Monday, November 23, 2009

Open letter to the Chancellor from UC Berekely Faculty Editor's note: While I fully agree that the police were brutal on Friday, I do not think that this letter's prescriptions are correct. Time and time again, law enforcement around the world is used to quell student dissent at strategic times. This will never change, regardless of policy amendments. Currently, police violence is the issue on everyone's lips. The administration is now winning the battle of public discourse because fee hikes and furlough's belong to the past. The police are but a tool employed by a violent UC administration dead set on privatizing the campuses. Chancellor Birgeneau used the brutality of the Berkeley, Oakland, and University Police Departments to quell student voice and break the autonomous spirit of the Wheeler Occupation. The correct response to this disgusting tactic is for students to take the University because it is theirs.

November 22, 2009

Open Letter from Concerned Members of the Faculty to Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau,

We, the undersigned faculty, are writing to voice our strenuous objection to the use of unwarranted violence by the police forces enlisted by the University of California at Berkeley to patrol the student demonstration outside of Wheeler Hall on Friday, November 20th. It is now abundantly clear that in addition to UC Police, there were squads from the City of Berkeley and Alameda County, and that some of these police forces acted with undue violence at various points during the day, most conspicuously at mid-day and then again in late afternoon when they used batons against students and a faculty member. In some cases this occurred to defenseless people who had already been pushed to the ground, among them several who sustained injuries to hands, heads, and stomachs, and were forced to seek urgent medical care. These abuses of police power were captured on video recordings and in photographs, corroborated by numerous witnesses. They have now been widely circulated on the web and throughout the national and international media. We will send you a composite of those websites and testimonies under separate cover.

These documents clearly show that the students were acting in a non-violent manner when their civil rights were abrogated by police harassment and assault. Such instances of unprovoked police brutality would be appalling and objectionable anywhere, but we find it most painful for these events to have taken place on the UC Berkeley campus, given the important tradition of protecting free speech that you, Chancellor Birgeneau, have only very recently defended. Hence we regard with dismay and astonishment your euphemistic reference to these Friday’s violence: “a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers.”  There is no doubt that our students and colleagues did find themselves subject to unwarranted and illegal police brutality. It is therefore incumbent on the Chancellor of UC Berkeley to condemn such actions unequivocally and to make sure that such actions are subject to comprehensive review and disciplinary action.

Accordingly, we the undersigned demand that the university assume full accountability for the actions of the police forces active on campus on Friday, November 20th. We call for the administration immediately to convene an impartial and comprehensive investigation of the abuse of police power that resulted, making broad use of available testimony on the part of victims and observers, including photographic images, video and personal narration of those at the scene in order to establish a clear record of the facts. We ask as well that you speak directly and honestly to the students about what has happened. They are entitled to know that the university does not condone acts of police violence such as these; as of this writing, they have received no word from the administration acknowledging accountability for such appalling actions. Indeed, the administration was markedly unreachable on Friday, when faculty were most pressed to take on a mediating role.

We ask that you widely publicize the current protocols governing police conduct at demonstrations, and ascertain whether protocol was followed or abrogated on Friday. The entire community is also surely entitled to know that clear steps will be taken to revise protocols regarding police conduct at student demonstrations--protocols that will be binding on any police force brought on campus. It should also make clear that disciplinary actions will be taken against police officers found guilty of assault. Finally we ask for a public statement reconfirming the University’s commitment to protect the rights of free expression and assembly for students on the Berkeley campus.

We want to underscore how important it is for the campus for you to convene an investigation and to take administrative responsibility for protecting the safety of students as well as their rights of assembly and expression. Friday’s failure to do so is a most painful public display of how far UC Berkeley has strayed from its historical responsibility as a national and international institution pledged to rights of free speech and assembly and to the ideals of social justice. It is surely difficult enough to see our reputation as an excellent and affordable university jeopardized through budget cuts and fee hikes. Must we see as well the dissolution of the ideal of protecting free speech for students for whom the very future of their education is at stake?


Elizabeth Abel, English
Alice Merner Agogino, Mechanical Engineering
Norma Alarcon, Ethnic Studies
Albert Russell Ascoli, Italian
Paola Bacchetta, Gender and Women’s Studies
Jeanne Bamberger, Music and Urban Education
Patricia Baquedano-López, Graduate School of Education
Joi Barrios-Leblanc, South and Southeast Asian Studies
Brian Barsky, Computer Science
Lisa Bedolla, Education
Emilie Bergmann, Spanish and Portuguese
John Bishop, English
Déborah Blocker, French
Jean-Paul Bourdier, Architecture
Daniel Boyarin, Near Easteren Studies and Rhetoric
Karl Britto, French and Comparative Literature
Natalie Brizuela. Spanish and Portuguese
Wendy Brown, Political Science
Michael Burawoy, Sociology
Judith Butler, Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
Brandi Wilkins Catanese, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Timothy Clark, History of Art
Catherine Cole, Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies
Vasudha Dalmia, South and Southeast Studies
Prachi Delpande, History
Clelia Donovan, Spanish and Portuguese
Beshara Doumani, History
Robert Dudley, Integrative Biology
Laurent El Ghaoui, Engineering
Peter Evans, Sociology
Jerry Feldman, EECS
Keith Feldman, Ethnic Studies
Mariane Ferme, Anthropology
Mia Fuller, Italian
Peter Glazer, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies
Steven Goldsmith, English
Ramón Grosfoguel, Ethnic Studies
Suzanne Guerlac, French
Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Ecosystem Science
Angela Harris, Boalt School of Law
Gillian Hart, Geography
Cori Hayden, Anthropology
Tyrone Hayes, Integrative Biology
Lyn Hejinian, English
David Henkin, History
Charles Hirschkind, Anthropology
John Hurst, Graduate School of Education
Toni Johnston, Education
Andrew Jones, East Asian Languages and Culture
Alan Karras, IAS
Elaine Kim, Ethnic Studies
Patrick Kirsch, Anthropology and Integrative Biology
Georgia Kleege, English
Jake Kosek, Geography
Claire Kramsch, German
Chana Kronfeld, Near Eastern and Comparative Literature
George Lakoff, Linguistics
Katherine Lee, College Writing
Gregory Levine, History of Art
Michael Lucey, French and Comparative Literature
Richard Norgaard, Energy and Resources
Saba Mahmood, Anthropology
Francine Masiello, Spanish and Comparative Literature
Susan Maslan, French
Minoo Moallem, Gender and Women’s Studies
Davitt Moroney, Music
Carlos Muos, Ethnic Studies
Ramona Naddaff, Rhetoric
Rasmus Nielsen, Integrative Biology
Dan O’Neill, East Asian Languages and Literatures
Abena Dore Osseo-Asare, History
Stefania Pandolfo, Anthropology
Nancy Peluso, Environmental Science
Della Peretti, Education
Daniel Perlstein, Graduate School of Education
Kevin Padian, Integrative Biology
Kent Puckett, English
Robert Rhew, Geography
Christine Rosen, Haas School of Business
Ananya Roy, City and Regional Planning
Jeff Salbin, Boalt School of Law
Debarati Sanyal, French
Scott Saul, English
Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Anthropology
Sue Schweik, English
Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, Education
Katherine Sherwood, Art Practice
Kaja Silverman, Rhetoric and Film Studies
Jeffrey Skoller, Film Studies
Sandra Smith, Sociology
Katherine Snyder, College Writing
Janet Sorensen, English
Ann Smock, French
Shannon Steen, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Alan Tansman, East Asian Languages
Estelle Tarica, Spanish and Portuguese
Barrie Thorne, Sociology, Gender and Women’s Studies
Sylvia Tiwon, South and Southeast Asian Studies
Soraya Tlatli, French

Linda Tredway, Education

Trinh Minh-Ha, Rhetoric, Gender and Women’s Studies
David Tse, EECS
Susan Ubbelohde, Architecture
Paula Varsano, East Asian Languages
Sophie Volpp, Comparative Literature
Anne Wagner, History of Art
L. Ling-Chi Wang, Ethnic Studies
Michael Watts, Geography
Leon Wofsy, Molecular and Cell Biology
Alexei Yurchak, Anthropology

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