February 1, 2012

Letter to Chancellor Katehi in response to the events of November 18

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — e11iott @ 1:35 pm

9 December 2011

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

Thank-you for meeting with the Division of Social Science faculty. Regretfully, a prior commitment keeps me away, although I did attend both the town-hall meetings that you organized and the special session of the academic senate. Perhaps you remember my heart-felt but largely unfocused comments at the faculty town hall. This is take two.

As a professor of sociology and the director of the Consortium for Women and Research, I work with scholars and administrators campus-wide. We’ve had occasion to meet a few times, as you know. I sincerely appreciate your support of the Consortium, particularly its efforts to make visible the challenges facing women in science. I bear no personal animosity; on the contrary, I have only respect and admiration for your professional accomplishments as an engineer at the top of her field.

I want to speak to the apparent split between scientists and nonscientists noted at the academic senate meeting with regard to the events of November 18. In my view it is not a science-nonscience distinction per se; this is but a proxy for identifying those who support (and benefit from) the “marketization” of the UC and those who do not. We are one university but some of us clearly matter less than others because our “value” to the university is not easily commodified or subject to the quantifiable performance metrics required by corporate management practices.

So much is self-evident, but it is important to understand the subtext: the students in the quad on November 18 were defending the ideas and values that many of us teach and care deeply about. The attack on the students was indirectly an attack on us. It is disheartening and disturbing to be so forcefully reminded that our university is reproducing the very forms of inequality that many of us have devoted our careers to understanding and critiquing. I’ll mention three.

The first and most obvious issue is the diminishing access to the UC as fees continue to climb. Who comes and who doesn’t? The students themselves are eloquent on this subject. The second is the widening gap between the highest and lowest paid employees in the UC. The problem is not that we value different roles and statuses differently, the problem is the dramatic increase in the gap between top and bottom that has occurred in lock-step with privatization, with an ever expansive reward structure for those at the top. We are cultivating within the university our own version of Wall Street.

The third is prioritization of militarization over education. We all know that, as a society, we spend far more to control and incarcerate people than to educate them. Less familiar is the fact that the policeman who pepper-sprayed the students earns 110k annually — roughly $30k more than your average associate, and even many full, professors in the humanities and social sciences (excluding economics, which is on the engineering scale). This policeman apparently doesn’t understand the difference between a riot and a peaceful student protest. Moreover, he cost the university $240,000 a few years back to settle out-of-court a lawsuit brought against him for homophobic conduct (this was under a previous administration). I realize the Chancellor’s office does not set police salaries: but the fact remains that our university upholds a hierarchy in which bullying students is as or more lucrative than educating them.

All this and more has been on my mind since Nov. 18. But some version of this has been on my mind for 12 years, since I first came to UC Davis and got the message in ways large and small about my marginal place in the university’s corporatizing business culture. This culture has led to a chronic shortage in funding (and respect) for those of us in the theoretical sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. It promotes cost structures and resource allocation that favor privatization and financialization over and against professional autonomy, open research, democratic process, and the public good. Joining in the fight against tuition hikes is an important goal and one we can all get behind regardless of our differences, but the larger issue is the neoliberal marketization of the UC and its effect on the most vulnerable (because the least commercializable) academic disciplines.

So my question going forward is, what is the plan for protecting the diversity of the academic enterprise at UC Davis in the context of ongoing privatization? And how can we help, without acquiescing to the very strategies that are marginalizing us? Even those colleagues who support marketization wouldn’t likely send their own kids to a university that lacks strong social science and humanities programs.



Laura Grindstaff

Professor of Sociology

Director, Consortium for Women and Research


cc: Provost and EVC Ralph Hexter


December 15, 2011

A report from the Quad- the Dissent Lecture

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 11:50 am

If I had a penny for every time I heard the following phrase: “let’s make opportunity out of this crisis,” I’d be maybe just wealthy enough to send my kids to UC in 10 years.

And yet- that’s exactly what has happened in a post-pepper spray UC Davis. I’ve been on several email discussions where individual faculty members have welcomed the sensitive and informed level of debate and discussion among a previously fractured professoriate, where people have described our 7, 13, and 15 + years on this campus as isolating. Never in my time on this campus have I seen more cross-disciplinary and cross-college conversation on issues that truly matter- the future of public education, the role of dissent, the critique of privatization. Many faculty are galvanized, and that is a good thing.

One opportunity that came out of this crisis was the Dissent Lectures, where over 25 UC Davis faculty lectured on topics of dissent and social movements.# This series was put together over a span of 3 days (!), working closely with student activists, and aided by the sunny (albeit chilly) Northern California weather. The idea was splendidly utopian- learning for the sake of learning- no need to be enrolled in a particular class, or even to be an enrolled student. The idea of people coming together on any given topic in a particular moment in time in a public space invites chaos, unpredictability, and randomness- the polar opposite of business as usual. And come together people did, in groups as small as 5, and as large as 40 (see attachment A for the original call).

The faculty who lectured are the leading experts in their fields (Comparative Literature, Theatre and Dance, Design, History, Sociology, Linguistics, Education, English, Ethnic Studies, American and Technocultural Studies). In another context, getting this list together would take months, fees, and planning.  In this context, all it took was a desire to teach what they knew, to learn from others and the situation, and patience/ good humor. All the lectures took place in either the geodesic Dome on the newly occupied Quad, or in Dutton Hall, where student activists occupied and renamed Paolo Freire Hall for 2 weeks in the Financial Aid offices.

I was fortunate to attend some of these events, some of which were taped and will be uploaded to some public site.# Others were not, for it was finals week and none of these events were not on anyone’s schedules to begin with. On the inaugural day, was historian Ari Kelman, speaking on Abolitionism. Later that evening was Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor speaking on the Alien and Sedition Acts and the legacy of the American revolution for free speech in the U.S. and Holly Cooper at the law school, working prisoner’s rights.

The rest of the week saw major scholars of art and radicalism, both historical (Ari Kelman from American Studies) and contemporary (Larry Bogad radical guerrilla artist with the Yes Men# and Bob Ostertag#), leading historians and sociologists of race (Orozpeza, Haynes, Kim, Deeb-Sosa), gender and sexuality (Freeman, Goodman), and of human rights (Ojeda). The Chair of the Native American Studies Dept. Ines Hernandez-Avila, who actually knew Paolo Freire, lectured in the renamed Freire /Dutton Hall. Noha Radwan spoke about the links between Arab Spring and the activism at UC Davis. Simon Sadler, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the radical structure of the dome, lectured in the Dome, on the radical art and architecture of the Paris Commune, 1968, and the UC Davis campus.

What happens when students return in January is an open question. Some faculty want to continue the Dissent Lectures. That would be a good way to continue the conversation that has been happening for a while, but which really became activated and enlarged after Nov. 18th. Some faculty want to “teach” the crisis, whether through independent studies, or within an existing class structure.#

Julie Sze
Associate Professor and Director, American Studies

Attachment A
Here’s the email written by Sasha Abramsky, a journalist and lecturer with the University Writing Program in his initial call:

…. it strikes me that UC Davis has, however accidentally, suddenly ended up in a position that could place the campus in as pivotal a role in shaping the politics of dissent in the coming months and years as was UC Berkeley in 1964. Some of the students are aware of this fact; many of them are not yet. But, over the coming weeks, they will become increasingly aware of this.

This evening I took my writing students onto the quad. We sat in a circle and I had them take it in turns to read aloud from Paul Goodman (Growing Up Absurd) from two books on the Columbia University 1968 uprising, and from an Abbie Hoffman speech in which he looks back on the emergence of “the sixties” and the politics of protest/discontent.

The students were fascinated by this, and as the readings went on others drifted into the circle and joined the group. None of them had learned, either in school or at university, about 1968, in any way, shape or form; none of them had more than the faintest notion of what the 1964 Free Speech Movement was. I’m sure, if I’d have asked, that I would have found almost total ignorance of the other waves of dissent in US history, be it suffragist, or farm workers, anti-slavery, anti-war, or for union recognition in the 1930s. The one area they have some knowledge of, I would guess, is the Civil Rights movement.

They don’t know not because they don’t want to know but because this has all become hidden history. In moments like this, it seems to me particularly important to unhide such history; not because the past replays itself in the present, but because the past has at least some lessons for the present.

November 30, 2011

Statement of the UC Davis German and Russian Department regarding the Police Brutality on Our Campus

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 9:04 am

While most of us have decided to make ourselves available to our students, we sympathize with the motivations that led to the call for a strike and support everyone who decides to participate in the strike.

We ask that the university administration address the following points:

  1. We are appalled about the police brutality on our campus on November 18. We ask that there be a thorough, independent investigation and that those responsible be held accountable.
  2. We ask that the administration make a strong commitment to the values that we as an academic community stand for: open communication, transparency, and shared governance. A top-down approach is particularly harmful in such lean times when everybody’s cooperation is required.
  3. We ask that the UC Davis rules regulating non-violent protest be revised. The current definition of civil disobedience and the reference to the refusal to comply with directions gives free rein to all forms of police brutality. Any revision will have to provide a detailed explanation of what actually constitutes a refusal “to comply with directions to leave an area for safety or other reasons.” Similarly, we ask that a revised version of the rules provide a detailed explanation of what constitutes “behavior that threatens health and safety.”

While these are our immediate concerns, we also want to emphasize that we believe in the value of public education and will continue to lobby for public funding for public universities. Moreover, we are convinced that the root cause of what happened on our campus is linked to the growing inequality in our society. The minimum wage in the pre-1970s was 50% higher than it is now. In 1979, the top 1% made 11 times the average of the other 99 %. Now the ratio is 26 times (see New York Times Magazine, Saturday, November 26, 2011). We believe that the protests against tuition hikes are related to this larger trend in society. We are proud of the fact that the University of California was created to provide education to all California citizens and deeply concerned that raising tuition will make a college education inaccessible for even more lower- and middle-class Americans.


November 29, 2011

“Hella Occupy” and the End of Public Education

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 10:00 am

by Carl Whithaus, Director and Professor, University Writing Program

The last ten days have been a flurry of emails, rallies, tweeter, fb updates, and meetings for me.  Having police show up on your campus in riot gear and pepper spray a group of students makes a writing program director’s life interesting to say the least.

I wanted to take a moment to write to this list-serv, as a recounting of what I have experienced, as a way to document the courage of our students, and as an attempt to document the issues that the students are talking about as they camp in the cold, damp 40 degree nights, as they assemble in larger groups, as they dash home for Thanksgiving, and continue to go to class.

The ghastly pepper spraying of students by Lt. John Pike and one other UC Davis police officer happened on Friday Nov. 18th.  It happened as our Chancellor was meeting with our Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee.  It appears that the report that was given to Chancellor Linda Katehi about the “police action” on Friday was “all clear, all went well.”  No one in the admin or on the police force appears to have watched YouTube or understood what had happened late on Friday.

By Saturday, they knew.  And Saturday night is one of the amazing moments here that did not become a meme, that did not get picked up by The Daily Show.  Saturday night 500, 750, 1000? students surrounded the building where the Chancellor and the Police Chief (not yet on administrative leave) were giving a press conference–they were doing damage control, containment.  A local minister was called in to mediate between the gathered students and those in the building, and she brought in two students to talk with the Chancellor.  My understanding is that they watched the YouTube video with the Chancellor.  One of the students told the Chancellor what it felt like to be pepper sprayed.  When Chancellor Katehi left the building, we had our second–less seen but equally, or perhaps more, stunning YouTube moments–the 750+ students sat.  They sat in silence.  Non-violent silence.  The walk of shame, some have called it.

This silence was for a Chancellor who had an undergraduate activist at Athens Polytech in November 1973.  What most of us faculty and students did not know that Saturday night, what most Americans don’t know is that “17 November” is Greece’s “9/11.”  On November 17, 1973, para-military forces rolled onto the campus of Athens Polytech and crushed the student occupation–13 kids were killed.  It was the beginning of the end for the military junta.

But the bitter irony, the sadness is that Linda Katehi, who had been a student at Athens Polytech, who knew what militarized police forces could do, had authorized the police action at UC Davis.

On Monday, we rallied.  The community rallied, 4,000+ on the Quad.  We gathered on the site where Lt. John Pike had sprayed the 21 students, their arms interlocked, behind their backs, sitting on the ground, faces down.  Students, faculty, alumni, community members, union leaders, folks from Occupy Oakland.  We gathered.  It was a crowd, but mostly it was students, their backpacks next to them on the damp grass.  It was foggy and cold when the General Assembly began, but part way through the sky turned blue and the sun emerged, only to disappear again.

I realize this piece is going on too long.  I wanted to say that the UC Davis students started protesting two weeks ago (1) because of a proposed 81% increase in tuition and fees at all UCs and (2) because of the police violence that had been unleashed a week earlier on protesting students and faculty at UC Berkeley.  They had sympathies with the Occupy Movement, but these protests were about the move to make the UCs into “state-sited” schools.  The complex social, political, and economic mechanisms behind this change are beyond this already too long email, but the students see the UC Regents as about to make a decision that will signal the real move to the end of the UCs as public, state institutions.  The students know what this means from their lived experiences.  The fear is palpable, and not just among the protestors, but in classes when you talk to first-year and second year students.  We could be ending access to top-quality higher education, to an upwardly-mobile future for a good number of the middle-class kids from California.  We live in scary times.

I’m proud that the students have come forward.  I’m proud of their non-violence.  I’m engaged in many, many conversations with students and faculty.  We’re battling to make sure the investigative committees are fair, that they will be lead by unbiased, knowledge people (not by William Bratton who not only was NYC and LAPD police chief, but whose security firm Kroll has contracts with 3 UC campuses!)  [Do our administrators never think when they make these appointments, gheez?]

btw, “hella” is a northern California term.  It means “hell of,” as in great, good, big, tremendous.  As my 15-year old explained last night, it is not something that I am allowed to say.  “You have to be 15-23 to say it, Dad.”  But it is now a shirt.  If you have a moment, go look http://twitpic.com/7lclrm  It’s not a casual pepper spray cop meme, but something better.  Art, a voice, spoken drawn, given away in the tent city that is now on the UC Davis Quad.

To show solidarity with the students, the Writing Program has set up a tent on the Quad.  It’s open for tutoring, but also as a space to talk about writing with our faculty and graduate students.  It’s a space where folks can write about this movement, this moment, this struggle.  There are many stories and many perspectives; some are like the one I’ve shared, others are radically different.  But we want to hear them, write them, think about them….. Finals approach.  There is much more to be written, but never enough time.

Dear Chancellor Linda Katehi,

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 9:43 am

We, the Chicana/o Studies Department faculty, join our colleagues on the UCD campus in decrying the unwarranted and excessive use of force by the UCD police on peaceful student demonstrators on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. We echo the calls around campus for a full investigation into the incident and an analysis of the larger structural inequalities giving rise to the protests here at UCD and across the country. We are deeply concerned about the utter disregard for students’ rightful protests against rising tuition costs and the difficulty it poses particularly for underrepresented groups who have traditionally lacked economic access to the University of California.

To that end, we support the creation of a task force to carry out the investigation and believe that it must include individuals with knowledge and experience in civil rights and human rights. We request the appointment of someone like the Honorable Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court Justice and UCD King Hall Law School professor, whose expertise and ethics would lead to an effective and just plan of action.

We also believe that the task force must include the students who risked everything to make the university accountable to its principles. As leaders in this movement, we need to ensure their voices are represented.

Given the importance of accountability and transparency in this process, we would also like the task force to include in their recommendations how specific campus policy changes in the campus APM and PPM can be developed so that we can protect all Davis community members’ civil and democratic rights to protest and voice their discontent without fear of intimidation or excessive force.

We also believe that no thorough investigation can be done in the next 30 days, given that the holidays approach and that most students, staff, and faculty will be away during the break. As such, we call for an extension of the 30 day deadline.

Finally, we expect a swift yet accurate and equitable response to the incident on the campus quad on Nov. 18, 2011, and the larger unsettling developments across the country. As the eyes of the nation and, arguably, the globe descend on UC Davis, we need to demonstrate a leadership that takes into account this nation’s commitment to civil rights and human rights.

Thank you,
Chicana/o Studies Department
Miroslava Chavez-Garcia, Chair & Associate Professor
Adela de la Torre, Professor
Yvette Flores, Professor
Angie Chabram-Dernersesian, Professor
Sergio de la Mora, Associate Professor
Carlos Jackson, Assistant Professor
Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Assistant Professor
Maceo Montoya, Assistant Professor
Adaljiza Sossa-Riddell, Emeritus Professor
Malaquias Montoya, Emeritus Professor

Concerning the Unwarranted Use of Violence by Police on the Quad on November 18 A Statement by Departments and Programs

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 9:42 am

We, the undersigned departments and programs of UC Davis, register our shock and protest at the unwarranted use of force against peaceful protesters on the Quad on the afternoon of November 18. That this would happen so shortly after excessive violence at UC Berkeley was roundly criticized is stunning. We are only grateful that the students showed such restraint in the wake of this violence.

We demand a full investigation of the decision to use pepper spray on these protesters and full accountability for those responsible. This investigation must be independent and include meaningful representation from among the students, faculty, and staff.

These gruesome images have now been seen by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, irrevocably harming the reputation of the university. Someone has to be held responsible for decisions that result both in unnecessary violence and in grave harm to the standing of the university.


UC Davis Faculties of:
The Program in African American & African Studies
The Department of Art History (Profs. Jeffrey Ruda, Katherine Burnett, Heghnar Watenpaugh)
The Department of Art Studio
The Program in Asian American Studies
The Program in Cinema and Technocultural Studies
The Department of Comparative Literature
The Program in Cultural Studies
The Department of French and Italian
The Department of German and Russian
The Department of Native American Studies
The Program in Religious Studies
The Department of Theatre and Dance
The University Writing Program

“Yesterday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud.”

Filed under: occupyucdavis, POV — dhi @ 9:09 am

by Nathan Brown, Assistant Professor of English

This is how the Chancellor began an email to the UC Davis community the day after non-violent student protesters were pepper-sprayed and arrested by the police.

Among the many reasons it is imperative that the Chancellor resign immediately, this sentence is indicative of the most important. Though it intends a posture commiseration with student protesters, what it demonstrates is a damning incapacity to recognize their strength, their courage, or the legitimacy of the principles for which they stand. Friday Nov. 18 is in fact a day that has made thousands of people on our campus proud, along with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people around the world. That pride does not stem from the shameful actions of the Chancellor or the UCPD. It stems from the heroism of the students they assaulted. Under a violent police attack, these extraordinary people stood their ground, they asserted their political conviction, they stood in solidarity with their peers at Berkeley and across the country. They cared for one another, and in doing so they cared for the community of which they are a part. Not only did they do this: after being pepper-sprayed while they writhed on the ground in agony, they stood back up. They stood up and they told the riot cops to leave. In a remarkable act of collective integrity and collective will, they walked slowly toward the police as the cops retreated with teargas guns aimed at the crowd, calmly driving them off the quad and the campus with admirable determination. In an powerful gesture of rhetorical intelligence they stood before armed and agitated police officers chanting “you can go.”

I have never been more proud to be a member of our campus than I have been since Friday Nov. 18. The Chancellor’s inability to share in this pride is indicative of two things which now compromise the legitimacy of her leadership irreversibly.

First, the Chancellor must resign because her actions on Nov. 18 have indeed become a mark of shame which tarnishes the international reputation of our university and will continue to do so. The Chancellor’s decision to send riot police onto our campus against a peaceful protest, and the script of backpedaling and obfuscation she has followed since, surely do not make anyone on our campus proud. More than 100,000 people have now signed a petition demanding the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The Board of the UC Davis Faculty Association has demanded the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The largest department in the Humanities, the Department of English, now carries a statement on the front page of its website demanding the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The majority of faculty in the Physics department have signed a letter calling for the Chancellor’s prompt resignation. A number of professors in the History department have issued a statement calling for the Chancellor’s resignation. The student General Assembly has demanded the Chancellor’s immediate resignation, on the strength of a nearly unanimous vote. The Chair of the UCD Graduate Student Association has called for the Chancellor’s resignation. At a rally of thousands and thousands of students on Monday Nov. 21, deafening roars met any and all demands for the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. Statements of international condemnation are multiplying rapidly, one scheduled keynote speaker at a UC Davis conference has already cancelled his appearance, and calls for an international boycott of UC Davis have begun to circulate, demanding the Chancellor’s resignation as a condition of association with our university.

In this context, the Chancellor’s decision to cling to her post is a stain upon the reputation of UC Davis. It is not “yesterday” (Friday Nov. 18) which is shameful; it was the decision of the Chancellor herself that was shameful. Her refusal to resign is just as much so. Her refusal to resign at this point is just as authoritarian as her actions on Nov. 18 and as her defense of the police following their attack on peaceful protesters. And this does not bode well for her actions in the future. The Chancellor continues to call for “dialogue” with the students. For their part, the mass of students continue to call for her immediate resignation. The fact is: the Chancellor does not listen to students. She has not in the past and she does not now. That is why she cannot understand that Friday Nov. 18 is a day that does indeed make many on our campus proud. That day can only be a source of pride for those of us who listen to the students, who hear their grievances, who see their determination, and who share those grievances and that determination. The Chancellor is not among us.

Second, by refusing to heed mass calls for her resignation, the Chancellor continues to make herself the focus of the student movement. And the student movement has better things to do. For example: end tuition increases and continue to struggle in solidarity with the national occupation movement. Demanding and forcing the Chancellor’s resignation is necessary, but it is hardly sufficient. It is an important step toward securing new conditions of possibility for the student struggle on our campus—conditions under which administrators understand that there are consequences for forcibly dispersing student protests. But these are only conditions of possibility for the struggle against privatization in which we have been engaged for two years.

By insisting on “dialogue” and scheduling interminable forums with students and faculty, by appearing at student General Assemblies, the Chancellor only succeeds in insisting upon her own centrality. And the fact is, she is not particularly important. She is not an ally in the student struggle against tuition hikes. She in no way contributes to the “health and safety” of the university. Her presence on campus, or at student meetings, does not advance the struggle against privatization. By continuing to make the student struggle about her, despite demands from students and faculty for a fresh start in her absence, the Chancellor impedes that struggle. This is no surprise: the Chancellor has been doing so since ordering dozens of riot police and a canine unit to arrest 52 students and faculty occupying Mrak Hall in 2009.

These two reasons that the Chancellor must resign are connected. The Chancellor is no longer in a position to advocate for or represent our campus because she is a mark of shame upon our campus. The Chancellor is in no position to feign solidarity with the student movement since she has ordered police forces to suppress that movement since its inception. What it is crucial to recognize is that the Chancellor’s incapacity to stand in solidarity with the student movement is also an incapacity to represent our campus. The student movement at UC Davis is currently the single distinction of our campus for which it is most famous, with which it is now most indelibly associated. And rightly so: the collective political intelligence of that movement on our campus has inspired millions of people over the past four days. It has been more of an inspiration to me than anything I had previously encountered in my life.

The Chancellor should be ashamed of herself, as so many on our campus are ashamed of her. And that is why she has to go. She cannot share in our pride.

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