Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Faculty, administration and students are attempting to better communicate information in the process of student demonstrations with the formation of the UCSC Demonstration Advisory Group (DAG).

In an email directed to the larger UC Santa Cruz community, executive vice chancellor (EVC) Alison Galloway detailed the formation of a new focus group. The group’s aim will be the examination of UC policy regarding student demonstration and protest. Officially titled the DAG, the group is still in its infancy. However, Galloway, who co-chairs the group with College Nine and Ten provost Helen Shapiro, said in a phone interview she has an idea of where she wants the group to focus its energy.

“[The DAG] is here to look at the policies we have in place to interact with demonstrations, how they’re regulated, how they’re surveilled, what sort of limits are set, how the police are involved,” Galloway said. “Essentially, we’re asking, ‘How do we help the people who are forming the demonstration and help them get their message to the people who need to hear it?’ If the message doesn’t get through, then everyone’s time has been wasted.”

Though the formation of the DAG is partially a response to last year’s Kerr Hall occupation, Shapiro said the group has been in the making for a number of years.

“The former EVC was interested in starting this,” Shapiro said, “but it’s been a combination of a new EVC, a push from students and faculty and general dissatisfaction about what happened last year with Kerr Hall.”

Staffed by a mixture of faculty, students and administrators (all volunteers — none of the DAG members are paid for their participation), the DAG hopes to solidify UCSC’s approach to student demonstration.

“With a lot of the demonstrations last year, we felt that we [the UC] weren’t handling them as best we could,” Galloway said. “There was a general sense that we needed to take a step back.”

Noah Miska, College Nine second-year and member of the DAG, agreed that the UC has done a poor job of handling student demonstrations.

“Students organize a demonstration in response to [the] administrators’ failure to address the top-down power structures that govern the UC. If the demonstration is in any way disruptive, administrators call the police and/or make claims to discredit the demonstrators,” Miska said in an email. “This inflames tension between already perturbed students and administrators incurs significant expense for the university and, most importantly, fails to address the top-down power structures that govern the UC. Students then organize another demonstration, and the cycle repeats.”

The DAG is notable in that it is staffed primarily by faculty and students.

“This group is not administration-based,” Galloway said. “I’m the only administrator on staff.”

The group, Galloway said, is intended to gather information from students and other interested parties to more clearly inform the UC on how to enact regulatory policy regarding demonstrations.

“We’d like to have a situation where each group [the UC and the demonstrators] comes together with a better understanding of how the other works, where we don’t have to see each other as necessarily opposed,” Galloway said.

Shapiro also said the UC needs to reexamine its protest policy.

“The hope is to not simply react. We want to have people who are concerned about the campus sitting down and working towards a better community,” she said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be differences, but our goal is to have a clear, fair procedure.”

Miska is apprehensive about the DAG’s future.

“I’m only tentatively optimistic about the outcome of the DAG. The group’s focus is on how to address demonstrations, rather than how to address the structural issues that motivate students to organize those demonstrations,” he said. “I think administrators should be asking more broadly contextualized questions, like ‘Why do students, staff and faculty have no say on who sits on the Board of Regents?’”

In the initial email to the UCSC community, Galloway made note of the fact that the DAG would attempt to review the policy on campus surveillance. In a later interview, she said the reasoning behind photography at demonstrations should be transparent.

“If photographs are taken at demonstrations, we want it to be clear why they’re being taken, who gets to look at them, who has access to these photos,” Galloway said.

Shapiro also is in favor of increased transparency.

“Some policies are explicit, some aren’t,” she said. “We need to make it clear who’s in charge on the ground [during a demonstration.]”

Transparency seems to be the eventual goal for the DAG, but Miska says that he is doubtful of the group’s ability to change the structural causes of student protest.

“I think the best probable outcome of the DAG is that UCSC admins will be less likely to use police and the threat of physical force against nonviolent demonstrators,” Miska said. “The DAG is well-intentioned and is being formed out of genuine recognition that administrative responses to demonstration have been inappropriate. I just think that they fail to understand why those responses have been inappropriate.”