Dear UCSC students, staff, faculty, administrators and the wider UC community:
It has come to our attention that serious misconceptions regarding the conduct and intentions of protesters across the state have manifested (in many cases) into ill-will or callousness toward this noble and ambitious cause. It is not appropriate to pass judgement on the efforts of an entire enterprise based on rumors of misdeeds of a select few. Administrators’ allegations — that UCSC protesters wielded clubs and knives, denied people the right to exit campus or acted in any way that was disruptive, intimidating or destructive — were untrue, and caused unnecessary panic and concern.
It would be ignorant as well as erroneous to say that the administration was caught unawares by the March 4 actions. Organizers of the campus shut-down informed Student Services and other campus departments well in advance of the event. There is no denying that every faculty member on campus was aware of the imminent shut-down, and most planned the week’s courses accordingly.
Administrative responses that disrespect student actions, to the point of circulating misinformation and evoking irrational concerns, are reprehensible and do nothing for the already precarious student-administration relationship.
That being said, responsibility does not lie solely with the administration, legislators, etc. Organizers must conduct themselves appropriately and in accordance with First Amendment limitations if they want to gain the respect of authorities.
An example of protesters legitimately crossing the line happened last week at UC Davis, where students attempted to block traffic on Interstate 80. This action not only put students and commuters in danger, but was executed in conjunction with several other disruptive activities on campus as well. Fire alarms were falsely triggered at least 16 times, agitating students and faculty who were attending classes or studying in the libraries.
Not only does this type of behavior cause resentment among inconvenienced campus community members, it is also counterproductive, because it costs the university money for the fire department to investigate these false alarms. Additionally, this activity endangered the Davis community by diverting emergency services from real potential dangers.
The California Faculty Association (CFA) and local organizers did not spend months preparing themselves and the public for the day of action hoping for ridicule. It only takes one negative incident, one irresponsible, thoughtless act to define a movement. The efforts of a thousand (or more like 35,000) proactive individuals can be erased from the public’s living memory with little more than a mention of one bad egg.
Regardless of Davis students’ disconcerting rally tactics, the cause is vital for many students, faculty members and workers statewide. It’s about time the UC and Sacramento sat down to tell us exactly where they stand on issues of privatization of education, the resegregation of education, progressive taxation to raise revenues, and Schwarzenegger’s plan to privatize prisons, and stand behind those claims through direct action and support of public education.
At UCSC, March 4 actions were well-executed. It is not unreasonable to expect the support and blessing of the administration.
March 4 was an opportunity for state, campus and system policymakers to address the concerns of people across the state and push for change. In the future, UCSC’s administration should consider taking advantage of the opportunities provided to them by students to participate in, or at the very least endorse student action instead of passing up an occasion to repair faltering student-administrative relations.
City on a Hill Press