Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.
This has been a trying week for the Occupy Movement. More specifically OccupyLA and Occupy Colleges have faced new challenges that the rest of the movement have been dealing with for months. Raids, arrests, dismantling of our camps, all in an effort to dismantle the movement. But, as has been said before "You can't arrest an idea."
On November 29, Occupy Los Angeles was raided by 1,300 police officers in riot gear, hoisting rubber bullet guns, and blowing off a lot of pent-up aggression.
Of the 300 protesters over 20 were students including one of our Occupy Colleges facilitators. Most of these students went down to Occupy LA to serve as nonviolent monitors to keep the peace between protesters and police. I interviewed four Occidental College students who experienced first-hand the night of the Occupy Los Angeles raid.
“We had been cut off from the protesters in the center of the park by the police and sat in a circle on the lawn with three other brave protesters. We were among the first groups of people to be arrested. We submitted to arrest willingly and were quickly cuffed and seated on a curb to be processed. We were told that the more we moved, the tighter the cuffs would get.” Jacob Surpin
“Soon it became clear that arrests would be imminent, our peacekeeping team decided to risk incarceration. We believed that we had a right to peaceful assembly and we thought the police declaring this occupation to be “unlawful” was both undemocratic and unconstitutional.” Guido Girgenti
They didn't expect what came next.
"As riot police encircled us, we sat calmly in a circle and waited. In front of us, a photographer attempted to move towards the police line to take a photo. Two riot police grabbed each of his arms and attempted to stop him from taking photos. He pulled back and declared that he was leaving the encampment, but police stated he was under arrest. He held his arms out, attempting to avoid the plastic cuffs while explaining he was simply taking photos while making his way out. The police threw his arms violently behind his back and we heard a cruel snapping noise – the man yelled in pain. Three more officers engaged the man and together five riot police threw the photographer to the ground – one policeman pushed his head down and slammed his temple into the concrete walkway. While the man was held down, plastic cuffs were placed on his wrists and he taken away. His head was bleeding and his arm was held behind him awkwardly. Soon he was out of view.” Guido Girgenti
“They took us to a bus full of occupiers, these guys were the people I would be put in a holding cell with me. The whole arresting process of 290 people was very disorganized, officers didn't know where certain people were, and did a whole lot of paper work. Between 1:00 and 4:00am we were all siting in a big room waiting for everyone to be processed. Here I saw all the people who were arrested, there was a wide variety of people, there were a couple of people who had records, there were 30 year old professionals, there were students, and there were band members." Mohammed Imran Chandoo
"By around 4:00am, I was under the impression that my processing was over, as I was taken to a group holding cell in which I was able to make a few phone calls. However, the next several hours were defined by the frequent shuffling of myself and other Occupy arrestees between different temporary group holding cells and fingerprinting stations. The constant shuffling of us early women arrestees is a testament to the lack of capacity the jail possessed to hold women as well as an overall sense of inefficiency and unpreparedness." Maddie Resch
Now here is the kicker - Most of the 300 arrested were cited for a misdemeanor offense which typically garners a fine and immediate release. Not this time. The student occupiers that Occupy Colleges helped bail out of jail were all held on $5,000 bail.
"During this process of waiting while cuffed, nothing was ever explained to us. My Miranda rights were not read to me. I was never told where I was going, why I was going there, or for how long I would be there. I was simply escorted different places with no knowledge of what I did or not have a right to in any given place. The only thing that I was told was that my bail was $5,000. I could not comprehend why it was so high. By being a peacekeeper, I was being overtly nonviolent and obviously was not a threat. A $5,000 bail seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for a student who was practicing nonviolence in a movement for greater justice and deeper democracy.” Guido Girgenti
Initially, on November 30 when we went to the jail during stated visiting hours, the jail was closed. The officers claimed that they were under-staffed. The LAPD sure didn't seem under-staffed on the night of the raid when they had 1,300 officers abailable for overtime.
"I left jail with a deep sense that the entire process I had gone through was opaque and confusing to the point of being a severe violation of our democracy. Yet, despite being given a cruelly high bail, being held in cuffs for seven hours, and going 11 hours in custody without food or water, I will not let the issue of police treatment distract me from the larger issues this movement will tackle: the deeply unjust inequities of wealth and power in our country, and the fight to save our democracy from the stranglehold of corporate money. I do not blame the individual officers who dealt with me for my mistreatment; it was clear many of the officers are sympathetic to the cause for economic justice, but it is was also clear that their solidarity as individuals was gravely undercut by the repressive institution they worked within. My time in jail has only strengthened my resolve to organize and to win.” Guido Girgenti
How is it that we live a world where not a single person on Wall Street has served even an hour of prison time yet some of our fellow protesters still sit in jail? We are resolved to continue the most important fight of our lives - that of economic injustices. We are mobilized and nothing, not even egregious treatment in jail with high bails will stop us. Whether or not you agree with Occupy, you should be dismayed by the chipping away of our rights, the ability of the police and government to change the rules as they see fit, to use violence against nonviolent protesters and to only defend one side of the debate. Whichever side you are on, remember, next time it could be you.
It's been a tough couple of weeks for Syracuse basketball fans -- let alone students -- with the increasing number of allegations emerging about Bernie Fine and the molestation of young men, including two former ball boys, while he was tenured as the assistant coach for the Syracuse men's basketball team.
News broke on November 17 that Fine was placed on administrative leave by Chancellor Nancy Cantor and SU, and was then terminated on Sunday, November 27 -- effective immediately. For both SU students and the surrounding community, the accusations have been nothing short of shocking. There's been an unprecedented amount of unraveling information, all of it constantly rebutted by opposing parties, which makes this situation even more difficult to comprehend and formulate conclusive opinions.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks' forward and former SU basketball player on the 2003 National Championship team, mirrored a reaction similar to the majority of Syracuse's current student body when asked about Bernie Fine's controversy in a November 29 interview:
"My heart goes out to the families. I have no comment about the Fine situation or the Boeheim situation," Anthony said. "That's a sensitive situation, a sensitive topic right now that I don't even want to go into."
Aside from the occasional Facebook status or Twitter update, the majority of students have remained almost complacent. It is crucial for students to tread carefully in responding to the new developments around accusations against Bernie Fine and the incessant confusion from the situation's lack of clarity.
The Daily Orange reported that Neal Casey, president of Syracuse University's Student Association, commended students on Monday night for their reactions to the controversies thus far. "He mentioned, in light of the recent events concerning the SU basketball program, he is proud of the way students have been handling SU's thrust into the national spotlight," the article states.
Events at Penn State earlier this month have served as a model for Syracuse. Even though each school's respective circumstances of alleged child molestation and sexual abuse are different and not entirely comparable, Penn State laid out the groundwork for how Syracuse's administration should react. The school also set a major example for students, as well.
After Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was fired, along with university's President Graham Spanier, students rioted in protest. "Thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach's name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue," according to the New York Times.
PSU students have since revamped their attitudes by coming out in support of anti-child abuse sentiments and honored the victims, but the damage was already done. Syracuse students have had the benefit of witnessing these initial reactions and learned from others' mistakes, but these mistakes shouldn't be long forgotten.
While allegiance to college sports is an inherent part of campus culture, the distinction between traditional fandom and blind allegiance is an important one to make. The difference between allegiance and blind allegiance is simple -- it's about putting those critical thinking skills to good use and mindfully analyzing the ethics of a situation before showing support. Unconditional love is mostly reserved for family members and, in special cases, good friends. Backing up a sports team no matter what the case can be dangerous, especially if fans are failing to stay fully informed.
Blind allegiance acts as a kind of nationalistic pride that permeates throughout campus cultures at schools like SU and Penn State: where student bodies large in numbers adhere to traditional possessiveness over popular sports, and have an undying sense of loyalty.
There's no doubt that Syracuse basketball and other campus sports largely shape students' experiences -- "bleeding orange" isn't a phrase to be taken lightly -- but it's important to consider the greater implications of the situation, beyond natural feelings of school pride.
Even coach Jim Boeheim exemplified and hinted at this characteristic of extreme loyalty in a recent press conference after Tuesday night's victory against Eastern Michigan. When discussing his initial comments about Bernie Fine, Boeheim said, "I supported a friend. I think it's important what I did. I'm proud I did that. I've known him for 46 years. We went to school together. I think I owed him a debt of allegiance."
It's easier to immediately stand behind coaches, teams, and universities than it is to step back and understand the full severity of a situation before providing endless support. But life isn't about making the easy decisions -- doing the right thing involves extensive contemplation and reflection before jumping the gun, which is exactly the attitude SU students should embody moving forward.
We're delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s sixth annual Student Writing Contest!
This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue facing their generation. We received hundreds of submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total.
Congratulations to the winners, Bryce Wilson Stucki, an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, and Hannah Moon, a 2011 graduate of Brooklyn College Academy in Brooklyn, New York, and to our ten finalists! The winners each receive a cash award of $1,000; the finalists receive $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions.
Many thanks to all of our applicants and the many people who encouraged their participation, and many apologies for our delay in naming the winners. The two winning essays will be excerpted in an upcoming issue of The Nation magazine and all finalists will be published at StudentNation on Monday, December, 5.
Zoe Carpenter, Vassar College
Alex Klein, Yale University
Matthew Hickson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Melanie Muller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jake Shoemaker, Dartmouth College
Ashley Arkhurst, Manlius Pebble Hill School, DeWitt, NY
Sakib Ahmed, Herricks High School, Manhasset, NY
Conor Beck, South Portland High School, S. Portland, ME
Kevin Xiong, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Cambridge, MA
Stephanie Weiner, Spanish River Community High School, Boca Raton, FL
Students at Syracuse University rallied against police brutality on November 30 in light of the recent violence used against student activists at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, CUNY schools, and Indiana University.
"This is a call out to all Syracuse University students, faculty and staff to come out and stand against this treatment of students," read the event's mission statement on Facebook "and to bring attention to the growing problem of police brutality on campuses and communities (including Syracuse) across the country.” In response, about 100 demonstrators filled the steps of Hendricks Chapel in the center of the campus’ quad at 12:30 in the afternoon.
Melissa Welshans, a PhD candidate in the English department at Syracuse, was one of the rally’s key organizers. She described her experience watching the Youtube video of the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis, posted by a former SU student who now attends the California state university, as the reason behind her interest in acting.
“I know someone there who’s working really hard to get a good education and I don’t want any students to have to deal with that kind of violence,” Welshans explained in a phone interview. “As an instructor I can’t imagine watching police do that to my students. It’s my natural instinct to think about how to keep my students safe in and outside of the classroom.”
Adrienne Garcia is another graduate student at Syracuse who helped organize Wednesday’s rally. In addition to coordinating logistics of the protest, Garcia also penned a powerful letter to the editor that was published in Wednesday’s Daily Orange about an article that originally ran in the independent student paper about SU’s close relationship with JPMorgan Chase.
Risa C'DeBaca, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major, was the third main organizer of the event. C’DeBaca is very active with Occupy Syracuse which has maintained a presence in Perseverance Park on South Salina Street since September 30.
Organizers are hoping that Wednesday’s rally is only a starting point for SU students to continue their activism and open up an important dialogue about issues of police brutality and civil rights. There are plans to hold more formal teach-ins in the spring semester.
“This issue will not go away, and it will not be fixed with the rally,” Garcia said. “But we can definitely start a dialogue.”
Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
— Angela Aiuto:
Angela focuses on money in politics.
“How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word,” by Richard Teitelbaum. Bloomberg, Nov. 29, 2011.
A Bloomberg investigation reveals that former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had tipped a roomful of Wall Street executives to the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during a July 2008 meeting, seven weeks in advance of the takeover. Short interest in Fannie peaked that month, with short interest in Freddie following a similar path. The worst part? Paulson’s actions were entirely legal.
Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.
“Mexico activists seek ICC investigation of drugs war.” BBC, Nov. 25, 2011.
A Mexican human rights lawyer has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking the international law body to to investigate the deaths of the hundreds of civilians slain at the hands of both cartels and security forces, in addition to cases of torture and rape. If the ICC rules that war crimes and crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by security forces as well as the cartels, the ruling could put a damper on President Felipe Calderon's strongman approach to fighting the drug war in Mexico. The Calderon administration has been outspoken in its denial that its policies have resulted in international crimes, but a Human Rights Watch report released in early November reveals that Mexican security forces were involved in several extralegal killings and disappearances in five states. If the ICC agrees to investigate these claims, it will be the first official investigation the body has done outside of an African country.
— Teresa Cotsirilos:
Teresa focuses on "Global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.
“The Stories You Missed in 2011,” by Joshua Keating. Foreign Policy, Dec. 2011.
India's military build up. Thailand and Cambodia's shooting war. Rwanda's potential backslide into despotism. Welcome to some of the least reported events in 2011—most of which took place in non-Western countries, and all of which could have a game changing geopolitical effect in the future.
— Paolo Cravero:
Paolo follows war, peace, and security.
“After NATO attack, truckers face hard times,” by Mujib Mashal. Al Jazeera, Nov. 30, 2011.
The Pakistani ban on trucks carrying NATO supplies is a comeback to the recent NATO raid on Pakistan territory. Islamabad's authorities described the act as a deliberate act of aggression despite the Atlantic Alliance having ordered the "most formal level of investigation" into the raid. It seems that Pakistan has opted for a quite muscular—but economic detrimental—position towards NATO.
— Erika Eichelberger:
Erika follows the environmental beat.
“New Study Links Climate Change to Higher Medical Costs,” by Frances Beinecke. Think Progress, Nov. 25, 2011.
A recent blog post at Think Progress concerns a first-of-its-kind study published in Health Affairs revealing the healthcare costs due to climate change in the US over the past decade. The study found that illness and injury due to extreme weather and smog accounted for over $14 billion in healthcare costs and more than 760,000 interactions with the healthcare system. This points to another way in which economic disparity will manifest itself in the future. Disadvantaged communities without the resources to cope with changing weather and associated healthcare costs will find themselves increasingly polarized from the rest of society.
— Josh Eidelson:
Josh covers the labor beat.
“Rolling Sympathy Strikes Harass Food-Service Giant,” by Jane Slaughter. Labor Notes, Nov. 25, 2011.
Earlier this month thousands of Teamsters in nine states took part in brief rolling strikes against the second largest food service company in the country, US Foods. Despite being under contract, and under the United States' strike-averse legal regime, workers were able to pull it off because of a hard-fought contract clause protecting their right not to cross picket lines. After a bargaining unit of two janitors went on strike over alleged unfair labor practices by US Foods, one of them traveled from city to city, setting up quick pickets that gave local Teamsters a justification not to work.
— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:
Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.
“America Beyond Capitalism,” by Gar Alperovitz. Dollars & Sense, Nov/Dec 2011.
In the wake of the tremendous failure of modern market capitalism to provide for the social and economic needs of great numbers of its constituents, it was inevitable that alternative forms of commerce would come to thrive. Post-industrial decay in the rustbelt is among the most quintessentially American examples of this failure, so it is natural that the heartland would be where some of the most (quietly) radical and thoroughly American experiments in different modes of organization would arise. This article from Dollars and Sense details a variety of cooperative initiatives in Ohio and beyond, ranging from worker-owned firms, community land trusts, to public asset reclamation for popular benefit. The writer who has a forthcoming book on the subject, both dispels the notion that grassroots communitarianism is merely a creature of wide-eyed sixties radicalism, while also calling for greater politicization of these often unsung institutions-in-formation.
— Collier Meyerson:
Collier’s beat is discrimination.
“Inmates, Vermont prisons in conflict over Muslim prayer services,” by Terri Hallenbeck. Burlington Free Press, Nov. 28, 2011.
The rights of Muslim inmates at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vermont are being unmercifully infringed upon. Among the numerous offenses, Muslim prisoners were being denied the right to gather for Friday night Jum’ah services under unsupported suspicions that they were planning to use the time as an opportunity to organize a gang. During the religion’s holiest month of Ramadan where adherents fast during the day, one staffer wrote in an e-mail: “Why do we continue to struggle with the Ramadan mess every August 1st?” It comes as no surprise that the Muslim prisoners complained of cold food and unfair treatment from officers throughout that month. The Vermont Department Of Corrections claims to have resolved the issues but Muslim prisoners say the discrimination persists.
— Allie Tempus:
Allie follows human rights.
“In Haiti, U.S. deportees face illegal detentions and grave health risks,” by Jacob Kushner. WisconsinWatch.org, Nov. 27, 2011.
This extensive investigation reveals the horrible conditions and illegal practices surrounding US deportation of Haitians. Produced as a collaborative project of several independent news organizations, this piece is a powerful example of the evolving structure of investigative journalism. And as we round the second anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake that prompted an outpouring of US charitable efforts, it serves as a reminder that humanitarianism begins at the policy level.
— Jin Zhao:
Jin follows the US’s image in international media.
“‘Climategate’ Redux: Conservative Media Distort Hacked Emails ... Again.” Media Matters, Nov. 30, 2011.
Despite overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is happening at an alarming rate, conservatives continue to deny it, and one of such efforts recently was the "leak" of purportedly incriminating material taken from email exchanges among members of a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009. However, anonymous hackers recently released a batch of emails showing that the email excerpts conservative media used to claim that climate change was a "hoax" and "conspiracy" cooked up by scientists were truncated and taken out of their contexts.
Five students were arrested late Tuesday night in the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University; three of them were pushed around by an unnecessarily aggressive police officer. Twenty economics students in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street sat cross-legged with locked arms in front of the doors of a JP Morgan Chase recruiting event inside their campus’s business school.
The event originally started with a large group of students sitting down in front of the doorway while simultaneously allowing passers-by to enter and exit the room. When police became increasingly aggressive, some students stood up and moved back from the area. There was an initial warning from an Indiana University police officer—those who were not willing to get arrested rose from their spots blocking the door and the five remaining activists were removed and arrested.
Two youtube videos taken by nearby observers show the details of the non-violent protest transpiring. One video lasts for 10 minutes and clearly shows the events that unfolded after students were arrested. At about the five minute mark a collective of students bring attention to the fact that officers succeeded in accomplishing their own initial goal and yell, “Thank you for blocking the door for us.”
In a shorter, forty-second video a detective from Indiana University’s police department wearing a gray suit is shown aggressively pushing and shoving two male students and one female student down a hallway in an attempt to prevent them from reaching the front doors of the recruiting event.
Campus violence has been a hot-button issue since the recent assaults against students peacefully demonstrating at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and CUNY Baruch. Albeit with far less brutality and violence, Indiana University has now joined the ranks of these colleges after a campus detective assaulted three students; they had not done anything illegal yet they were still subject to unnecessary brutality.
The activists’ intention behind this act of civil disobedience was to send a message to JP Morgan that they are not welcome on IU’s campus. In an exclusive email to one of Occupy College’s organizers, protestors claimed they were not trying to prevent their peers from attending the recruiting event but were its sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities and other fraudulent banking practices.
“We are oppressed by a system that is corrupt both in that individuals and corporations with power abuse their power and actively maintain their strength at the expense of others,” said Peter Oren, one of the students arrested on Wednesday night. “JP Morgan Chase has played a significant--though not solitary--role in this globally perverted economic structure, and thus action against this company is action against oppression."
“JPMorgan Chase was among the major financial institutions that caused the 2008 financial collapse with its criminally greedy, fraudulent lending practices,” said Nick Greven, another Indiana University student arrested in Wednesday night’s protest. “It has not ceased in their fraudulent practices and has contributed enormously to the corruption of our democracy, has caused misery on a massive, debilitating scale within this country, and has a list of other crimes to its name that is too lengthy to enumerate.”
In a written statement Greven went on to explain, “JP Morgan Chase is a perfect example of the perversion of democracy and capitalism that is the state-corporate complex, and I do not believe that an entity this immoral should be allowed access to impressionable students."
Arrested students will appear in court today at 1:30 in the afternoon.
The above information was provided to one of the main organizers at Occupy Colleges immediately after the protests, and arrests occurred at Indiana University. Get in touch with Occupy Colleges about your own campus’s protests—provide updates, tips, or seek assistance and help if necessary. Send emails to info@OccupyColleges.Org, call (323) 642-8102, and follow @OccupyColleges on Twitter.
Monday was a day of action for university students on both coasts angered by the rising cost of tuition and the crackdowns on their recent protests. In California, students temporarily shut down a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents to protest a series of tuition hikes and the violent response to protests at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis. Wary of a massive demonstration, the regents met by conference call from four different campuses but were still forced to switch venues after being confronted by chanting students at three of the four sites. In New York City, about a thousand students marched outside a meeting where City University of New York trustees voted to authorize annual tuition increases through 2015. The protests were the latest in a long-running battle against tuition hikes and education cuts that originated on UC campuses two years ago and quickly spread across the country. This morning, the invaluable new sprogram Democracy Now! spoke with two guests who helped launch the "Occupy Student Debt Campaign" Pledge of Refusal, which asks student signatories to refuse their student loan debt until a number of education reforms are implemented, including free public education. Pamela Brown is a Ph.D student in Sociology at The New School, and Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University.
Hundreds of protesters descended upon Baruch College yesterday afternoon to intervene a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, which was expected to decide on yet another tuition rise. With the main Baruch building on 55 Lexington Ave. sealed off by a hefty presence of NYPD, the surreptitious meeting went ahead uninterrupted, passing a series of $300 annual tuition hikes over a course of five years. The rally, however, managed to avoid the kind of run-ins with the police that saw 25 arrests at the previous demonstration last Monday—yesterday just 3 arrests were made.
The 15-to-1 vote means that by the 2015-16 school year, CUNY undergraduates would have to pay $6,330 per year for tuition, in comparison to last year’s $4,830, an increase of 31 percent by the end of the five-year period.
Demands at the rally were not limited to lowering tuition–many clamored for the immediate resignation of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the abolishment of the current CUNY Board of Trustees. Unions such as UAW (United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America), PSC-CUNY (Professional Staff Congress CUNY), TWU (Transportation Workers Union), and Internationalists also showed a strong turn-out Monday, making up at least a third of a rally that was spearheaded by CUNY students in conjunction with a large number of CUNY faculty members.
In anticipation of the protest, all classes after 3:00PM were cancelled, with routine access to the building denied by a legion of NYPD. The police were lined up behind metal railings that claustrophobically hemmed in protesters like sardines on pedestrian sidewalks on the block by the building’s entrance, along 25th St. between Lexington and 3rd Avenue.
The rally was relentlessly restive; the claustrophobia and general outrage at last week’s mass arrests at CUNY seemed to circulate an apprehensive air of spite towards the police and the Board. More excitable protesters howled “Fuck the p’O’lice,” and others scathingly hissed at individual officers. However, the festive temper to which student rallies are naturally inclined (this time courtesy of an omnipresent marching band in green) sufficed to make sure things did not go overboard.
Last week a massive General Assembly on the UC Davis campus called a student strike for November 28 on campuses across California. The strike was intended to call attention to police violence in UC, and to highlight student demonstrations against the meeting of the University of California Board of Regents.
The UC Regents were supposed to meet earlier this month at the system’s out-of-the-way Mission Bay campus, but that meeting was cancelled in the face of planned student demonstrations. Today’s rescheduled meeting will take place by teleconference, with regents scattered across the state. UC Davis is one of the meeting’s four physical locations, but as of the weekend only the board’s two student members (one of them non-voting) planned to be present at what has become the new center of resistance to the university’s capricious regulations and reprehensible institutional violence.
In explaining why more regents did not plan to be present at Davis today, university spokesman Pete King said that the regents did not want to “jeopardize” the Davis chancellor’s “pledge to students to keep police presence on campus minimal until the campus … begins to heal.”
This is what UC has come to. The university’s regents feel that a small police presence isn’t enough of a barrier to allow them to sit down in the presence of the system’s students. They have, they say, “no expectation of student violence.” The students of Davis have proven their commitment to nonviolence over and over in recent days, even in the face of egregious violence directed against them. But just a few cops aren’t enough cops to allow the regents to come to their campus and hear their voices without fear.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York are shutting down an entire campus building — a huge building — so that they can meet inside. Classes are being cancelled, staff are being placed on leave, a street is being prepared for barricading, all so the CUNY trustees can hold a regularly scheduled meeting.
When the governing bodies of two of the country’s greatest institutions of higher education are literally, physically walling themselves off from the students of those universities, something has gone deeply deeply wrong.
Depressingly, few of us working at the University of California were surprised by the fact that demonstrating students would be treated with violence. As Officer Pike calmly went about his task, a squad of his colleagues stood passive, affirming that it was business as usual. UC Davis's Chancellor and its Police Chief both reacted as if this were an unpleasant routine, until it became a news item.
The University of California's leaders have been a waging war on students for years. This scene is repeated with increasing force directed at protesters who have sought ever more dramatic ways of demonstrating that they are angry - but not violent. Shouting? Too violent. Standing? Violent. Sitting down and chanting? Still violent. Finally, our students are on the floor with their mouths shut.
We have also witnessed Orwellian twists in the system's efforts to quash dissent. When demonstrating students aren't bludgeoned and sprayed, they are marked with antiquated labels like "disrespectful," "intolerant" and "uncivil" in a prelude to "discipline" and disenfranchisement. In a February 2010 memo ominously titled "Intolerance on Campus," UC President Mark G. Yudof lumped organized student activists together with racists when he compared the Irvine 11 (and UCR 3) to the student who thought that hanging a noose in the UC San Diego library was funny. Both actions, he wrote, showed a lack of "tolerance."
The comparison (which Yudof has made more than once) is chilling. It draws a line of equivalence between a loud but non-violent protest against violence, and an action that is itself shorthand for a quite specific history of harrowing and racially-based violence. Students protesting systemic, state-sanctioned violence were equated with students casually citing lynching. Meanwhile, those protesting tuition hikes are greeted with truncheons.
For crying out during a presentation by Israel's ambassador to the United States, the Irvine 11 wound up in the middle of a criminal prosecution. The Muslim Student Union was banned from Irvine's campus for six months - an extraordinary disciplinary measure I haven't seen duplicated except in cases of violence at frat parties. In fact, I've seen the latter treated more generously.
One administrative response to "the Irvine 11" has gone completely unnoticed in commentary about the case, perhaps because it is so utterly banal. The Office of Student Conduct forced the three UC Riverside students who participated in that protest to write essays about the First Amendment.
Let me repeat that: UC Riverside's Office of Student Conduct forced three students to write about their right to freedom of expression, as a form of punishment. (In his memo on "campus intolerance" Mark Yudof identifies himself as "a scholar of the First Amendment.")
No UCR faculty member was involved in creating, reading or evaluating that assignment. What self-respecting scholar could bear such a thing? I can think of no surer way of alienating a student from his or her authorial voice that to tell them what to say, and then force them to say it. (Incredibly, these punitive essays are routinely assigned across the UC system.)
There is a violence embedded in that kind of "discipline." It is not the kind that goes viral. It is the kind of thing that feeds on a system like a slow-growing cancer - empowering police officers to wield their weapons as educational tools.
In setting up camps, by so visibly occupying their schools, students acknowledge that they are at risk of being dispossessed of their education if they don't insist on the campus's responsibility to their presence. That University of California leadership has produced a situation in which the most effective protest has been silence should give us all pause. Students should not have to sit down and shut up in order to avoid being labeled as a threat.
That is one reason why the UC Davis action was so shaming - such a demand is grotesquely at odds with our mission, but it is exactly what the system has been asking students to do. In literalizing that demand, however, UC Davis's students also powerfully asserted their connection with and allegiance to the ever-increasing numbers of people whose mere existence poses a problem to those who have taken so much from them.