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Katehi’s silent walk to the car

November 19, 2011 Leave a comment

As the press conference was disrupted by noisy students, her departure from Surge II was delayed. Finally she did appear and walked to the car which would bring her to another location. As she walked through the students waiting outside, no sound was made, but silence met her. Upon the question if she would make a comment to the students sitting there in silence, she responded she would do so on Monday.

See for yourself:

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Chancellor Katehi’s press conference summary

November 19, 2011 4 comments

Today, on Saturday Nov 19, 2011 at 4pm Chancellor Katehi together with the UCD police chief and two unnamed people gave a small press conference in the Surge II building. A growing group of students appeared outside wanting their voices be heard (thanks to Jonathan Eisen’s twitter feeds). The actual press conference was shown on Ustream via California Aggie press (thank you for the link).

Here is a quick summary of information obtained from the live feed provided by AggiePress:

First, Chancellor Katehi reiterated her two earlier responses strongly focusing on safety concerns (without elaborating what these were) and the presence of non-UCD people on campus ground. She was not able to relay how many people were from outside UCD and how many were UCD affiliated. Her primary focus was on allowing students to voice their opinions, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment,  as long as they abide by university rules. One rule states (which is cross UC, not just UCD) that no one can camp on university grounds. She showed willingness to discuss the desire of students to do so anyway.

With regards to the police being involved in removing the encampment, she claims that their primary intention was focused  on removing tents (ergo personal property) and not to disperse the crowd. According to Katehi, as police were removing the tents, they were encircled by people (up to 200 estimated) and the police officers wanted to leave the scene which led to the incident. She does not know what happened at the incident and she did not speculate, but she did say that a Task Force has been formed and that their findings are due in 90 days. If criminal acts were committed, appropriate action will be taken, including criminally charging those who committed a crime.

Note: questions time was chaotic and stopped earlier than anticipated.

Upon questions regarding the open letter of prof. Brown (as posted on this blog earlier), she does not see any reason to step down. She claimed to have followed institutional protocol. She also claimed to have read some of these letters, but did not specifically comment on them.

The police chief responded to questions regarding the use of pepper spray and the presence of riot gear. For the latter, no riot gear was used by the police, but the helmets and vests were said to be only protective gear against objects that might be thrown at them. For the former, she does not know the specifics of the incident with the pepper spray and they are reviewing what actually happened, but stated that all police protocols were followed and no mistakes were made.

Surprisingly, no one asked why the police had to use pepper spray. If their purpose was to get out of the circle of students, why did they have to use pepper spray on the students sitting on the floor in the middle of the circle? If they wanted to get out, couldn’t they walk to any side of the circle and ask clearly more responsive students to make way? The reasons for the arrests made were also left unaddressed.

The press conference was called to an end when students tried to enter the room. Chancellor Katehi was supposed to leave with the people in control of the events, but they had trouble finding her. The mac computer that created the live feed was taken away.

Surely there is more to come, which likely includes new protests on the Quad on Monday, bringing new police presence with its associated costs. One of the proposed reasons to take down the encampment was to limit costs, as the university is cash strapped.

Note: the Academic Senate is holding an emergency meeting this upcoming Monday.

Update:
The Council of UC Faculty Associations condemns police violence against non-violent protesters (link)

Update2:
Link to video of press conference on CBS Sacramento.

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Despite fall-out never lose sense of humor

November 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Health Notes

Congress declares pepper spray a vegetable

Police applications deemed beneficial to the health of protesters. Authorities advice, you have the right to remain seasoned. Researchers are UC Davis begin trials to find more uses. …

Thanks to Kasia Kościelska for bring us this image. Also no hits on The Onion yet. Would be nice to top it off. ;-)

Katehi’s second response – another Task Force to be formed

November 19, 2011 2 comments

Note: this letter has been send around via email to the UC Davis campus community and it was posted also here.

Chancellor creates task force to review Friday’s incident

11.19.11

Dear Member of the UC Davis Community:

Yesterday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud; indeed the events of the day need to guide us forward as we try to make our campus a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent. As I described in my previous letter to the community, this past week our campus was a site of week-long peaceful demonstrations during which students were able to express their concerns about many issues facing higher education, the University of California, our campus, our nation, and the world as a whole. Those events involved multiple rallies in the Quad and an occupation of Mrak Hall which ended peacefully a day later.

However, the events on Friday were a major deviation from that trend. In the aftermath of the troubling events we experienced, I will attempt to provide a summary of the incident with the information now available to me.

After a week of peaceful exchange and debate, on Thursday a group of protestors including UC Davis students and other non-UC Davis affiliated individuals established an encampment of about 25 tents on the Quad. The group was reminded that while the university provides an environment for students to participate in rallies and express their concerns and frustrations through different forums, university policy does not allow such encampments on university grounds.

On Thursday, the group stayed overnight despite repeated reminders by university staff that their encampment violated university policies and they were requested to disperse. On Friday morning, the protestors were provided with a letter explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression. Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend, when the general campus facilities are locked and the university staff is not widely available to provide support.

During the early afternoon hours and because of the request to take down the tents, many students decided to dismantle their tents, a decision for which we are very thankful. However, a group of students and non-campus affiliates decided to stay. The university police then came to dismantle the encampment. The events of this intervention have been videotaped and widely distributed. As indicated in various videos, the police used pepper spray against the students who were blocking the way. The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this.

To this effect, I am forming a task force made of faculty, students and staff to review the events and provide to me a thorough report within 90 days. As part of this, a process will be designed that allows members of the community to express their views on this matter. This report will help inform our policies and processes within the university administration and the Police Department to help us avoid similar outcomes in the future. While the university is trying to ensure the safety and health of all members of our community, we must ensure our strategies to gain compliance are fair and reasonable and do not lead to mistreatment.

Furthermore, I am asking the office of Administrative and Resource Management and the office of Student Affairs to review our policies in relation to encampments of this nature and consider whether our existing policies reflect the needs of the students at this point in time. If our policies do not allow our students enough flexibility to express themselves, then we need to find a way to improve these policies and make them more effective and appropriate.

Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression. At the same time, our campus has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all others who use the same spaces and rely on the same facilities, tools, environments and processes to practice their freedoms to work and study. While the university has the responsibility to develop the appropriate environments that ensure the practice of these freedoms, by no means should we allow a repeated violation of these rules as an expression of personal freedom.

Through this letter, I express my sadness for the events of past Friday and my commitment to redouble our efforts to improve our campus and the environment for our students.

Sincerely,

Linda P.B. Katehi
Chancellor

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Katehi’s vague response to UCD community on macing students

November 19, 2011 9 comments

Normally this blog focuses on science related to this graduate group or any event surrounding or organized by this graduate group. But, yesterday’s event at the Quad on UC Davis campus impacts everyone who is part of the UC Davis community, which includes this graduate group.

Yesterday (Friday, 2011 Nov 18) UC Davis riot police used force to remove a group of students that had set up camp at the center of the Quad a day earlier. Setting up camp falls in line with the Occupy Wall Street movement that started on September 17th this year. The Occupy movement characterizes itself by not having a single issue or a single cause, but rather a plethora of reasons to be disgruntled with the current wealth gap. The OccupyUCD camp that was set up was largely focused on the ever increases fees for UC students. An 81% increase in tuition is scheduled by the University of California for next year. This hefty increase is a culmination of  trebling the fees over the last several years. The message UC is sending to it’s students is that they have the right of education, but with that comes a debt that will “enslave” them to lending institutions for years if not decades once they finish their degree. Of course, those students with wealthy families are the only ones who can afford enjoying an education without this future burden of debt. To protest against the fee-hikes sounds like a sympathetic cause to pursue. Previously, the UC Regents (with Mark Yudof at the helm {he also tweeted this yesterday: Quotation from an old friend: “Why do the taxpayers have to pay for it? Why can’t the government pay for it?“} and {made this statement on Facebook}) scheduled a meeting for last Wednesday, but cancelled after word that protesters might show up. Also, last week, students at UC Berkeley set up camp on campus (as OccupyCal) and just as at UC Davis yesterday, these students were removed by riot police. In a response to the force used by riot police, UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau said that the students did not engage in non-violent civil disobedience”. In other words, linking arms, which the students did, is an act of violence.

The response of UC Berkeley Chancellor was ridiculed including by Stephen Colbert in his program The Colbert Nation.

The events at the Quad yesterday did not go unnoticed in the media, as you can see/read here, here, here, and here. And part of the response came from UC Davis members itself. First off, Chancellor Katehi sent an email (see below) to the UC Davis community explaining why macing students was a necessary act.

November 18, 2011

To UC Davis Campus Community,

I am writing to tell you about events that occurred Friday afternoon at UC Davis relating to a group of protestors who chose to set up an encampment on the quad Thursday as part of a week of peaceful demonstrations on our campus that coincided with many other occupy movements at universities throughout the country.

The group did not respond to requests from administration and campus police to comply with campus rules that exist to protect the health and safety of our campus community.  The group was informed in writing this morning that the encampment violated regulations designed to protect the health and safety of students, staff and faculty.  The group was further informed that if they did not dismantle the encampment, it would have to be removed.

Following our requests, several of the group chose to dismantle their tents this afternoon and we are grateful for their actions.  However a number of protestors refused our warning, offering us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.  We are saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used.  We will be reviewing the details of the incident.

We appreciate and strongly defend the rights of all our students, faculty and staff to robust and respectful dialogue as a fundamental tenet of our great academic institution.  At the same time, we have a responsibility to our entire campus community, including the parents who have entrusted their students to us, to ensure that all can live, learn and work in a safe and secure environment.  We were aware that some of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus were not members of the UC Davis community and this required us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.  We take this responsibility very seriously.

While we have appreciated the peaceful and respectful tone of the demonstrations during the week, the encampment raised serious health and safety concerns, and the resources required to supervise this encampment could not be sustained, especially in these very tight economic times when our resources must support our core academic mission.

We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested.  We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.

We appreciate the substantive dialogue the students have begun here on campus as part of this week.s activities, and we want to offer appropriate opportunities to express opinions, advance the discussion and suggest solutions as part of the time-honored university tradition.  We invite our entire campus community to consider the topics related to the occupy movement you would like to discuss and we pledge to work with you to develop a series of discussion forums throughout our campus.

I ask all members of the campus community for their support in ensuring a safe environment for all members of our campus community.  We hope you will actively support us in accomplishing this objective.

Linda P.B. Katehi
Chancellor

Although safety and health concerns are brought up, there was no mention of specifically what kind of health concerns these might have been. The only mention of safety concerns was that people from outside the UC community were part of the encampment. Neither was there any mention of what attempts were made to solve the problem in a non-riot police manner (unless a 3 minute warning counts). An invite for discussion on issues related to the Occupy movement seem a little late, as several OccopyDavis initiatives have already taken place.

Finally, in an open letter Professor Nathan Brown (UCD English faculty) asked Chancellor Katehi to step down after the macing incident that took place yesterday, as you can read below.

18 November 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons,hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.

Sincerely,

Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis

Let’s hope that civility and restrained use of force comes back to UC Davis soon, as well as open dialogue and the capacity to protest peacefully. No one benefits from what happened yesterday or last week at Berkeley or what didn’t happen this week (the cancelled UC Regents meeting). UC and UC Davis can and should do better.

Update:
Associated Press article.

Update 2:
Although the 81% fee hike does not affect graduate students directly, it does affect us indirectly. Our PIs are paying our tuition fees, so they have to cough up the extra money from their grants. Grants are increasingly hard to obtain because of more researchers applying for grants that are not growing, resulting in percentage-wise less grants application being approved.

Update 3:
Here you can sign a petition in support of the open letter of professor Nathan Brown (this blog does not endorse this petition, merely informing the reader of its existence).

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis
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