Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Letter to the UC Berkeley Community Concerning Ongoing Prosecutions of Student Activists

Reprinted from a Facebook post.

We're writing to let you know about some disturbing actions the Office of Student Conduct at UC Berkeley has recently taken in prosecuting approximately one hundred student activists, including ourselves. Those facing prosecutions are alleged to have participated in at least one of three non-violent actions that occurred on campus last fall, including the reclamation of Wheeler Hall on November 20th. For our participation in this event, we are being charged with violating a number of regulations from the University Code of Conduct, the most serious being 321c, Physical Abuse. This regulation reads in full:

"No person on University property or at official University functions may engage in physical abuse including but not limited to sexual assault, sex offenses, and other physical assault; threats of violence; or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person."

When asked by our law student representatives, the conduct officers assigned to our cases did not produce or identify any evidence to justify this charge. Far from engaging in physical abuse on the 20th, those of us inside Wheeler Hall explicitly and repeatedly identified ourselves to the police as non-violent, and, when the police began to succeed at unhinging the doors, we made a point to move away from the doors, sit down together in a classroom, and raise our hands in the air, so as not to be misconstrued as presenting any physical threat to the officers.

Moreover, when in the morning of November 20th we prepared to secure the doors of Wheeler Hall, we traveled throughout the entire building and made sure that it was empty, so that no one would be locked inside with us. During this process, a few of us on the ground floor were spotted by police officers. The officers entered the building through a window, made two arrests and hit a nonviolent student protester with a baton as he fled back to the second floor, where the rest of us were located. The red welt on the student's back was the first indication to those of us inside the building of the physical danger we would face that day. Subsequently, we were threatened verbally by the police, who told us through the doors to “get ready for the beat-down,” and we received via electronic communication descriptions and images of student protesters outside Wheeler Hall having their bones broken, being hit with batons, and being shot with rubber bullets by the police. Given this experience, it is difficult for us to understand why we students, rather than the officers who engaged in excessive force, or who threatened students with violence, are facing prosecution for violating section 321c of the University Code of Conduct – the section on physical abuse.

The Office of Student Conduct (OSC) is targeting student activists with arbitrary and inflated charges. And, based on our experiences so far, the OSC apparently does not consider their disciplinary process to be subject to the parameters imposed on a public institution by federal and state law. Our legal representatives have repeatedly observed in preliminary hearings irregular and legally questionable practices concerning the presentation of evidence, the right to representation, the right to remain silent, and other basic judicial principles. We are participating in the Student Conduct hearings in a straightforward and respectful manner, but are concerned that we are falling into an extra-legal morass with no just end in sight.

We're writing this letter to ask for your support. Please write to or call the Chancellor's office (510-642-7464; and the Office of Student Conduct (510-643-9069; and tell them to drop the inflated charges against student activists and to uphold the civil rights of UC students and workers. Please also come to the public forum on the Student Conduct Code, this Wednesday, 2/17/10, 6:30PM in 2050 VLSB. By voicing your dissatisfaction about the OSC's dubious judicial process, you can help show the administration that the community at large is watching and will not tolerate the intimidation of students who are struggling to maintain the UC's public character.


Amanda Armstrong
Graduate Student, Department of Rhetoric

Zachary Levenson
Graduate Student, Department of Sociology

Paul Nadal
Graduate Student, Department of Rhetoric

Zack Norwood
PhD Candidate, Energy and Resources Group

1 comment:

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