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CUCFA Statement On Campus Protests

by Council of UC Faculty Associations
May 7, 2024 - The Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) denounces the growing number of attempts to intimidate, repress, and criminalize campus protests of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza that is supported economically and politically by the United States.
Many of us have watched in horror as colleagues and students at pro-Palestinian encampments have been arrested and subjected to violent treatment by vigilantes and the police over the past few days. On April 30, students sitting in at UCLA were subjected to intense vigilante violence just hours after UC President Drake declared the encampment “unlawful” and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called it “unauthorized.” These statements played a direct role in turning a peaceful, orderly campus demonstration into the target of violence. UCLA subsequently failed to respond appropriately when student demonstrators were assaulted by dozens of armed men overnight. On May 1, the leadership of UAW 4811 (which represents 48,000 academic workers across the University of California) voted to hold a strike authorization vote if this repression continues.

In the morning hours of May 2, the violence at UCLA intensified. Police deployed stun grenades and rubber bullets, arresting more than 200 individuals from the encampment. UCLA faculty present at the encampment have stated that the demonstrators were peaceful and orderly until outside right-wing agitators, and then the police, entered the camp and caused chaos and violence. As of May 3, there are student encampments on 7 UC campuses, while student demonstrations are taking place on the remaining 3 campuses. Students, faculty, and staff systemwide are rightly worried about UC leadership’s role in escalating repression and violence against peaceful demonstrations.

The appalling arrests of student demonstrators following vigilante attacks at UCLA repeats a disturbing national trend: as anti-war demonstrations have proliferated, university leaders have made sweeping characterizations of them as dangerous, weaponizing the language of “safety” to delegitimize, intimidate, and forcibly disperse legal, peaceful dissent. UC leaders have contributed to this pattern, making students, faculty, and staff less safe as a result.

We call upon the University of California President, Michael Drake, and Chancellors of all ten University of California campuses to immediately, clearly, and forcefully recommit themselves to freedom of expression on campus. We demand you fulfill your responsibility to your campus community to defend peaceful protestors, uphold academic freedom, and reject pressure to criminalize peaceful encampments and demonstrations.

For administration: CUCFA affirms that University of California administrators are responsible for protecting the free speech rights of students, faculty, and staff. CUCFA affirms that campus protests and demonstrations fall under that set of rights. We demand:

1. No disciplinary actions, no retaliation. Do not suspend students who participate in protest, and do not retaliate against UC graduate students, lecturers, staff, or Senate faculty who participate in protest. Drop existing disciplinary cases against student demonstrators.

2. No arrests, no declarations of peaceful demonstrations as unauthorized. Do not mark student demonstrations as targets for vigilante or police violence. No police actions against students, graduate students, lecturers, staff, or faculty who are engaged in their first amendment right to demonstrate and protest.

3. Recognize the condition and empathize with all students, including those with direct ties to Gaza and Palestine, and others in the Middle East, and the many Jewish students and faculty who are allied with the protestors’ demands for a ceasefire.

4. Listen to the demands of student demonstrators, and engage them in sincere talks.

For faculty: In the event of a UAW 4811 strike authorization, we wish to reiterate our previous statements that “under HEERA [the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act], faculty do not need to volunteer to perform struck work that is outside our customary duties” and that “messages from the university telling you that it is your responsibility to ensure the continuity of education for your students… does not mean you have to volunteer to do the work of strikers that is not part of your normal work duties.” It is simply untenable for an already overworked faculty to replace the critical educational work that is done by ASEs and doing so undermines our own working conditions and the impact of their collective action. Further, “all university employees covered under HEERA, including Senate faculty, even department chairs or heads of similar academic units or programs, are generally non-managerial and also have the right to respect a picket line established by other university employees.” Should a strike be announced, CUCFA will send out further guidance regarding faculty rights and responsibilities, including on the issue of graduate student timesheets.
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