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April 26th Update from SJP
by anonymous (justiceinpalestine [at] yahoo.com)
Monday Apr 29th, 2002 11:55 AM
April 26th Dispatch from Students for Justice in Palestine at UC
Berkeley
Some of you may have received an email from the Assistant Chancellor
in response to a letter composed by Snehal Shingavi ("Response to the
Assistant Chancellor's form letter" dated April 24, 2002). In it,
Assistant Chancellor Cummins makes a number of claims that are a
shift in the university's position thus far, as regards Students for
Justice in Palestine and their suspension (see below).

First and foremost, the Assistant Chancellor claims that, "THE
INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF SJP ARE UNDER NO GAG ORDER. THEY ARE FREE TO
DISTRIBUTE LITERATURE, SPEAK AND ASSEMBLE." The words are
capitalized in the original.

If this is indeed the case, then we must ask why students were sent
letters that read: "Please be advised that pending the investigation
of this complaint, your organization's group privileges are hereby
suspended. These privileges include (but are not limited to)
reserving facilities, holding or advertising activities on campus, or
tabling on Sproul Plaza."

What does the policy amount to if not a "gag order" on the Students
for Justice in Palestine and a restriction on their right to
assemble? The group cannot, after all, hold meetings on campus, pass
out literature at the informational table, or advertise for any of
its events. But furthermore, if the Assistant Chancellor is correct,
and SJP is allowed to table and hold meetings, then we would like the
Assistant Chancellor to issue a public statement to that effect. It
is our understanding that the Assistant Chancellor is using a
creative double-speak to silence us on campus on the one hand and yet
proclaim to be upholding free speech on the other.

Secondly, the Assistant Chancellor writes that, "THERE IS NO ZERO
TOLERANCE POLICY." Now perhaps the Assistant Chancellor doesn't
remember the press conference that Chancellor Berdahl held two days
before the protest, but those of us who had to explain why the
Chancellor was targeting SJP to the media remember. He, in fact,
uses the Chancellor's quote about "uninterrupted education" from that
very press conference. It is possible that the Assistant Chancellor
has a selective memory.

The real problem with the "zero tolerance" policy is that it has
never been written down. It functions more like a command decision
by the Chancellor that has now become the operating principle of the
administration and has become the basis by which students who will be
prosecuted will face higher charges than those faced by protesters
past. There has never been a review of this policy nor has it been
subject to vote or discussion, a point made clear by the vocal
opposition to the "zero tolerance" policy at the Academic Senate (a
decision-making body of professors and faculty) meeting earlier this
week.

Then, the Assistant Chancellor explains that sitting-in at an
academic building is much worse than sitting-in at an administrative
building. People who have been at Berkeley for the last several
years will recall there have been two sit-ins in academic buildings,
one in Barrows Hall in 1998 and one in Wheeler Hall in 2001. No one
was suspended as a result of those protests nor was any group
suspended. The new change in the administration's policy comes
directly when opposition to its financial contributions to Israel are
under the greatest amount of scrutiny. It is this political fact and
not a concern for "uninterrupted education" that motivates the
administration's policies.

It might also be worth pointing out that the point of civil
disobedience is to be disruptive. According to the Assistant
Chancellor, non-violent protest is only acceptable if it doesn't get
in the way of things that happen on campus. The problem with this is
that betrays a lack of understanding of the principles of civil
disobedience, i.e. to be disruptive so that business as usual cannot
continue. One wonders if the Assistant Chancellor would recommend
that the people who sat-in at the Woolworth's counters move their
protests outside so as not to disturb the financial mission of the
establishment.

Moreover, the Assistant Chancellor says that because the students
were informed of the consequences, the university is justified in
punishing them harshly. This is utter nonsense. This amounts to
justifying political complacency and silencing critique. Just
because the university has declared something to be part of its
policy does not make it just or justified. Forewarning or not, the
punishments that are being handed out to Students for Justice in
Palestine and the 41 student protesters who were arrested are
completely unjustified and deviate from how student protests have
been treated on this campus.

Lastly, the Assistant Chancellor claims that he is interested in
pursuing an open dialogue. We hope that he is serious and will take
the following offer seriously. We challenge the Assistant Chancellor
and the Chancellor to a debate about the merits of the "zero
tolerance" policy, the suspension of SJP, the charges against student
protesters, the history of civil disobedience at UC Berkeley, and the
nature of the university's investments in Israel and the Israeli
military. In the interests of time and the severity of the issues at
hand, we suggest that the Chancellor and the Assistant Chancellor
pick a time and place conducive to observation by the public and the
media (we recommend the Pauley Ballroom in the MLK Student Union some
time next week) and come out to dialogue about what free speech
really means on this campus.

There is one fundamental truth that underlies this entire
conversation. The university cares more about its financial holdings
in Israel than it cares about social justice. And it is this
interest which drives the decisions that are made to silence protest
and characterize students who are exercising their rights to free
speech as endangering the "health and safety" of the university and
its community.

We, however, refuse to be fooled by the shell-games that the
university plays. Berkeley's sister school, Bethlehem University,
lies in ruins. Bir Zeit University has been closed for months.
Thousands of students in Palestine have had their education disrupted
by the Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, the Chancellor and the
Assistant Chancellor continue to pretend as if "uninterrupted
education" is something more than a fiction financed by the Israeli
occupation and the US support of it.

We demand that all charges against all protesters involved in the sit-
in on April 9th be dropped. We demand that the Chancellor publicly
rescind the "zero tolerance" policy. We demand that the UC Regents
divest from their holdings in Israel and the Israeli economy.

Snehal Shingavi and William Youmans
Students for Justice in Palestine


*** The Assistant Chancellor's email follows ***

_______________________________________________________________
John Cummins <jcummins [at] uclink4.berkeley.edu>

To : (Recipient list suppressed)

CC : "Genaro Padilla" <gpadilla [at] uclink4.berkeley.edu>, "Karen
Kenney" <kenney [at] uclink.berkeley.edu>,
mff [at] pa.urel.berkeley.edu, "Stephanie McLemore"
<smclem [at] uclink4.berkeley.edu>, osc [at] uclink4.berkeley.edu

Subject : Students for Justice in Palestine - Further Comments

Date : Fri, 26 Apr 2002 14:59:56 -0700

For those of you who have written to me about Students for Justice in
Palestine, I am sending along Snehal Shengavi's response to my
earlier email to you with my comments in CAPS.

Mr. Shengavi's response

>Several of you have received a form letter from the Chancellor's
office
>(attached below) describing the University's position on the events
of April
>9th, 2002 and immediately following. There are some factual
inaccuracies in
>the Assistant Chancellor's account of the events and some misleading
>interpretation of the facts. This letter is written in the interests
of
>clarity and precision and ultimately justice and fairness.

I WELCOME THE OPPORTUNITY FOR CONTINUED DIALOGUE ON THIS MATTER.

>There is one simple fact that underlines our position. Students for
Justice
>in Palestine has done nothing different than scores of other groups
>throughout Berkeley's history and yet the sanctions that it and its
members
>are facing go well beyond those meted out to others. No amount of
>spin-doctoring on the part of the Assistant Chancellor can change
the fact
>that suspending SJP, symbolic or not, is tantamount to a gag order
and a
>suspension of our groups civil liberties, including the right to
speak, to
>assemble freely, and to distribute literature and that threatening
its
>members with suspension is a veiled threat against all activists on
>Berkeley's campus.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE POINT OF CONTENTION. THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL
DIFFERENCE WHEN AN ACADEMIC BUILDING IS OCCUPIED AND
CLASSES AND EXAMS ARE DISRUPTED. WHEN GROUPS ENGAGE IN
BEHAVIOR THAT IS A RISK TO HEALTH AND SAFETY OR SIGNIFICANTLY
DISRUPTS THE OPERATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY, THEY ARE SUSPENDED
PENDING AN INVESTIGATION. THIS IS NOT A NEW PRACTICE AND SJP IS
NOT BEING TREATED ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER GROUPS IN THE PAST.
THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF SJP ARE UNDER NO GAG ORDER. THEY ARE
FREE TO DISTRIBUTE LITERATURE, SPEAK AND ASSEMBLE.

>The rest of this letter takes on the specific allegations made by
the
>Assistant Chancellor, but we want to be clear about why we think
that this
>is a free speech issue.
>
>First, while the Assitant Chancellor notes that there was a
demonstration
>last year, he does not mention that the policy governing the
suspension of
>SJP was passed literally two days before the events in question.
This is
>the Chancellor's so-called "zero tolerance" policy, which threatens
students
>and student groups with expulsion for participating in actions. The
>interesting thing about the "zero tolerance" policy is its sudden
>appearance, without oversight, and without student or faculty
review. This
>policy, along with the targeting of SJP, have the effect of chilling
speech,
>especially speech by activists in defense of reforms and change in
>university policy. It is also this policy, and not the claim that
>protesters were involved in prior protests, which motivates the
Chancellor.
>There are scores of students who have participated in multiple sit-
ins on
>campus who have never been threatened with expulsion.

THERE IS NO ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY. WE DO NOT SUPPORT THE
DISRUPTION OF CLASSES,LIBRARIES AND THE LIKE. WHEN STUDENT
GROUPS ENGAGE IN BEHAVIOR THAT SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACTS THE
CAMPUS OR INDIVIDUALS IT IS OUR PRACTICE TO SUSPEND THEIR
PRIVILEGES PENDING A REVIEW OF WHAT OCCURRED.
NO STUDENT HAS BEEN THREATENED WITH
EXPULSION. THE LEADERSHIP OF SJP
WAS TOLD THAT THE OCCUPATION OF AN ACADEMIC BUILDING WAS A
SERIOUS VIOLATION AND COULD LEAD TO SOME FORM OF SUSPENSION.
THIS IS EXPLAINED IN MY FIRST EMAIL. STUDENT CONDUCT PROCEDURES
HAVE NOT CHANGED. THE CODE PROVIDES FOR A RANGE OF SANCTIONS.
>
>Second, no warnings were issued to SJP as a group, because we did
not exist
>as a group during the April protests of 2001.

THIS IS A KEY POINT IN MR. SHINGAVI'S REPEATED STATEMENTS THAT,
BECAUSE
SJP HAS CURRENTLY BEEN SUSPENDED, ITS FREE SPEECH RIGHTS HAVE BEEN
COMPROMISED. SJP WAS A GROUP IN 2001, SIMPLY NOT A
REGISTERED STUDENT GROUP. THE FACT THAT IT WAS NOT A REGISTERED
STUDENT
GROUP HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ITS ABILITY TO ORGANIZE A MAJOR PROTEST
ON CAMPUS. SJP, WHILE SUSPENDED AS A REGISTERED STUDENT GROUP, CAN
OBVIOUSLY STILL EXERCISE ITS FREE SPEECH RIGHTS.

Therefore, to assume that the
>group "knew the seriousness of their actions" implies that the
university
>made official overtures towards SJP. We challenge the Assistant
Chancellor
>to produce any such documentation. There have also been a number of
direct
>actions on campus since the April 2001 protests in which the
University has
>not sought sanctions of this magnitude, including the sit-in at the
offices
>of the Daily Californian last semester.

THE DAILY CAL IS LOCATED IN A STUDENT BUILDING, NOT A BUILDING WITH
CLASSROOMS.

Irrespective of the interpretation
>the Assistant Chancellor puts forward, we still believe that the
new "zero
>tolerance" policy is a manifestation of a long held opinion on this
campus
>that activism should stop and that pro-Palestinian voices on this
campus in
>particular are not welcome.

OF COURSE, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR THIS STATEMENT. WHO COULD
IMAGINE BERKELEY WITHOUT ACTIVISM? IN MY THIRTY YEARS ON CAMPUS,
NEVER HAS ANY ADMINISTRATOR, PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY, VOICED AN
OPINION THAT ACTIVISM SHOULD STOP ON THIS CAMPUS. ALL VOICES ARE
WELCOMED HERE. THAT IS WHAT A UNIVERSITY IS ALL ABOUT.

THERE IS NO ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY.

EVERY EFFORT WAS MADE TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE LEADERSHIP OF
SJP AND OTHER INVOLVED STUDENTS OF THE SERIOUSNESS OF THEIR
ACTIONS WITH REGARD TO THE DISRUPTION OF THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM.
SJP WAS NOT A REGISTERED STUDENT GROUP IN 2001 BUT THE LEADERSHIP
DID NOT CHANGE SUBSTANTIALLY.
PRECEDING AND DURING THE APRIL 9, 2002, PROTEST, THERE WAS EXTENSIVE
COMMUNICATION
WITH SJP LEADERSHIP AND OTHERS ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS
OF OCCUPYING AN ACADEMIC BUILDING AND THE FACT THAT SUCH AN ACTION
COULD LEAD TO SANCTIONS UP TO AND INCLUDING SOME FORM OF SUSPENSION.
MR. SHINGAVI MET WITH STAFF IN THE DEAN'S
OFFICE TO CLARIFY WHAT WAS MEANT BY AN ACADEMIC BUILDING. A MAP WAS
USED TO SHOW HIM SPECIFICALLY WHAT BUILDINGS WERE CONSIDERED
ACADEMIC.
THOSE BUILDINGS INCLUDED WHEELER HALL AND MOFFITT LIBRARY.
FURTHER, STAFF COMMUNICATED WITH SJP REPRESENTATIVES DURING THE
PROTEST THIS SAME INFORMATION
>
>Third, it is also not true that the SJP protest was unique in its
disruption
>of the "academic mission." This, in fact, is what all protesters are
told,
>irrespective of whether they protest in administrative or
educational
>buildings. His comments about the "planned" protest in the Moffitt
>Undergraduate Library betray his real intentions; the Assistant
Chancellor
>would prosecute students the same irrespective of where they sat-in.
Still,
>the Assistant Chancellor might recall that there was a sit-in in
Campbell
>Hall, an academic building, three years ago. There were no charges
in that
>instance.

DIFFERENT PROCEDURES AND SANCTIONS HAVE BEEN USED TO ADDRESS
SIT-INS IN ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDINGS. THOSE SANCTIONS HAVE NOT
BEEN AS STRINGENT AS THE ONES CONTEMPLATED IN THIS CASE BECAUSE
CLASSES WERE NOT DISRUPTED.
IN THE CASE OF CAMPBELL HALL, THE PROTESTERS GOT UP AND LEFT
VOLUNTARILY. NO ARRESTS WERE MADE AND NO CHARGES WERE BROUGHT.
>
>But, and perhaps most importantly, the Assistanct Chancellor fails
to let
>people know that classes did in fact continue during the sit-in and
that
>students and professors were invited to continue their classes
outside of
>the academic building.

HAVING BEEN IN WHEELER HALL FOR THE DURATION OF THE PROTEST,
I AND OTHERS HAVE A VERY DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE DISRUPTION
THAT OCCURRED.
>
>Next, the Assistant Chancellor implies that because the media were
present,
>we should not have needed to protest. Vast media presence, while
useful in
>getting our message out, was not the goal of the rally. The rally
was
>designed to get the students access to the UC Regents and the UC
President
>so that we could discuss our demands. The fact of the matter is that
when
>it comes to speaking about issues that are germane to the running of
the
>university or to its financial policies, free speech is only a
formality.
>To date, no members of the UC Regents or the Berkeley Chancellor
have agreed
>to meet with Students for Justice in Palestine, despite several
requests to
>do so.

I AM NOT AWARE OF ANY REQUEST TO MEET WITH CHANCELLOR
BERDAHL. THE REGENTS HAVE A PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD BEFORE
EVERY MEETING THAT CAN BE UTILIZED TO PRESENT YOUR CASE.
IF YOU HAVE SPECIFIC ISSUES TO DISCUSS WITH THE CHANCELLOR,
PLEASE LET ME KNOW. THE DIVESTMENT ISSUE SHOULD BE ADDRESSED
TO THE REGENTS.
>
>Finally, the Assistant Chancellor claims that other groups can
reserve space
>and put on events and that the suspension of Students for Justice in
>Palestine is merely a symbolic gesture. He goes on to mention that
the
>International Socialist Organization (not International Student
>Organization) has indeed reserved space for a rally for Palestine on
the 2nd
>of May. This is a red herring. The fact that other groups can
reserve
>space and put on events does not answer the fact that the key
>pro-Palestinian group on campus is being singled out for attacks and
its
>rights and freedoms are being restricted unfairly. If the suspension
is
>symbolic, then the Assistant Chancellor should have no problem
lifting it.
>The fact that the suspension continues indefinitely betrays the real
>intentions of the university.
>
>We in SJP are proud to stand in the traditions of civil disobedience
and
>popular protest. We also agree to "take responsibility for our
actions."
>But on one condition. The Chancellor must admit that if SJP is in
the best
>traditions of Gandhi and King, then the University stands in the
tradition
>of the segregated South and the British colonial occupation of
India, and
>that its investments in Israel constitute a grave injustice that
must be
>overturned.

The chancellor's position in support of free speech and of
maintaining the rights of all to study and learn here are very clear.
As he said on April 8:
"This University has a proud history in the defense of free
expression. It is our responsibility to provide a neutral forum for
individuals and groups to advocate their cause. It is our
responsibility to provide an environment for civil discourse to take
place that is safe for all participants. Most importantly, it is our
responsibility to protect the rights of all members of the campus
community to pursue their reason for being here -the work of
teaching, learning, and research - uninterrupted by anyone."


>Snehal Shingavi
>Students for Justice in Palestine -- UC Berkeley
>




Students for Justice in Palestine, Berkeley, California
http://www.justiceinpalestine.org
justiceinpalestine [at] yahoo.com - (510) 496-1269 x1948 - vm/fax
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