Amid threats of violence, UC Regents cancel meeting

Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, and Sherry Lansing, Chairman of the Board of Regents converse at the September 2011 regents meeting.
Taryn Erhardt/File
Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, and Sherry Lansing, Chairman of the Board of Regents converse at the September 2011 regents meeting.

The UC Board of Regents announced Monday morning its decision to reschedule and possibly relocate the upcoming Board of Regents meeting.

In a press release, the UC Office of the President stated that the decision to postpone the meeting — originally scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday — was made after the regents received intelligence from police that a threat to student and public safety was imminent.

Meanwhile, hundreds of student protesters have had to change their plans of rallying outside the regents’ meeting. ASUC-funded buses have been rerouted to Sacramento. ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman has reached out to UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis to see if they would send buses as well, according to CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright.

However, the ReFund California Coalition still plans to send their buses from campus to San Francisco’s financial district on Wednesday, according to UC Student Association President Claudia Magana. Demonstrators from the United Auto Workers Local 2865 will march in protest of banks affiliated with regents, said Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student and financial secretary of UAW Local 2865.

In response to the meeting’s postponement, UC Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr. shared frustrations with students in a statement in support of student protesters.

“(The students) have this really well organized mobilization, and we have so much passion,” Mireles said. “Frankly, a lot of the frustration and finger-pointing should be at Sacramento. We could have seen history made based on how many students we expected to come to the Regents’ meeting.”

Steve Montiel, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said that while regents’ meetings have been canceled and postponed in the past, “in recent memory, none have been (rescheduled) for public safety.”

Montiel added that the decision was due solely to safety concerns and not the large volume of protesters expected.

Still, student organizer and UC Berkeley junior Marco Amaral said he doubted the Board of Regents’ justification to cancel the meeting and described the board’s decision as “a chess move.”

“By delaying the meeting all they’re doing is delaying the masses of people that they knew were going to go to the regents’ meeting,” Amaral said. “All they’re going to do is have another regents’ meeting when they know students and workers aren’t organized or won’t have the possibility to get organized.”

The decision to cancel this week’s regents’ meeting only illustrated the regents’ attitude towards the protests that have engulfed the campus, according to Grant Hutchins, a UC Berkeley senior who was present at the Sproul occupation.

“It indicates that the regents are frightened of dealing with students directly,” Hutchins said.

In the past, the goal of protesters has been to prevent the regents’ meetings from convening and making decisions without direct student input, according to UC Berkeley senior Laura Zelko.

However, many student groups, such as the UC Student Association, found the cancellation antagonistic to the protesters’ long-term goals.

“By canceling this meeting, the UC regents have done a great disservice to students and our ability to participate in the governance of our University system,” said UC Student Association President Claudia Magana in a press release.

Sherry Lansing, chair of the board, said she was making it a priority to reschedule the meeting as soon as possible, to a time and place that would ensure access for students and people of the Bay Area.

Despite the setback for the protesters, some expect that the regents’ decision will further galvanize the campus.

“If anything, this might actually stir people up more and turn more people out for the rally tomorrow,” Albright said.

Lansing said whether the meeting should be canceled was debated with police over the weekend up until Monday morning, after starting Friday when police first presented intelligence to the regents.

“We were told outside elements who were not students were coming in to provoke violence and would hurt the students,” she said. “This decision was not because of the student protest — I really want to be clear about that.”

Furthermore, Lansing said that in light of the large turnout expected for the meeting, she had requested an additional public comment section in order to allow more time for protesters and members of the UC community to voice their opinions.

“Peaceful demonstration is something that I respect, and I love the public comment section,” Lansing said. “But if any student ever got hurt, I would never forgive myself for the rest of my life.”

On Tuesday, protesters will hold a  general assembly at UC Berkeley where they will discuss establishing an encampment again.