SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

East Bay | Education & Student Activism

Letter from the Student Advocate Office at UC Berkeley regarding Wheeler Hall arrests.
by SAO
Monday Dec 14th, 2009 4:01 PM
Dean Poullard stated that the arrests in Wheeler would have taken place the first night of the protests had police action been strategically and economically feasible. The intentions of the administration must be called into question. The efforts to negotiate with the protestors were conducted in bad faith, leading students to believe that there was room for collaboration and two-way communication when the administration had intended to move forward with pre-planned unilateral actions from the beginning.
The Student Advocate's Office (SAO), a non-partisan and executive
office of the ASUC, is deeply concerned with the circumstances
surrounding the university arrests of 66 individuals, including
approximately 40 students, from Wheeler Hall on December 11, 2009.
While we do not condone conduct that threatens the safety of the
campus community and recognize that the planned unauthorized concert
lacked the necessary safety precautions, we believe the administration
did not adhere to procedures that were in the best interest of
students. The following is a statement that addresses our concerns:

Following the arrests of students involved in the week-long “Open
University” protests, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof stated in a
university press release that "there had been an understanding of
access to certain areas and [the protestors] began to violate those
understandings." He continued by stating that the arrests were made
"once the group refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized
all-night concert in an academic building." However, when members of
the SAO met with Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard out of concern for
the arrested students, he provided reasons for the arrest that were
not in line with the university’s public statements. Dean Poullard
acknowledged that the university's call for police intervention was
not initially linked to the concert, but rather had been discussed
earlier that week before the concert had even been planned. His
statements indicated that the arrests were intended for the last day
of the "Open University" protest to prevent students from mobilizing
and moving their activities to a different building on campus, which
would further increase costs to the university. Considering that the
arrests were premeditated and not solely for the purpose of preventing
a disruptive and illegal concert as the university has alleged, the
SAO firmly believes that the method and mode of police intervention
were misleading and misguided.

The premeditation of police intervention calls into question the
validity of the administration’s attempts to communicate with student
organizers

Throughout the duration of the “Open University” protests,
spokespeople from the administration met with student organizers. At
the same time, university officials were engaged in dialogue to plan
the arrests of the protestors. Dean Poullard stated that the arrests
in Wheeler would have taken place the first night of the protests had
police action been strategically and economically feasible. The
intentions of the administration must be called into question. The
efforts to negotiate with the protestors were conducted in bad faith,
leading students to believe that there was room for collaboration and
two-way communication when the administration had intended to move
forward with pre-planned unilateral actions from the beginning.

The lack of an immediate dispersal warning was unfair and could have
seriously jeopardized particularly vulnerable groups of students

The university had warned individuals in Wheeler Hall of legal and
student code of conduct violations for four nights without taking any
measures to enforce those warnings until the arrests that Friday. The
routine nature of those warnings gave many students the false
impression that their actions were an acceptable form of protest that
was tolerated by the administration. This tacit agreement led many
students to participate in the events who would otherwise have avoided
Wheeler Hall had they anticipated the risk of severe punishment. The
routine warning was administered at roughly 10 p.m. Thursday with a
6-7 hour gap before the arrests were made at 4:30 A.M. the following
morning.

This large span of time between the last warning and the arrests
ignores the possibility that some of the students present at 4:30 a.m.
had not heard the warning. While the university states that its
primary concern was preventing any disruption that could have been
caused by the concert, it is unreasonable to insist that students
present in Wheeler Hall at 4:30 A.M. would be the same attendees at
the concert that was scheduled for 8 P.M. or involved in its planning.
A significant number of students came to Wheeler Hall primarily to
study and most were asleep at the time of the arrests. The drastic
shift from treating students as peaceful protestors for four days to
hostile occupiers on the fifth was unnecessary and showed callous
disregard for student well-being. Beyond creating a criminal record
for these students, the university’s actions will also result in the
creation of conduct records that will have negative implications on
the students’ academic careers.

Further, by not giving an immediate dispersal warning, the university
failed to assess the extreme safety hazard that their actions posed to
any AB540 or international students on site. Legal charges against any
student under either category could have put the students at serious
risk of deportation. Administrators did not take into account these
potentially dire consequences.

The response to the “Open University” protests demonstrates the
administration’s adversarial attitude towards student protestors

The jarring discrepancy between university press releases and actual
administrative plans to end the protest shows great irresponsibility
on the administration’s part. This failure to correct inaccurate
information released to the public has misrepresented the indicted
students’ behavior. It avoids any formal recognition that there was a
distinct level of premeditation and an egregious lack of sincere
communication between student protestors and the administration
leading up to the arrests. The SAO believes that the administration
must uphold responsible procedure to address student conduct and take
clear steps towards creating safe and respectful spaces for dialogue
with the student body.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
What will this ultimately achieve?EsaiahMonday Dec 14th, 2009 10:27 PM