20 November 11
1,010,361 and Counting
That’s the number of views on YouTube of the video of students at UC Davis being pepper sprayed at a non-violent demonstration on Friday as of this moment. We’ve made international news: here’s a story on the BBC front page. This isn’t the sort of acclaim one wishes of one’s university; we may have now eclipsed Penn State on the campus hall of shame billboard.
There are many, many excellent pieces and comments on the incident on Friday, and I have spent hours reading these. Here are some that have risen to the top for me.
This MetaFilter thread was posted yesterday afternoon and continues to be lively.
The “Wall of Shame” video. This hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as the first video above, but it may be equally powerful. Yesterday afternoon Chancellor Katehi held a press conference but excluded the students. When she left the building a couple of hours later the students were seated arms linked, allowing her a path from the door to her vehicle. The students say nothing as she goes past, shaming her with silence. She looks shell-shocked. (Linked on BoingBoing).
Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon about the roots of the UC Davis pepper spraying, setting the incident in the broader context of the history of police violence.
In the above MetaFilter thread, one member of the MetaFilter community who is a professor somewhere shares the following letter he wrote to the President of UC, Mark Yudof:
Dear Chancellor Yudof,
Having familiarized myself with the details of the pepper-spray assault carried out against peaceful, nonviolent student demonstrators at UC Davis on Friday by Lt. John Pike and other officers under the orders of Chief Anette Spicuzza and, ultimately, under the responsibility of Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, and having watched the several videos of the incident in question that have been widely disseminated, and having heard the nonsensical explanations and excuses proffered by Katehi, Spicuzza, and other Davis spokespeople, I have come to the conclusion that a serious crime was committed by UC Davis police, and ordered and abetted by their superiors. It is unconscionable that a university in the United States would deploy such disproportionate use of force against its own students for acts of conscientious civil disobedience that were completely non-violent in spirit and execution.
As an academic myself, I resolve to do no business of any sort with any branch of the University of California system until
a) Chancellor Katehi is fired or resigns
b) Chief Spicuzza resigns, is fired, or faces significant discipline
c) Officer Pike and any others who used pepper spray in the above-described incident are fired and/or severely disciplined, and criminally charged if appropriate
d) Students who were assaulted receive apologies and compensation for their injuries
Until these things happen, I won’t serve on any UC dissertation committees, I will not act as a tenure referee for any UC system tenure cases, I will not recommend any students for graduate programs in the UC system, and I will not give any talks or attend any conferences at any UC campus (which means, among other things, canceling an upcoming talk at [UC Campus XXX]). Nor will I review any manuscripts for UC press or its journals. Many of my colleagues at [XXXXX university] and around the country are considering similar stances. It is incumbent on the UC system administration to take vigorous control of this situation, require Chancellor Katehi’s resignation, investigate promptly, discipline all the perpetrators of this assault, and apologize to the victims of this assault as well as compensate them fairly (including expunging any arrest records related to this protest).
Other academics across the land are reacting with outrage as well. Cathy N. Davidson, who is a neuroscientist and former vice-provost at Duke University, writes on Why this is a Gettysburg Address moment for higher education.
President Yudof steps up to the plate. His statement released this afternoon pleases me. Of course what the UC Office of the President says and does are two different things, but it sounds like there will be substantial pressure coming down from the top.
Given that last statement, my hunch is that Chancellor Katehi will end up having to resign, though I doubt immediately. Her leadership may just too be compromised at this point for her to manage the den of ants that is a university campus.
More important is will any reforms emerge concerning the practice of policing at the University of California. It would be all too typical bureaucratic behavior to throw a couple of bad actors in the police department under the bus, make a minor procedural change or two, and declare the matter done. This solves nothing since the problem is a matter of deep culture within the police department.
Next up: there will be a rally and general assembly on the quad at noon tomorrow. Chancellor Katehi is planning to address the students at that time.
Updated 8:20 AM, 22 November 2011
I attended a bit of the rally yesterday. The crowd was ebullient, the energy positive. This concluding paragraph from “Jonathan Eisen’s post” on the event sums up my feeling as well:
Overall the day was exhausting. But exhilarating too. I did not agree with everything everyone said or did. But that was not the point. The power and the passion of the protestors and the people of the University. That was the point. I left feeling good about UC Davis again. Not sure what will happen tomorrow. But the people on campus have risen above the pepper spraying. They have shown strength beyond what I could have ever imagined. The world is certainly watching now. But I am not too worried. I like what I see.
And I was particularly thrilled by the balloon! My geography grad student colleagues Michele Tobias and Alex Mandel used a helium balloon as a lifting platform to take aerial photographs from high above the crowd. Michele’s research involves using kite-aided photography to study beach vegetation, so this was a variant on her basic platform.
The connection of Chancellor Katehi to events at Athens Polytechnic in November 1973 has taken a deeply troubling turn. She was a student at that university when the regime used military force to suppress campus dissent, killing many students. The backlash from this event led to the fall of the regime some months later. Katehi referenced Athens in her brief speech to the crowd, saying “I was there”.
But — tthis post at Crooked Timber from today is revelatory. A couple of excerpts:
Among the legacies of the uprising was a university asylum law that restricted the ability of police to enter university campuses. University asylum was abolished a few months ago, as part of a process aimed at suppressing anti-austerity demonstrations. The abolition law was based on the recommendatiions of an expert committee, which reported a few months ago…
Among the authors of this report – Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis. And, to add to the irony, Katehi was a student at Athens Polytechnic in 1973.