Protesting punishment

CAMPUS ISSUES: The recent lawsuit filed by current and former students against officials reflects an unfortunate campus schism.

Another day, another legal battle in the UC Berkeley community.

Nearly two years after UCPD arrested 66 people in a week-long protest in Wheeler Hall, a group of former and current students filed a class action lawsuit Oct. 7 against administrators in regard to their response to the situation.

During the week before finals in the fall of 2009, protesters staged an “Open University” protest inside Wheeler Hall, intending to stay during the day and overnight until the end of the week. They reached a spoken agreement with administrators to stay as long as they were not disruptive. However, when administrators heard of a concert planned for that Friday night, they feared the event would disrupt the first final set to take place that Saturday morning. UCPD proceeded to arrest the 66 individuals at about 4 a.m. that Friday.

This incident and the subsequent lawsuit are indicative of the relationship between campus officials and activists, in which protesters feel that the best way they can capture administrators’ attention is by filing a lawsuit and in which administrators believe the most effective way to deter misconduct is through arrests.
We acknowledge that the dynamics among administrators and protesters, as well as the events leading up to the arrests, are complicated. The administration surprised and outraged those who thought they would be able to study peacefully in the hall that night, and the protesters’ planned concert presented officials with a difficult decision to tackle at the beginning of finals week.

Ultimately, we hope this ordeal can reach a productive resolution. Campus officials and activists cannot continue to interact with each other in this manner, with arrests and lawsuits occurring every time there is a disagreement. Both parties must realize that they share more common ground than these conflicts portray. The protesters are opposed to budget cuts and their effects just as much as administrators and UCPD.

Perhaps protesters will learn how to better communicate with officials, and hopefully administrators can demonstrate in the future that they have learned from this situation. Maybe one day the two sides will understand each other, or at least not have to resort to taking their grievances to court.

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  • Come on, seriously?

    (1) You make it sound like the University arresting its students and the students suing the University (in response to those unlawful arrests) are both manifestations of poor communication skills / unwillingness to dialogue. If the University didn’t unlawfully arrest students, there would be no basis for the lawsuit. It’s really a false equivalency. 

    (2) Students clearly don’t think this is “the best way to get the University’s attention.” That was what the torch-lit parade on the Chancellor’s House was for. The University has proven itself utterly immune to any other attempts to deal with student conduct issues sensibly, despite the constant efforts of students protestors, law students, the ACLU, etc. I think in light of that history, the students can be forgiven their modest effort to vindicate their constitutional rights in an appropriate forum.

  • ORLY

    The administration simply has no regard or respect for – no interest in – calls from the student body for plans which deviate from the diktats handed down by the Regents and UCOP.
    Make no mistake: it does not matter how views are posed, whether spoken, written or through active protest. Ask Prof. Chuck Schwartz or Prof. Bob Samuels how much progress is made via direct correspondence with the administration.

    To claim that protesters need to learn to communicate with the administration is to badly misunderstand the situation. To assert that protesters think the best way to communicate is by filing a lawsuit ignores two obvious facts: i) the lawsuit alleges violations of rights on specific dates and is not about larger issues such as how the university is funded, and ii) two years have passed since the incident which prompted the suit and the actual filing thereof.

    This editorial suffers from a fatal flaw, namely the presumption that the administration can be expected to act in good faith toward other parties.

    Please DC staff, do remind us again how the UC has no control over editorial content!
    Maybe that last sentence was presumptuous, it is possible the editors believe what they have written today, but I would hope not.

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