Mogulof said the visible damage had been repaired on the weekend. “What happened today is an indication that the vandals caused far more damage than we could originally see or assess,” he said just before 8 p.m. Monday.
Occupy UC Davis, November 2011:
In planning its response to Occupy-related activism, the Leadership Team discussed the presence of “non-affiliates” in the Occupy group. According to Chancellor Katehi, “We had noticed that this group, this year specifically, has people -- even when they came to Mrak -- who were not students.” “We were worried at the time about that because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students . . . we worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record . . . if anything happens to any student while we’re in violation of policy, it’s a very tough thing to overcome.”

According to Vice Chancellor Meyer, “our context at the time was seeing what's happening in the City of Oakland, seeing what's happening in other municipalities across the country, and not being able to see a scenario where [a UC Davis Occupation] ends well . . . Do we lose control and have non-affiliates become part of an encampment? So my fear is a long-term occupation with a number of tents where we have an undergraduate student and a non- affiliate and there's an incident. And then I'm reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act with your daughter, and how could we let that happen?”
Occupation of Durant Hall, February 2010:
We are writing to condemn in the strongest terms the overnight criminal vandalism in Durant Hall that spilled over onto Bancroft and Telegraph avenues. Initial investigation indicates that about 100 people came onto campus with clear intent to break into at Durant Hall which is currently a construction site. At this time we believe that the majority of those involved in the vandalism were not Berkeley students. We call on any of our students or other campus members who may have observed last night's criminal vandalism and violence to come forward and help police identify those responsible for these reprehensible actions.
Protest at the Chancellor's house, December 2009:
The incidents have ignited a debate over how best to protest the budget cuts — and who should be involved. Several of those arrested at the chancellor's house and at Wheeler Hall last week were not students at UC Berkeley or other universities.
Outsiders have damaged dialogue with the administration, said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. Birgeneau declined to answer questions Monday, and Mogulof would not say whether additional security was in place. "We will not be talking with people who come from outside our community," Mogulof said. "But we will be stepping up our efforts to discuss (the issues) with a diverse range of groups."
It's always someone else's fault, isn't it? Yesterday's explosion -- notably on the first day of Janet Napolitano's presidency -- certainly couldn't have anything to do with the $700 million maintenance backlog, a problem that the UC administrators themselves caused by putting all their money into fancy and exciting new capital projects instead of just repairing the boring old buildings that are already built. That's not how you build a legacy! Yeah, it must have been vandals...

(photo from the daily cal)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Call for Submissions: Pamphlet on Securitization and the University

Reposted from Reclamations Journal:

On July 18, 2013, the UC Regents appointed Janet Napolitano, former head of the US Department of Homeland Security, as the next President of the University of California.  Napolitano’s nomination has already been met with protest and criticism: for the secretive process by which it was made, for her her lack of academic experience, for the possibility that she will intensify campus surveillance and remold university research and instruction according to the interests of the security apparatus, and for her involvement at DHS in an historically unprecedented deportation regime.  Her ascension has also prompted a number of brief genealogical essays that have considered her nomination in relation to previous UC administrators’ complicities with state power.  Should Napolitano’s appointment be seen as marking a rupture with past models of University management, or should her appointment be understood as relatively continuous with previous administrative entanglements in the business of security and surveillance?  What does her appointment signal in terms of the securitization of life on and beyond campus? What does her appointment tell us about the relationship between and trajectories of austerity politics, privatization, and securitization?
The editorial collective of Reclamations Journal plans to publish a pamphlet on histories and futures of securitization at the University and on struggles against emergent forms of state repression.  We hope to have the pamphlet ready by the end of the summer, so that it can be passed out during campus orientations and potentially folded into the organization of protest movements over the course of the coming year.
The Reclamations collective is seeking essays, narratives, photo montages, poems, and other sorts of contributions on any of the topics outlined below.  Please submit full-length contributions or abstracts to by August 15th.  [Just to be safe, if you know one of their email addresses, please also send submissions to one of the Reclamations Journal editors.] 
Online Surveillance /  Online Education
§ The technological crossovers that link online education projects, weapons manufacturing, and state and corporate surveillance techniques.  How are online education projects potentially generative of the bodily capacities and forms of knowledge upon which surveillance and military apparatuses increasingly depend?
§ Recent revelations about online surveillance by the NSA and other state and corporate institutions in relation to online education projects and university web services.  The EdEx code has recently been shared publicly; are there any details of the code that would make possible the surveillance of online learning environments?
§ The Department of Homeland Security’s recently established “National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies” (NICCS), which involves work “with partners in academia … to develop the next generation of cyber professionals to protect against evolving cyber threats.”  Napolitano’s involvement in this program, and her possible role in expanding UC’s participation in NICCS.
Anticolonial and Immigrant Rights Activism

§ The imbrications of US border enforcement with the surveillance and policing of university students and workers. New opportunities and challenges for immigrant rights activism on UC campuses.
§ Recent antagonisms around the surveillance and prosecution of Arab and Muslim students.
§ Genealogies of anti-imperialist struggle on university campuses.
The Military / Academic Complex
§ The involvement of universities in the training of soldiers and mercenaries, through ROTC and other programs.  Conflicts over the presence of military recruiters, including after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
§ How academic research has historically been molded to state interests, war economies, and regimes of surveillance.
§ Histories and ramifications of university contracts to oversee weapons laboratories.
§ Genealogies of the military / academic complex.  Crossovers between university and state bureaucracies, weapons manufacturing and research initiatives, the regulation of academic research critical of state institutions and practices, etc.
Debt and Risk Management
§ The emergence of new discourses of management at the university, including the framework of “Enterprise Risk Management,” which is drawn from the logistics industry and entails techniques—including new forms of surveillance—designed to shield just-in-time production processes from disruption.
§ Technologies of debt enforcement.
§ “Health and safety” as a category of administrative power; possibilities for critical biopolitics on and beyond campuses.
Policing and Surveillance
§ The regulation of campus space and time through policing and surveillance techniques; genealogies of resistance to such regulation.
§ Universities and the policing and/or gentrification of urban space.
§ Campus police training practices, including participation in Urban Shield and other martial training initiatives.
§ Homeland Security grants for the militarization of local and campus police forces.
§ Assessments of existing and possible sites of resistance to securitization both on and beyond the university.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Qualified Criticism: What Is A "Good" Administrator For?

What does it mean to say that Janet Napolitano is “unqualified” to be president of the University of California system? It suggests, in the first place, that other UC presidents have in fact had the necessary qualifications. Before becoming UC president in 2008, for example, Mark Yudof was president of the University of Minnesota and chancellor of the University of Texas. Before that he was an accomplished legal scholar. In other words, he has significant experience both as a faculty member and as an administrator. Does that mean he was “qualified” to be UC president? Or maybe it means that an administrator’s “qualifications” may not be the best way to judge if we want them to manage our university.

Yudof, we have to admit, was eminently “qualified” to be UC president. His “qualifications” were what allowed him to declare a state of fiscal emergency and orchestrate the subsequent 32% tuition hike. When Yudof became UC president, in-state tuition was $7,126—now it’s $12,946 (that’s an overall increase of 81%). It was because he was “qualified” that he treated workers as obstacles to efficiency, cutting their salaries and firing them essentially at will. For Yudof, faculty had no role to play in terms of shared governance but just stood in the way—“being president of the University of California,” he famously told the New York Times, “is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.” For the same reason, he saw students not as an integral part of the university community but as a threat, consolidating a police force that consistently surveilled, harassed, threatened, and arrested them, beat them with batons, and shot them with rubber bullets—and even, on one occasion, with live ammunition. He was so “qualified” he was paid more than $800,000 a year to do this.

These days, as Yudof departs from the UC system, nobody is talking about such things. It’s all roses and tears—at yesterday’s regents’ meeting, he delivered his final, heartfelt statement. But the bottom line is this: Yudof was extremely “qualified” for the job, and he performed rather “effectively.” That is to say, he did the job that the president of a university is supposed to do. Privatize, corporatize, neoliberalize, financialize, whatever you want to call it, he did it—the University of California is a very different university today than it was five years ago when Yudof arrived. He was a “qualified” administrator and for that reason an “effective” president. And that’s exactly why we fought him at every step of the way. Because the university is not meant for him, or for the throngs of parasitic deans, deanlets, and deanlings who applaud and implement his directives. It is meant, rather, for students and workers, those who, as our comrades used to say, use it.

“Qualifications” mean only that the administrator is better at his or her job of restructuring the university—what it means is a great deal of experience at confronting, misdirecting, and neutralizing those of us who are standing in the way of the so-called “future” of education, the all-administrative university. We should not be calling for “qualified,” “better,” or more “effective” administrators to rule over us, police us, cut our salaries and benefits, fire us, raise our tuition, cut our classes, and make us miserable. We should be pushing, instead, for a university without administrators. Cut the head off the king!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

UC President Napolitano and the "Securitized" University

Since the UC regents’ pick for Mark Yudof’s replacement was announced yesterday—and after getting over the shock—folks have raised a number of important objections. One such criticism is that Janet Napolitano is not qualified for the position, since she has never worked at a university in any capacity. The objection hasn’t been helped by the UC’s notoriously incompetent public relations machine, which clumsily identified the fact that her father was the dean of the University of New Mexico’s medical school as a clear sign that “a passion for education is in her DNA.” This claim, to say the least, does not inspire much confidence in the regents’ decision.

But this criticism carries some problems of its own. As others have pointed out (and most of the ideas laid out here are borrowed directly from the linked conversation), the notion that Napolitano’s lack of educational qualifications should exclude her over and above anyone else turns on a highly romanticized idea of the university as an institution dedicated primarily to education and run, therefore, by its educational employees, the faculty. However appealing this vision of the university is to many faculty today, and however true it may once have been in some decidedly utopian past, the fact is that today the university is not primarily an educational institution. As in the case of the conventional criticism of the “corporatization” of the public university, the answer here is pretty much the same: the university has already been “corporatized,” and it has never really been “ours.”

These days, the public research university is run not by its faculty or even its president but its CFO. It is not that Nathan Brostrom, the UC’s Executive Vice President for Business Operations, actually calls the shots when the regents sit down together at the table, but rather that he (and others like him) lays out the conditions in which every decision, from tuition hikes and out-of-state admissions to taking on debt in order to finance construction projects, will ultimately be made. As the university becomes more and more leveraged, its marching orders will increasingly come from Wall Street, which for its part is simultaneously reaping enormous profits off the securitization of student debt.

At the same time, Napolitano does signal a change, the recognition that it is no longer “business discipline” but “martial discipline” that is key to the university’s continued operation. It is an acknowledgment that the university in general, and the UC in particular, will continue to be a site of struggle. If the Occupy movement drew heavily from the student occupations of 2008-2009 in New York and the UC, perhaps Napolitano’s arrival reflects the state’s recognition of the possibility that struggles over the university can resonate and explode in unsettling and unpredictable ways.

UC President Napolitano, in other words, could be seen as presiding over the first fully “securitized” public university, in the dual senses of the word. Of course, the university has long formed part of the military-industrial complex. Napolitano’s appointment is meant to double down on the UC’s turn to federal research dollars and weapons development. The Washington Post’s article originally stated that “the university’s search committee was drawn to her experience in Obama’s Cabinet, believing that she might help the UC system advance its federally funded programs, including . . . nuclear weapons labs.” (Strangely this sentence, which we tweeted yesterday, seems to have been silently removed, although it’s still quoted in this piece in the Examiner.) Likewise, Napolitano is not the first member of the United States’ security apparatus to become president of the UC. Charles J. Hitch, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1961-1965, was appointed UC president two years later and served in that capacity for eight years.

But the specificity of Napolitano, perhaps, is seen in the convergence of these two forms of “security,” one financial and the other repressive. If our classic slogan “behind every fee hike, a line of riot cops” responds to the intimate ties between austerity and policing, the violence of financialization clarified and crystallized in the UC regents’ decision suggests that the terrain of struggle, while structured in many ways by continuities, has shifted in important ways. Maybe it's time to update that slogan.

(Image borrowed from UCMeP)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

UC Student Workers Union Solidarity Statement with CCSF

UC Student Workers Union (UAW 2865) Stands with City College of San Francisco

Whereas City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is a critical part of the public education system in California, it is the largest public community college in the State of California (90,000 students) and has been a key public good accessible to working class San Francisco residents, people of color, immigrant students, and those seeking adult education opportunities in the city. 

Whereas the recent privatization of public education in California and nationally has taken many forms, from the closing of elementary and secondary schools, the imposition of charter elementary schools, the raising of fees at colleges and universities, the reduction of course offerings at community colleges, and the imposition of layoffs, pension reductions, and furloughs for workers at educational institutions.  These transformations have coincided with rising student debt levels and the financialization of such debt, as well as the expansion of for-profit education institutions, which have very low graduation and placement rates and engage in fraudulent advertising campaigns that particularly target working class communities of color.   

Whereas the western regional accreditation agency, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, has recently announced that it intends to revoke CCSF’s accreditation in 2014.  This decision comes after a series of reports threatening CCSF with disaccreditation.  The threat of disaccreditation is an attack—based on hollow pretexts—on a key working class institution of San Francisco.  The threat of disaccreditation is also a part of a broader project of privatization, which members of the ACCJC are financially and otherwise invested in.   

Therefore, be it resolved that the UC Student Workers Union (UAW 2865) stands in solidarity with the students, instructors, and workers of CCSF, and with the unions and organizing groups that have been standing up in defense of city college. 

Be it further resolved that the executive board of UAW 2865 will encourage members of the union to participate in upcoming actions in defense of city college, including the march to the Department of Education scheduled for Tuesday, July 9 at 4pm, and the letter writing campaign to the ACCJC. 

Be it finally resolved that the UC Student Workers Union calls on the management of the University of California (particularly the Chancellors of UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz, and the Office of the President) to speak publicly against the decision of the ACCJC and in support of the continued accreditation of City College of San Francisco.         

Approved in a straw poll of members and officers present following a quorum call at the July 7 Joint Council meeting; statement to be finalized by the Executive Board. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What UC administrators (don't) talk about when they talk about risk

UC Administrators are meeting Thursday, June 6th to talk about the management of financial and other risks, "ranging from campus protests to mega natural disasters."  They will attend various workshops, including Wes Balda's "Risk Managers Are from Mars, Faculty from Venus," as well as the "Civil Disobedience Training" advertised below:

On the same day, members of the UC student workers union and their allies are planning to pay administrators a visit, and to share stories about a very different set of risks, including racial and sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace, unaffordable healthcare for children and elderly dependents, food insecurity, indebtedness, and the threat of technology- and austerity-induced joblessness.  These are realities contributing to our unsafety that workers and students face daily, and that members of the UC student workers union are trying to address through another round of collective struggle at and beyond the universities.  Hope you can make it out on Thursday to help kick things off: 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Press Release: Yolo DA Punts, Banker's Dozen Walks





6 MAY 2013

More than a year after after Yolo County District Attorney's office filed 21 misdemeanor charges each against a dozen political protestors, threatening 11 years in jail along with a million dollars in damages, the case has been resolved. The resolution comes in advance of a trial that Assistant District Attorney Michael Cabral was seemingly anxious to avoid, perhaps unwilling to burn further County funds on another failed effort at political repression. Each protestor accepted an infraction ticket and nominal community service.

Last January and February, numerous protestors peacefully blockaded the campus offices of USBank. The branch shuttered its doors and abandoned the sweetheart deal through which it purchased captive customers from the university. Twelve students and staff were selected arbitrarily for the hyperbolic charges. Evidence gathered via subpoena now shows a national network of high-priced attorneys, public relations executives, security professionals, and corporate administrators deployed, not to protect bank or university community, but to exact as much punishment as possible. In the end, the UC administration, the bank, and the DA did not get their wish.

Evidence also shows that the prosecution was largely driven by the university's top administrators who, despite having high-salaried in-house council, elected to spend considerable public money on private attorneys. One upscale San Francisco firm was retained solely to avoid exposure of any internal documents regarding UCD's relations with the bank, and to conceal the administration's dossiers on students, staff, and faculty. Like the DA and police, the university seemed motivated by the need to send a message regarding the risks of protest — a message sometimes written in pepper spray.

In this case, the message turned out to be: no convictions, no bureaucratic revenge, and no bank. The absurd case is now history. The questions of the university's increasing entanglement with finance; the catastrophe of student debt; and the systematically brutal, excessive, and wasteful criminalization of protest remain very much of the moment.

for further information: Kristin Koster (530) 902-2493


The Exploitation of Undergraduate Workers at UC Berkeley's Student Learning Center

Undergraduate students are workers in training.  Not only does university education train and sift students into particular lines of work, but the rising costs of education and associated student debt burdens also lock students into futures defined by waged work.  Undergraduate students are not simply oriented toward work they will have to perform in the future though; they also work for wages at the same time as they are enrolled.  Students have to pay for their food and lodging, and often hold down multiple, part-time jobs in order to do so, including food service, clerical, and academic jobs.  Some of this work occurs on campus, meaning that university administrators are not simply managing students' educational experience, but also managing their lives as workers.  Work on campus is often minimally compensated.  And, while some undergraduate jobs are covered by collective bargaining agreements, most of these jobs are non-union.  Students' lives are thus defined by often impossible attempts to juggle work performed for credit and work performed for (minimal) pay.

At UC Berkeley, a conflict is currently taking place that will determine how work at one of the primary places of undergraduate employment on campus will be defined, whether this work will be compensated, and whether it will be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.  The stakes of this conflict are very high: if university management prevails, they will have taken a step toward normalizing unwaged academic work, toward devaluing all academic labor, and toward diminishing the quality of academic support all UC students can expect.

The Student Learning Center (SLC) at UC Berkeley employs over 250 undergraduates as tutors, who provide support for other students around writing assignments, math problem sets, and other academic activities.  Tutors are assigned to particular tutees, facilitate group learning activities, and also work shifts at the SLC, where they help students who drop in to the Center with questions about a particular assignment.  The image below offers a sense of the scale of this work: on most days, all the tables in the SLC are filled with tutors offering support to tutees.

While university administrators have refused to provide any data on employment patterns at the SLC, anecdotally we know that in recent years -- following local austerity measures -- SLC administrators have begun to hire a significant percentage of tutors for unpaid, "practicum" positions.  Students seeking employment at the SLC are made to fill out an application form where they list their previous experience and other job-related qualifications.  The form then asks them to check boxes indicating whether they would be willing to work in paid and/or unpaid positions at the SLC.  If they check both boxes, applicants can expect to be told after their interview that no more paid positions are available, and that they are being offered an unpaid, "practicum" position, where they will tutor for four or five hours per week, and take a pedagogy seminar as well for a couple hours each week.  It has gotten to the point where tutors see these unpaid positions as a kind of required internship, or unwaged training period, to be performed for a semester before they have any chance of working for pay at the SLC.

All tutoring work throughout the UCs is covered by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated two years ago by the University and the UC Student-Worker Union (UAW 2865).  Thus, UC Berkeley's move toward what is essentially an unpaid internship program at the SLC undercuts the Recognition clause of the UAW 2865 contract, which stipulates that all tutors will be represented by the union and will be entitled to payment and workplace protections outlined within the other articles of the contract.  Given this clear and systemic violation of the contract, a couple of union head stewards, working together with a group of unwaged tutors, filed a grievance with UC labor relations a few months ago, challenging the practice of hiring unpaid tutors at the SLC.

The grievance is entering into its final stage, after which -- assuming the University continues to deny our claim -- the union would be entitled to appeal to third-party arbitration.  Now is an important time to put pressure on University administrators to adequately fund the SLC and to end the hyper-exploitative practice of running the SLC on unwaged labor.  The tutors and head stewards working on this grievance have been organizing on the ground, have put together a petition and have been publicizing the grievance.  If you haven't yet, please sign the petition calling on university administrators to fully fund the SLC and to pay all tutors for their work.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Against Civility: Dartmouth and the Logic of Administrative Discourse

These days, Dartmouth looks like the worst place in the world. By now most people are familiar with the story: after a group students protested the administration’s failure to take seriously the problem of sexual violence, racism, and homophobia on campus during a recent event for prospective students, they were targeted with rape and death threats on an anonymous student website. (Lots of screenshots are posted at the Real Talk Dartmouth blog.) On Friday, the Dartmouth administration sent a mass email to the entire campus announcing that disciplinary action would be taken in response—against not only those who made the anonymous threats but also those who participated in the original protest.
As some of you know, a small group of students disrupted the Dimensions Welcome Show for prospective students on Friday, April 19, using it as a platform to protest what they say are incidents of racism, sexual assault, and homophobia on campus. Following the protest, threats of bodily harm and discriminatory comments targeting the protesters and their defenders ran anonymously on various sites on the Internet.
With tensions high across the Dartmouth community, Interim President Carol Folt, the Dean of the Faculty, and other senior leaders across campus agreed that the best course of action was to suspend classes on Wednesday, April 24, for a day of reflection and alternative educational programming. This decision was made to address not only the initial protest but a precipitous decline in civility on campus over the last few months, at odds with Dartmouth’s Principles of Community.
This unusual and serious action to suspend classes for a day was prompted by concern that the dialogue on campus had reached a point that threatened to compromise the level of shared respect necessary for an academic community to thrive. The faculty and administration together determined that a pause to examine how the climate on campus can be improved was necessary. This was an important exercise that the Board supports. It is also important to note that there will be an opportunity for faculty to hold the classes that were missed as a result of Wednesday’s events.
Neither the disregard for the Dimensions Welcome Show nor the online threats that followed represent what we stand for as a community. As Interim President Folt indicated Wednesday in her remarks in front of Dartmouth Hall, the administration is following established policies and procedures with regard to any possible disciplinary action in both cases. As in every case regarding a disciplinary investigation, this process is confidential and respects the privacy of our students.
This email is an exemplary model of the genre of “administrative discourse.” It is not specific to Dartmouth or to private universities for that matter, but along with certain forms of university management have become generalized throughout higher education in the United States. We’ve seen some of this here at the UC, where the administration frequently makes the same kind of pronouncements. When students have organized actions against racism, sexism, and homophobia—which manifest in multiple forms from daily microaggressions to bureaucratic impunity to police violence—the administration often feels the need to make a public statement. These campus-wide missives are tepid, sterile, designed by committees primarily in order to avoid provoking, offending. Administrative discourse is the absence of language.

Some critics have observed that what is particularly problematic about the Dartmouth administration’s email is the fact that it posits a false equivalence between the students’ protest and the rape and death threats they received. Any equivalence is obviously not only false but intensely violent. As David Theo Goldberg wrote in the wake of a 2010 email from UC President Mark Yudof calling for “tolerance,”
To say that the racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic incidents at UCSD, at Davis and UCSC are cases of intolerance is to imply that that those engaged in these expressions are saying awful things to and about people they reject. To call for tolerance is to address only the awful things they are saying, not the underlying and implicit rejection. It addresses the symptom, not the underlying condition of which the individual utterances are merely the manifestation. We should not say such things, it implies, even about people we find or whose behavior or culture we find unacceptable.
The same could be said of the situation at Dartmouth. But there is something else going on in these examples of administrative discourse. Both “civility” and “tolerance” smooth over the violence of the status quo, transforming it into a blank slate for unceasing dialogue—a dialogue that, for its part, never upsets the neutral “civility” of the status quo. At the modern university, furthermore, “civility” is more than an ethic, it is at the same time a form of governance. It is composed of countless instruments, from room reservations to student organizations, but the maximum expression of “civility” are “Time, Place, and Manner” restrictions, by which the administration designates those forms of “speech” that count as legitimate and acceptable and likewise those that do not. The latter, of course, do not even count as “speech” but rather tend to be seen as something approaching “violence.”

What these protests are, at least if they are to be effective, is disruption, an intervention against the normal operations of the university, against “business as usual.” That business, of course, is maximizing revenue streams—many of them public, but increasingly private. Disruptions threaten the flow of capital through the university’s veins, and as such they must be prevented. The university administration’s job, then, must be seen as one of a constant managing of threats which are political, financial, and literally embodied in the students. We are the crisis. The police, of course, is one mechanism by which the administration attempts to neutralize these threats, but as the last few years have demonstrated the police often provoke more outrage, and consequently more disruption, in the course of carrying out their brutal “duties.” So from the administration’s perspective there are more effective tools—such as “civility,” which governs the norms of legitimate action. “Civility” is a gentle policeman.

Beyond false equivalence, then, the problem with the Dartmouth administration’s statement is the turn to “civility.” Administrative discourse represents an attempt not to shift the debate but to neutralize it. By deploying “civility” it hopes to disrupt disruption, channeling energies away from blockage and confrontation and into forms of pure speech that in no way threaten the constant flow of capital through the neoliberal university.

Friday, April 12, 2013

BP and UCPD Off Campus!

Cross-posted from BP Off Campus . . .

[On] April 10th 2013, members of Occupy Cal's UC Berkeley student group Open University reserved the world-renown Sproul Steps to launch the new "BP Off Campus" campaign. (...) The latest venture of Occupy Cal, the bpoffcampus campaign has been been focused on the greatest privatization scheme on the #1 Public University, which is British Petroleum's $500 million dollar deal with UC Berkeley regarding biofuel research at the EBI (Energy Biosciences Institute). Briefly, this deal is at best, a greenwashing scam for one of the worlds dirtiest corporations, but more troubling is the precedent that Big Oil can buy their way in and dictate education and research at a public institution. Please read more about it here.

Though Occupy Cal doesn't boast the numbers it once had . . . the UC Administration and their lackey thugs in blue, the UCPD, are still gravely concerned, because they know they've been robbing students and the public at large for years, and a sustained student movement on campus would expose their corruption and sink them. That's the reason for the continued authoritarianism against student protesters like Occupy Cal. We aren’t content with one-day “Day of Action” rallies, tepid measures passed in student governments, stalled ballot reforms, etc; no, occupying space; be it Sproul Steps, the commons in front of city hall, classrooms, administration buildings, farms, libraries: we’ve determined it's the best way forward, as this strategy has been the main source of student activism victories in the past. Why else would the UC Berkeley admins send in armed thugs to break up a teach-in about biofuels, in a room that was properly reserved?! [The teach-in took place on February 16, 2013 --ed. note]

Fast-forward to . . . April 10, we set up our table in our officially reserved space without any trouble, but as soon as our famous Occupy Cal heart-signs came out . . .


. . . the police started to swarm: more UCPD showed up, said some Sproul regular tablers, than had in months.  The threat of a radical movement will do that.

The UCPD told us we had to take our table down and leave immediately, to which we responded, we reserved the spot as a student group. They replied "We'll check on that," to which we said: "Why don't you check before you start making illegal demands?" The UCPD came back later, with their tail between their legs, admitting that we did in fact have the right to be there; though if he got the order to take the bullhorn, he'd snatch it right from our hands. "Why don't you just follow orders?" we dared, holding the bullhorn out. "Why don't you just follow orders!" So they deployed a new strategy, bring out the Student Group Administrator (the woman in the white blouse in the above photo) to harass us with spurious regulations, that seem to have been made up on the spot.

We had a sign, (as part of our protest that we jumped through hoops to make sure we were playing by the "rules" in our temporary "Free Speech Zone"), that told BP to "Fuck Off." After all, why we should be overly polite to a corporation that has a long history of lying, cheating, stealing, polluting and murdering? UCPD and the administration connived and concluded that saying the word "fuck" was fine, but having the word "fuck" on a sign was illegal, and we needed to immediately take the sign down. We asked her: "Are you aware of where you are standing?"

Yes, we were on the Mario Savio Steps, where the FREE SPEECH MOVEMENT was launched.

The Admin insisted. We replied, "This sign isn't going down. Are you prepared for a PR disaster?" She continued to insist. We wanted to see the documentation of this rule, as we had never heard of such of thing (and having many, many protests over the years with signs that said "Fuck" on them with no incident) and our scanning of the "rulebook" found no such policy. Incredibly, this UC Berkeley official said it wasn't her responsibility to show us the rule in writing; could we show her the rule where we had the right to have a sign with profanity? UC Berkeley 2013 ladies and gentlemen! "How about the 1st Amendment of the fucking US Constitution" was the obvious answer.

The action wrapped up without any further major incidents, and it was one of the better Sproul actions in over a year with many new students actually stopping by and getting informed and involved. Which is noteworthy, considering how modern UCB campus culture is for students to ignore the dozens of tables and groups handing out flyers at Sproul Plaza and walk through as quickly as possible. Please spread the word of our campaign and our website to your friends and networks. And please consider getting involved!

This campaign isn’t limited in scope to just the University of California Berkeley. There are overarching and interconnected causes of social justice, human rights, environmental activism, quality education for all, and ending the drug war and the prison industrial complex (just to new a few, broadly) are all within the vision @bpoffcampus. This campaign is a unique opportunity as a launching off point for all of these issues and more. Why? Activist goals can be achieved and demands can be met on campus with direct action in ways that CAN NOT be done by appealing to Sacramento or Washington DC. And even if you are not a student, the University of California belongs to ALL OF US Californians: we must take it back! The time is now!

With broad consensus of the world’s top scientists that climate change caused by excessive fossil fuel consumption uncheck will cause mass global extinctions, and the immediacy of new oil spills and pipeline bursts occurring virtually every week, action must be taken immediately to get Big Oil out of our colleges and out of our lives. We must expose the BP/EBI deal at UC Berkeley for the greenwashing scheme and privatization scam that it is, and kick the corrupt, lying, thieving, polluting, and yes, murdering corporation British Petroleum out now!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stories of Sexual Violence: We Will Not Remain Silent

From NotRemainSilent:
In recent months, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have come forward to share their stories with various groups on the left, including activist networks, trade unions, reform caucuses, and socialist parties. They have stepped forward to share these stories in search of active support and accountability. Overwhelmingly, the responses they’ve received from members of these groups have been inadequate; often, the responses have been damaging and re-traumatizing as well. This damage affects both the people coming forward to share their experiences of abuse, as well as others within our organizing bodies—particularly survivors of trauma and members of groups routinely exposed to gendered violence such as women and LGBT people. Rather than offering support for survivors, respecting their articulated needs and demands, or undertaking real accountability processes, groups on the left have tended to shield those who are said to have perpetrated sexual assault or harassment, while isolating those coming forward to share stories of abuse.
While each situation is different, and while we aren’t necessarily unanimous about the particular steps that should be taken when someone comes forward with a story of sexual assault or harassment, we think it is necessary at this time to reiterate what we consider to be some basic truths about these situations. We are making this statement in part because we find ourselves navigating a situation of this sort.
When groups shield those who are called out this sends a message to all people in the group that perpetrators of sexual violence will face no consequences and that they will be able to freely continue their lives without interruption. This message makes the group especially hostile to women, LGBT people, and survivors, who will likely be more afraid of coming forward with their own stories. When groups shield those called out it also signals to perpetrators of sexual violence that their actions are tacitly endorsed by the group, which normalizes and promotes further sexual violence. When groups protect those called out, they prioritize the comfort, freedom, and work of the perpetrator over all others’. In doing so, they act in contradiction with their stated commitment to justice and liberation. We do not see any possibility of building labor movements or movements for social emancipation with groups that refuse to fully address and respond to accusations of sexual violence; that do not actively oppose gender and sexual oppression; and that push to the margins women, LGBT people, and survivors of sexual violence. The stakes are too high; we will not remain silent.
To read the full statement or to sign your name to the statement, visit NotRemainSilent.