Sunday, November 20, 2011

The University of California

Last week I posted this note on my Facebook in response to the new videos that have emerged regarding the use of pepper spray against student protestors at UC Davis:

This video changes virtually nothing for me. People are making an uproar because students encircled the police? "Preventing them from leaving?" Yes, let's be worried about the police, stocked with pepper spray, batons, guns, and riot gear - they are certainly the ones at risk. Could they leave the circle? Yes. Could they simply step over the students? Yes. Did they choose to pepper spray them instead? Yes.

What must be challenged here is the notion of who holds the power on UC campuses. Students, the primary stakeholders of the UC system, should be allowed to peacefully gather and protest, without the threat of arrest or injury. Police can issue as many warnings as they want. Some of you seem to think that simply because they've issued warnings, their acts are justified. To me, they never should have been trying to break up the protest in the first place.

As for my many peers posting this video around as some kind of vindication for the use of pepper spray against these students, and dismissing the protestors by telling them to "go back to the library and study," just remember: many students 5 years from now will not have the privilege of going to study because they'll have to work 5 jobs to pay off the 81% fee hike. Have some respect for their struggle, even if it isn't yours. 

My post went "viral" (a very relative term). Though I generally like to keep my FB free of political commentary, this time, I just couldn't help myself. The post ignited a debate among friends and acquaintances, which you can visit here:


Two years ago UC San Diego was catapulted into protests about race. It was the most politically active most students or professors had ever seen our campus. Protestors peacefully occupied Library Walk,  marched through San Diego, and spoke very uncomfortable truths to power.

At that time, I quietly participated in the protests, mainly by means of observation and some marching in solidarity. There were many things to think about and a lot to admire from the spirit and determination of other student activists. I never, however, imagined how PRIVILEGED we were to be free from harm while peacefully demonstrating. It was a RIGHT that I took for granted.

Some students of color felt at risk (threatening nooses were incredibly threatening). But of the many things I can fault our university administration for, using the UC Police Department against our own students is NOT one of them.

I am so disgusted watching the videos of unwarranted violence at Berkeley and Davis. I don't think I need to go on a tirade here about them - any moment you spend on facebook aggregates the frustrations, shock and pain that students have felt first hand or feel in solidarity with their peers.

But a few questions linger. Where the hell are the parents of these protestors? They should get their asses out there to stand in solidarity with their students.

Who is going to sue UCPD? Someone has to. UC Student Association, UC Parents Association, UC Faculty: drafting "statements" is one way to express your solidarity and anger. But I think legal action is in order.

What the hell are the regents doing? Thanks for this nice little statement, Yudof. I especially like how you reaffirm your support for UCPD and leadership from the Chancellors:

"My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces. The sworn officers who serve on our campuses are professionals dedicated to the protection of the UC community."

Nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors. They are the leaders of our campuses and they have my full trust and confidence."

YEP, their leadership has been VISIONARY thus far. I'll be staying posted on how the Chancellors and Regents deal with this issue.

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