Judicial summons have been issued to 45 students in response to the 66-hour occupation of Kerr Hall, an office building that houses high-level UCSC administrators including Chancellor George Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger.
Doug Zuidema, student judicial affairs director, summoned possible Student Code of Conduct violators as part of his investigation into the occupation of Kerr Hall.
“Following the illegal occupation of Kerr Hall and vandalism, the director [Zuidema] has summoned 45 students to discuss possible violations to the code of conduct,” campus spokesperson Jim Burns said. “Following these meetings, the director will decide whether or not to issue sanctions in each of the 45 cases.”
The summons arrive three months after the event that halted some administrative activity for more than two days, Nov. 19 and 20, when 150 Kerr Hall staff members were displaced for the duration of the occupation.
“We’ve said from day one that we were taking this seriously,” Burns said. “Everyone is concerned about the increase in student fees. … A protest to call attention to that statewide issue is more than understandable, but a protest that terrifies UCSC workers and displaces 150 workers and degrades into vandalism is not.”
Of the nearly 150 students who initially occupied the building, 70 were inside at the time the police entered. And because it was an open occupation for the majority of the two days, countless numbers of students came and went throughout its duration.
Zuidema summoned 45 students who, according to the document e-mailed to those students, were identified by a staff member.
“My view on the occupation itself and the punishing? It’s just very counter-productive. It just shouldn’t be a priority,” said Matt Palm, the Student Union Assembly’s commissioner of academic affairs, who was among the summons recipients. “I understand that some staff members felt harassed, but to respond by harassing students is not necessary. The arbitrariness of the process was unnerving.”
Among those summoned were Palm, student journalist Kenji Tomari, and campus sustainability outreach coordinator Gabriella Kirk.
Palm questioned the university’s decision to take action against certain individuals.
“When Gabi [Kirk] got a letter, it just seemed so blind. It’s not like there is one leader who is responsible, and because of that the university is kind of shooting blind,” Palm said. “As a result, many students and myself woke up to find we were being held accountable for damage we didn’t instigate or escalate. I am very concerned with how they have gone out carte blanche. It has gotten a lot of people worked up and upset.”
As to the 45 students who received summons, Palm expressed skepticism about the extent of some individuals’ involvement.
“I’m upset that a lot of people I know who [received summons]are good students and give a lot to this campus [and] didn’t instigate or escalate the events in Kerr Hall,” Palm said. “It is enough for me to question the process. I imagine it being truly difficult to pinpoint exactly who is responsible, which makes me question how much of this is making an example of students, versus knowing one student is responsible for an action.”
Tomari, a reporter for The Project, said he was present during the occupation as a journalist.
“As a journalist, you are drawn to important issues and stories that concern your audience,” Tomari said. “As a student, you’re implicated in these budget issues. When an action takes place dealing with these issues, you have to cover it. It is your obligation as a journalist.
“The motivation to stay [at the event],” he continued, “is that you could just talk to people after the event, or go talk to the administration to get their story, but it’s not the same as being there yourself and covering from the inside to be able to explain exactly the order of events instead of relying on mixed sources.”
Tomari said those who were present in Kerr Hall during the occupation fall into different categories.
He described how there were the participants, who were in solidarity with the occupation; journalists who were there to cover the events taking place; and liaisons who facilitated discussion between administrators and students. He also described the “passers-by,” who entered the building as “people who wanted to see the spectacle of an administrative building being occupied.”
“It seems like there is political targeting going on,” Tomari said. “The bottom line here is it is an incomplete judicial summons.”
Tomari said, to the extent of his knowledge not all of the students identified in Kerr Hall were summoned.
“I can say that there were student journalists and liaisons that they could identify that they chose not to give summons to,” Tomari said.
The occupation of Kerr Hall, according to early estimates provided by Burns, did damage in the range of “tens of thousands of dollars.”
A prior occupation action on campus — the occupation of the Graduate Student Commons (GSC) from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, 2009 — prompted an initial round of summons, and four students were determined by the university to be financially responsible for that action.
Each of the four individuals was charged $532. The charge went to their student fees, and they will be unable to enroll in classes unless the amount is paid off.