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California | Santa Cruz Indymedia | Education & Student Activism

On the university's perversion.
by gazuedro group
Tuesday Dec 1st, 2009 10:29 PM
on the occupation of kerr hall; demystifying the university's erroneous claims
On Thursday, November 19th the University of California Board of Regents approved a 32% fee increase in undergraduate fees, pushing fees to over $10,000. Student Regent Jesse Bernal was the only vote in opposition. Protests, sit-ins and occupations took place at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, CSU Fresno, San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. Students occupied Campbell Hall at UCLA, Kresge Town Hall and Kerr Hall at UC Santa Cruz, Mrak Hall at UC Davis, Wheeler Hall at UCB, and the library at CSU Fresno. Students at the Academy of Arts in Vienna marched on the U.S. embassy. At NYU and at the New School in NYC students marched in solidarity with protestors at the UC’s.

Across the state, protesters were victims of police violence. At UCLA LA-IMC reports confirmed use of tasers, pepper spray and batons against the peacefully assembled masses. Nearly a hundred arrests were made. UC Administrators threaten suspension, expulsion and possible criminal charges for those who participated in the protests.

At UCSC, students inside Kerr Hall drafted a list of demands. Their voluntary departure was contingent upon those demands being met by UCSC administrators. On Saturday November 21st, a small group of student liaisons began negotiations with the administration. The student liaisons met with Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Bill Ladusaw and Interim Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget, Peggy Delaney. The student delegates were accompanied by three faculty members who sat in as witnesses. Negotiators entered the process assuming good faith on the part of the administration. The demands they presented were a pared down version of the original 35 that were drafted in the hours following the initial insurrection of Kerr Hall. They represented those that they believed were within the scope of UCSC administrative jurisdiction.

The focus of negotiations revolved around these seven points:
1. Amnesty for all individuals involved in current and past student protest around budget cuts and fee increases, including Brian Glasscock & Olivia Egan-Rudolph
2. Keep all resource centers open under the management of individual directors (Women’s Resource Center, Ethnic Resource Center, CANTU, etc.)
3. Make UCSC a safe campus by protecting all undocumented (AB540) students and workers through non-cooperation with ICE.
4. Repeal the 15% cut in labor time for UCSC custodians
5. Prohibit rent in Family Student Housing from exceeding that of operating costs in order to keep it affordable.
6. Freeze layoffs to all campus employees.
7. Guarantee funding through employment or free remissions for both graduate students who have lost TA-ships and undergraduate students who have lost work-study positions

After approximately four hours of negotiations, the student liaisons returned to the group to inform them that the representative admin had conceded on the following demands:
-That students participating in the occupation of Kerr Hall would not face judicial charges that separated them from their student status. In other words, protestors would not be suspended or expelled for their participation in the occupation.
-Fee remissions for graduate students who have lost TA-ships due to budget cuts and a promise to create new job positions so that all who are eligible for work-study are able to work.

The group’s consensus was that the administration’s concessions were not enough to get those inside to voluntarily leave the building. Rather than outright reject the offer, the occupiers decided to send the student liaisons back to negotiations. Upon their return to what they hoped would be a continued dialogue, the student liaisons were informed that Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) Dave Kliger and Chancellor Blumenthal had flat-out barred the agreement. Apparently, the EVC and Chancellor decided after the fact that they would not negotiate with terrorists nor would they legitimate occupation as a viable tactic for winning university concessions. Had the occupiers known that negotiations were a sham from the very start, they would have never entered into the process. The student liaisons and supporting faculty were led to believe that the representative administrators were authorized to broker a deal with the occupiers. They were not made aware of the veto process that would ensue. It’s clear that negotiations were conducted in bad faith on the part of the administration. What can be said of the negotiation process is that bargaining with a corrupt administration is effectively useless. Negotiation, as a means to win demands, diverts momentum and misplaces power.

The EVC and Chancellor’s blanket refusal to concede on any one point ultimately led to the breakdown of negotiations. As such, the remaining individuals voted to end negotiations. In response to repeated threats of police violence, occupiers decided to barricade the doors. The barricades were symbolic of their devout resolve to hold that space until their demands were met. They were not willing to compromise or concede to the requests of an incompetent, self-serving and classist administration. Their exit was thus contingent upon the university’s decision to forcibly remove them from the building. Their insistence on staying forced the administration to sanction the use of violence against them.

Police did in fact use batons to push the crowd, which included faculty and staff observers, off of the Kerr Hall platform. In the process of doing so, one UCSC professor was pushed over the balcony and fell onto the stairwell below.

The administration’s decision to use violence or threat of violence against those inside speaks to the blanket hypocrisy of UC administrators. While the administration claims to make the health and safety of students their top priority, they are willing to use dogs, teargas and other weapons of the state against students when it serves their interest. It seems that business-as-usual trumps the welfare of students and faculty time and time again. Indeed, for UC administrators the protection of property takes precedence over the livelihoods of students, faculty and workers.

About an hour before the riot police assembled in front of the building, faculty supporters outside suggested that the journalists record any visible damage. It should be noted that at this time both entrances to campus were blocked and internet service was disconnected. In fact, the internet had been cut off several days prior. In an attempt to intentionally prevent media personnel and legal observers from entering the UCSC campus, the administration stopped all incoming traffic. Fearing the fallout of negative press associated with police brutality against students, UC administrators essentially created a police state through a media blackout. Had physical violence erupted, there would have been no one to witness it. Police had free range to do as they pleased and the administration actively allowed it.

In the minutes before the riot police clubbed there way through outside supporters which included friends, faculty, and staff, students inside the occupation received a phone call from Felicia McGinty informing them that “the barricades must be taken down or police violence would ensue. When relayed to the larger group so that a collective decision could be made on whether or not to take down the barricades and allow police entry, no one budged and barricades remained intact. The students inside were fully resolved, knowing that what they were there to do was morally and politically justified.

In the final moments, after countless threats of arrest and after countless refusals to leave on the part of student occupiers, police told those inside that they were free to leave within a 12-minute window effective immediately and that no arrests would result. At that time, it was clear to those inside that a sacrificial arrest was pointless. So those inside left unscathed. This is in many ways testament to the fact that this occupation had widespread support from the UC community and greater Santa Cruz community. Indeed, power resides in numbers. While no arrests were made, the administration claims to be pursuing both criminal and academic sanctions against protestors.

In response to the university’s assessment of damages and the media’s subsequent portrayal, we say this: yes, unnecessary trash was left behind. This could have been avoided if students had been allowed access to the cleaning supplies they had requested. To the university’s erroneous allegations that there were permanent” damages”, we call your bluff. Take a look again at the university’s pictures of “damages” incurred during the occupation. In all but one picture, which shows a broken table, is there any depiction of real “damage”. Rather, what is seen is simply trash.

We could assess the strengths and weaknesses of every particular decision that was made during the week of Nov. 15th-21st but there would remain some unanswered, overarching questions. What can be said of a society that uses batons, tasers, mace, bean bag guns, and rubber bullets on its young and most educated in order to protect the greed of a small few? What can be said of a society that in times of economic hardship, those who are wealthiest do everything in their power to shift the burden onto the backs of those who are least able to afford it?

They say it is the state that is to blame. They tell us to bring our fight to Sacramento to demand a bail-out for public education. To that we say, THAT’S YOUR FUCKING JOB! In fact, we don’t want a bail-out as it does nothing to fundamentally change the unjust structure of the UC system at large. The university will remain an institution that perpetuates race, class and gender divisions until the stakeholders (students, faculty and workers) gain democratic control. So what is to be done? Stakeholders must seize what is theirs for the taking, that is, their futures and the future of public education.

The battle for an affordable, accessible if not free education is symptomatic of a larger movement, one that resists the neoliberal agenda of privatization, corporatization, and capitalism. Whether through continued occupations, campus shutdowns, or general strikes, we must reclaim our futures.