In days since the world witnessed the violence on the UC Berkeley campus by police against protesters, various facets of the campus community have started to come together for higher education.
Past movements for this cause have experienced fragmentation — administrators shunning student protest acts and focusing on their own lobbying, the ASUC not always backing demonstrations. But this time, something is different.
ASUC officials made great strides in being active members of the rallies. They redirected buses intended for the UC Board of Regents meeting to Sacramento when the latter was canceled. The oft-unseen campus administration was there, too, with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer joining forces with students and faculty members on the bus ride. On campus Tuesday, the crowd on Upper Sproul Plaza swelled to thousands upon thousands during a rousing speech from public policy professor Robert Reich. Despite the force used by police on Nov. 9, protesters did not seek retaliation.
Even Chancellor Robert Birgeneau joined the proclamations of support for higher education through a campuswide email Tuesday, stating in all-caps that, “in the spirit of (Tuesday’s) day of action I am urgently calling on the political leadership from Sacramento to come to campus” to engage in a public forum on higher education.
The components of a successful protest are finally reemerging. These very elements — ASUC involvement and faculty support — helped make the few strong past protests like Sept. 24, 2009 so powerful. Our campus now stands in a great position to ride this wave of widespread enthusiasm in order to bring about change. The movement is at a point where those in power cannot ignore it; they cannot look away.
Still, these successes are fragile. For Birgeneau and administrators, this is a critical chance to prove that they stand behind the collaboration of activism on campus. In his email, Birgeneau stated that the concerns about higher education “require bold action and time is short.” He must now demonstrate that he is willing to be bold to ensure that the forum he proposes moves forward productively. Especially in light of the controversy following Birgeneau’s classification of protesters as “not non-violent,” this is his opportunity to make up for that misstep.
Protesters who have worked so hard must not lose sight of their end goal or their passion. One of the great elements of this week’s protest was the diverse spectrum of involvement: through art, through teach-outs, through choosing to camp out or choosing not to. In order to maintain its relevance, the protest should continue to provide this variety.
Continuing on this wave, our campus has the potential to emerge as a true agent of change.
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