Category Archives: UC Berkeley

Repost: University of California students suspended for protesting budget cuts

This article was written by Marge Holland and posted on the World Socialist Web Site. The original article can be found at: University of California students suspended for protesting budget cuts

University of California, Berkeley (UCB) students Angela Miller and Zach Bowin have been suspended from school, and Miller threatened with eviction from student housing, for participating in a protest that occurred outside of UCB Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s campus home on Friday, December 11, 2009. (See: “Police crack down on California student protests: California governor denounces ‘terrorism’”)

The protest was part of ongoing actions by University of California (UC) students last fall and early this winter in opposition to a massive assault on public higher education in the state. As the result of a multi-billion dollar reduction in funding, in mid-November fees were raised at the 10 UC campuses located across California by 32 percent. Coming alongside hiring freezes, increases in class size, reductions in course offerings, and limits on enrollment, the tuition hike has meant that many students have had to either drop out of the UC system or forego enrollment because they cannot afford to attend.

Campus police arrested eight people at the December 11 protest, including the two UCB students and two students from University of California, Davis, charging them with felony property damage, threatening a university official, rioting, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, and assault with a deadly weapon upon a police officer. The police set bail at over $100,000 for each arrestee.

Recognizing the weakness of the police case, the Alameda County District Attorney declined to proceed with charges in criminal court. The students were then freed after spending a weekend in jail.

UC Berkeley’s “student conduct panel” then took up the cudgel against the students. It issued an interim suspension notice that prohibits Miller and Bowin from entering the campus or returning to class. As a result, Bowin was prevented from taking his final examinations. The UC Davis students reportedly received similar notices.

According to Stephen Rosenbaum, a lecturer at UC Berkeley law school who is representing both Bowin and Miller, the suspension notice “recites about six sections of the UC campus code of student conduct and then almost no facts in support of it.”

The panel also did its best to deprive Bowin and Miller of effective representation of counsel. It asked Rosenbaum to leave Bowin’s panel hearing for allegedly being “disruptive” when he was advocating on his client’s behalf.

The terms of their suspension include a ban on Miller communicating at all with UCB faculty, staff or other students, which violates her constitutional rights.

The disciplinary panel also informed Miller that since she lives in a student cooperative that leases its property from a university-owned building, she would need to move. This threat ignores the rights Miller has under California law protecting tenants.

The December 11 arrests came one day after the detention of 66 students who had peacefully occupied a campus building for a week to protest budget cuts and fee hikes. Students had planned to vacate the building the next morning before final exams began. Police nevertheless stormed in at 4:30 in the morning rousting the sleeping students.

The UCB crackdown came in the wake of arrests, police intimidation and violence against protesting students at San Francisco State University, University of California, Los Angeles and UC Davis. Students at campuses throughout California are planning a major action on March 4 to continue their protests.

The witch-hunt of UCB students Miller and Bowin and the imposition of harsh penalties on them is a warning to students and all those who will continue to come into conflict with school authorities over the destruction of public education. Militant opposition will not be tolerated and popular demands to cease the attack on living standards will go unheeded.

Indeed, in early January, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a proposed 2010-2011 budget that will reduce funding for public education by a further $2.43 billion, as part of an effort to address a $20 billion treasury shortfall. The conditions being created in the state, with regards to university learning and every other sphere of social life, are intolerable. They are setting the stage for a social explosion.


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Student Activism: Berkeley Responds to Wheeler Hall Criticism, But Big Questions Remain

The following is a post from Student Activism, the original post can be found here: Berkeley Responds to Wheeler Hall Criticism, But Big Questions Remain

UC Berkeley spokesperson has Dan Mogulof responded to some of the questions raised about last Friday’s Wheeler Hall arrests.

In a story in yesterday’s Berkeley Daily Planet, Mogulof said that the final decision to conduct mass arrests was made on Thursday afternoon, about twelve hours before the arrests actually took place. He argued that it was not possible to give warning of the decision to arrest because “in this day of texting and Twitter and Facebook, a warning would have served as an invitation for all kinds of people to come running to the scene.”

This makes a certain amount of sense, as an answer to one narrow question. It’s likely that if the administration had announced on Thursday afternoon that Wheeler Hall would be cleared that night, some students would have joined the protest in solidarity. But it should be noted that there would have been other consequences of such a warning, too. Hard questions would have been asked about the decision to conduct arrests, particularly in light of the previous three days’ tacit acceptance of the occupation. Faculty would have criticized the administration’s plans, and urged them to reverse course. Media would have been on hand when the arrests finally happened.

Yes, the decision to arrest without warning made the process of carrying out those arrests logistically simpler. But it did so in significant part by allowing the university — as Berkeley’s Student Advocate’s Office said this week — to evade responsibility for its actions.

And Mogulof’s comments to the Daily Planet do nothing to answer the crucial question of why there was no order to disperse given when police entered Wheeler Hall before dawn on Friday. Such an order — given at four thirty in the morning — would hardly have spurred a mad rush to Wheeler. His comments also fail to explain why students who were barefoot and in their pyjamas were not given the opportunity to dress before being arrested, or why those students were transported thirty miles across county lines for booking and held for an entire day before being released.

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Youth Radio interview with 1 of 66 people arrested at UCB

Youth Radio spoke to third year Cal student, Alix Black, one of the 66 people arrested while protesting at UC Berkeley.

Following a Board of Regents vote that would increase tuition by 32%, Cal students walked out, protested, and barricaded themselves in school buildings. UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall was taken over by students for five days before UC police officers began arresting people.

Alix Black was one of the students arrested. She was taken to Santa Rita Jail and will face trial on misdemeanor charges in January. During the arrest, Black was hit with a baton that left her with a swollen arm.

Hear why protesting is important to Black and what changes in public education she hopes to see.

Find the entire interview at: Cal Student Behind Bars

To download the mp3: Cal Student Behind Bars

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Article: “Governor Schwarzenegger Should Wash his Mouth Out with Soap”

The following article was written Bob Ostertag (UCD Professor of Technocultural Studies and Music) and was published on The Huffington Post:

Governor Schwarzenegger should wash his mouth out with soap. Seriously.

When I was a kid I was over at a friend’s house when he said a bad word and his mother washed his mouth out with soap. It was impressive. I don’t think my friend said that word again for a long time. Now California’s action-figure governor is acting childishly, and he too needs to take some measure to ensure that he never again speaks as he did this week. He owes it to the university students of his state, and indeed to everyone in this country that welcomed his immigration here.

Here is what he did: he called two students of mine terrorists. Specifically, he called their protest against the recent 32% tuition increase at the University of California a “type of terrorism.” Really. I’m not kidding.

Shame on him.

Allow me to introduce the “terrorists,” Julia Litman-Cleper and Laura Thatcher. Both of them have been students of mine at the University of California at Davis. They are wonderful students: thoughtful, inquisitive, respectful, and supportive of their peers. They are not loud, strident voices. In fact, they are both noticeably quiet as students go. They are active in their departments and in the civics of their campus.

On Monday of last week a group of students from campuses around the University of California “occupied” Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley and announced their intention to host a week of lectures on things like the history of public education in the state, the finances of the University of California, and so on. They also planned for music, study time, and lots of opportunity for students to sit and talk and work through their thoughts about what is happening to public education in California and what they might do about it.

What they were doing was technically illegal, as the university police informed them, but the students made clear that they would not obstruct any of the university activities that were ongoing in the building. A tacit agreement developed between the police and the students, to the point that one night police entered the building and told a group of students that they in the wrong room and ordered them to move to one of several other rooms they indicated were designated for the protest.

During the course of the week, several UC faculty members came to Wheeler and gave lectures hosted by the protesters. In the eyes of students, faculty are the real authority on campus. Students rarely deal with campus police or administrators, but they deal with faculty every day. Faculty give themgrades, by which their careers as students stand or fall. If the police aren’t bothering them and faculty are showing up to give them lectures, students have every reason to believe that the activities they are engaging in are legitimate.

So the students stayed there for a week, doing their student thing, even using some rooms as study halls for finals the following week, until 4:30am Friday morning. That is when the police burst in, locked the building’s doors so that no one could leave, arrested everyone in their sleep, and dragged them off to jail.

That made the students very angry, and justifiably so. Those of you who are a bit older might want to think back to your first encounters with the arbitrary authority of middle aged people with weapons and uniforms. Remember how absolutely livid you were? That night a group of very angry students, those who happened not to be in the building during the police raid, marched through campus.

It is hard to piece together exactly what happened when the march went past the chancellor’s residence. The police claim the students attacked the chancellor’s home, and arrested eight protesters including Julia and Laura. The students say that all that occurred was minor vandalism by a small splinter group, and that the cops arrested the wrong people. But with eight of their number facing multiple felony charges and the governor of the state calling them terrorists, the students’ lawyers advised them not to discuss the events.

While this may have some merit as a legal strategy, it left the police version of what happened largely unchallenged and the powers-that-be had a field day. University of California President Mark Yudof announced the students had gone “far beyond the boundaries of public dissent.” UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau claimed his life had been placed in danger. Not to be outdone, Governor Schwarzenegger declared that “California will not tolerate any type of terrorism.”

Laura, Julia, and the others were charged with rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer. Bail was set at $132,000 per student.

Then yesterday all charges against the students were dropped. Oops. Never mind.

Where the police saw multiple felonies, the chancellor saw a threat to his life, and the governor saw terrorism, the district attorney saw no case. This leaves Birgeneau, Yudof, and Schwarzenegger with some serious explaining to do. Particularly Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Consider what it means in the United States in 2009 to call someone a terrorist. Terrorists kill people. They fly planes into skyscrapers and explode car bombs in crowded market places. Terrorists are our icon of evil. This country has been waging a bloody and costly war on terrorists for years. To call someone a terrorist is to place them on the other side of that war.

These students were protesting a 32% tuition hike at a public university, brought on by an economic crisis that exploded out of the most powerful private financial institutions in the country. At UC Davis where I teach, students do not generally come from privileged backgrounds. I have students who are seriously wondering if they should stay in school at all given the higher tuition rate. They look at the bleak job market, and they can’t see how a college degree will earn back the money it will cost their family for them to complete their college education. I have one student whose mother just took a job as a translator for a private military contractor in Afghanistan because it was the only way she could make ends meet.

Imagine what it is like for the parents of these students to have to come up with $132,000 on short notice to make their daughters’ bail. To wake up to the governor calling their children terrorists? Type the names Laura Thatcher or Julia Litman-Cleper into Google and what comes up are links to pages and pages of media reports in which the governor of their state calls them terrorists. Imagine the stress that has placed on their families.

And then: never mind. No charges. Bye.

UC President Mark Yudof is absolutely right that there was “behavior” here that “went far beyond the boundaries” of what should be “tolerated,” but it is behavior of the governor, not the students.

Read the original posting here: Governor Schwarzenegger Should Wash his Mouth Out with Soap

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Letter from Student Advocates Office on Friday Morning Arrests

Note: This is a leaked draft-form of a letter that SAO plans to release soon. The final version could potentially be quite different from this draft. As such the language in this document does not represent the views of the SAO

The Student Advocate’s Office (SAO), a non-partisan and executive office of the ASUC, is deeply concerned with the circumstances surrounding the university arrests of 66 individuals, including approximately 40 students, from Wheeler Hall on December 11, 2009.

While we do not condone conduct that threatens the safety of the campus community and recognize that the planned unauthorized concert lacked the necessary safety precautions, we believe the administration did not adhere to procedures that were in the best interest of students. The following is a statement that addresses our concerns:

Following the arrests of students involved in the week-long “Open University” protests, UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof stated in a university press release that “there had been an understanding of access to certain areas and [the protestors] began to violate those understandings.” He continued by stating that the arrests were made “once the group refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized all-night concert in an academic building.” However, when members of the SAO met with Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard out of concern for the arrested students, he provided reasons for the arrest that were not in line with the university’s public statements. Dean Poullard acknowledged that the university’s call for police intervention was not initially linked to the concert, but rather had been discussed earlier that week before the concert had even been planned. His statements indicated that the arrests were intended for the last day of the “Open University” protest to prevent students from mobilizing and moving their activities to a different building on campus, which would further increase costs to the university. Considering that the arrests were premeditated and not solely for the purpose of preventing a disruptive and illegal concert as the university has alleged, the SAO firmly believes that the method and mode of police intervention were misleading and misguided.

The premeditation of police intervention calls into question the validity of the administration’s attempts to communicate with student organizers.

Throughout the duration of the “Open University” protests, spokespeople from the administration met with student organizers. At the same time, university officials were engaged in dialogue to plan the arrests of the protestors. Dean Poullard stated that the arrests in Wheeler would have taken place the first night of the protests had police action been strategically and economically feasible. The intentions of the administration must be called into question. The efforts to negotiate with the protestors were conducted in bad faith, leading students to believe that there was room for collaboration and two-way communication when the administration had intended to move forward with pre-planned unilateral actions from the beginning.

The lack of an immediate dispersal warning was unfair and could have seriously jeopardized particularly vulnerable groups of students.

The university had warned individuals in Wheeler Hall of legal and student code of conduct violations for four nights without taking any measures to enforce those warnings until the arrests that Friday. The routine nature of those warnings gave many students the false impression that their actions were an acceptable form of protest that was tolerated by the administration. This tacit agreement led many students to participate in the events who would otherwise have avoided Wheeler Hall had they anticipated the risk of severe punishment. The routine warning was administered at roughly 10 p.m. Thursday with a 6-7 hour gap before the arrests were made at 4:30 A.M. the following morning.

This large span of time between the last warning and the arrests ignores the possibility that some of the students present at 4:30 a.m. had not heard the warning. While the university states that its primary concern was preventing any disruption that could have been caused by the concert, it is unreasonable to insist that students present in Wheeler Hall at 4:30 A.M. would be the same attendees at the concert that was scheduled for 8 P.M. or involved in its planning.

A significant number of students came to Wheeler Hall primarily to study and most were asleep at the time of the arrests. The drastic shift from treating students as peaceful protestors for four days to hostile occupiers on the fifth was unnecessary and showed callous disregard for student well-being. Beyond creating a criminal record for these students, the university’s actions will also result in the creation of conduct records that will have negative implications on the students’ academic careers.

Further, by not giving an immediate dispersal warning, the university failed to assess the extreme safety hazard that their actions posed to any AB540 or international students on site. Legal charges against any student under either category could have put the students at serious risk of deportation. Administrators did not take into account these potentially dire consequences.

The response to the “Open University” protests demonstrates the administration’s adversarial attitude towards student protestors.

The jarring discrepancy between university press releases and actual administrative plans to end the protest shows great irresponsibility on the administration’s part. This failure to correct inaccurate information released to the public has misrepresented the indicted students’ behavior. It avoids any formal recognition that there was a distinct level of premeditation and an egregious lack of sincere communication between student protestors and the administration leading up to the arrests. The SAO believes that the administration must uphold responsible procedure to address student conduct and take clear steps towards creating safe and respectful spaces for dialogue with the student body.

This article can also be found HERE on

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Updates from the Oakland Courthouse

3:15 p.m. Here are a few points made by John Viola, from the National Lawyers Guild, who was representing at least one of the students charged, forwarded from a student inside the courthouse: The DA has decided not to charge the eight people who were in for felony charges at this point and they will be released later tonight.  We need to continue to follow these cases.  We want the charges dropped and for there to be no academic charges brought against the students.

2:44 p.m. Reports from inside the courthouse are coming in that NO CHARGES WILL BE FILED AT THIS TIME.  EVERYONE SHOULD BE RELEASED TODAY.

2:26 p.m.:

12/14/09, 2p
Case Number 09378689
CHARGES DROPPED, pending further investigation
12/14/09, 2p
Case Number 09378619
CHARGES DROPPED, pending further investigation
12/15/09, 9a
Case Number 09378685
(Unclear whether or not the charges were dropped)
12/15/09, 2p
Case Number 09378660
12/15/09, 2p
Case Number 09378688
12/15/09, 2p
Case Number 09378647
12/15/09, 2p
Case Number 09378646
12/15/09, 2p
Case Number 09378687

If you’re at the courthouse and have more information about A.M.’s arraignment please let me know the status of their charges. I definitely want to know so I can update the post more accurately.

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UPTE/UAW Action, Tuesday, Dec 15

UPTE and UAW are doing a joint info picket next Tuesday from 12-1. Pickets will be up across the state <<see location list below, and we're asking everyone who can to come participate.

In addition to picketing at Berkeley, there will be an outdoor press conference (@ Telegraph and Bancroft – Eshelman Steps) w/ representatives and speakers from federal elected officials' offices (Lynn Woolsey for sure – others TBA), Sharon Cornu from the Alameda Labor Council, Victor Sanchez (President of the UC Student Association) and others.

The picket is a protest of UC's strategy of hiding behind state budget cuts to reject proposals for salary increases and benefit improvements for researchers and technicians (UPTE), and postdoctoral scholars (UAW). We all know how much UC's federal/private grant revenue has boomed over the last decade – help us get the word out to the press that the money is **NOT** making it into the pockets of the workers that actually DO the frontline research at UC. Fliers will be arriving at UPTE/UAW offices by Monday for distro. press advisories/releases will be going out tomorrow and monday, and we will forward them to the list. please feel free to distribute widely.

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