UC Berkeley Academic Senate to vote on resolution of no confidence in senior administrators

Members of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate have called a special meeting Nov. 28 to discuss and potentially vote on a resolution of no confidence in senior campus administrators in response to their handling of the Occupy Cal movement.

According to the resolution, which was drafted by three UC Berkeley faculty members, the campus has compromised the climate for free expression. It proposes a vote of no confidence in the ability of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande to respond appropriately to nonviolent protests and protect the freedom of speech and assembly on campus.

“The most recent treatment of protesters on Nov. 9 comes after several other incidents of police response to protests,” said Wendy Brown, a campus political science professor and a co-author of the resolution. “The police used an inappropriate level of force.”

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, campus administrators declined to comment on the division’s proposal until after it has been voted on at the Nov. 28 meeting.

She said the UCPD Police Review Board has initiated a review of police actions on Nov. 9. Additionally, following standard practice, UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya has undertaken an internal investigation into police actions that will be reported to the board.

UC President Mark Yudof also met with all 10 UC chancellors via teleconference on Monday to examine the recent police use of force on student demonstrations at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The UC Office of the President has started to implement recommendations to “ensure the safety of members of the UC community engaged in peaceful protest,” according to a press release.

Yet Brown said Birgeneau should take ultimate responsibility for the use of batons against students on Nov. 9.

“The chancellor has been all over the map,” Brown said. “First he defended the police force, then he saw videos and called the police actions ‘disturbing.’ It would be great if the chancellor could just take responsibility and ensure that this will never happen again.”

After it was written, the resolution received 47 signatures of support from members of the campus division of the Academic Senate. According to division chair Bob Jacobsen, no faculty members have publicly voiced their opposition to the resolution but he said a debate may come up at the upcoming meeting.

“Faculty have been very concerned and upset by what they’ve seen,” Jacobsen said. “They have seen a need to express their concern, and this resolution has grown out of a desire to state that this (type of police action) is unacceptable and that situations have to be handled better in the future.”

However, Brown said that while the resolution aims to pass a vote of no confidence for police action on Nov. 9, the Nov. 15 peaceful dispersal of the Occupy Cal encampment was a “good contrast” to events of a week before.

“I felt that what happened on (Nov. 15) in terms of the climate on the day of strike, students felt quite unintimidated and unharrassed during the day,” Brown said. “But questions of rights of assembly, peace and nonviolent protest should be welcomed as appropriate responses to the transformation the university is undergoing.”

Read the full resolution below.


Amruta Trivedi covers academics and administration.

Correction(s):
An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Bob Jacobsen’s name.