UC Berkeley faculty, administration endorse March protest events

March 2nd Protest
March 2 Protest Education Budget Cuts UC Berkeley Sproul/File

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In the final stretch leading up to the protest events scheduled to begin Thursday, both UC Berkeley administration and faculty have indicated support, with some pledging to participate in rallies in Sacramento and even the four-day “99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice” to the state Capitol.

In a campuswide email sent Tuesday, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau endorsed the upcoming March 5 demonstrations. Campus faculty groups — including the Berkeley Faculty Association and the campus division of the Academic Senate — have also publicized their support, stating that several faculty members will march from Richmond to Vallejo alongside demonstrators.

The ASUC and the campus administration will fund three to four buses Monday morning to travel to the Sacramento demonstrations, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and five deans so far will board the buses along with students and faculty, Gilmore said in an email.

In the aftermath of the controversial Nov. 9 campus protests, Birgeneau was criticized for the changing tenor of his emails in response to clashes between protesters and campus police. In his endorsement of the March protests, Birgeneau called on the campus community “to continue our advocacy efforts in Sacramento to speak out against the state’s disinvestment from public higher education and call for the reinstatement of funding and stabilization of the budget.”

On Wednesday, the Berkeley Faculty Association endorsed the march in a press release, stating that it will “draw attention to the plight of public education in California and to implore Californians to re-invest in it.”

Following an afternoon of on-campus events in solidarity with Occupy Education California, marchers plan to head to Oakland and from there begin the march to the Capitol. About 24 faculty members will join the march on Friday, according to Wendy Brown, co-chair of the association.

“Every effort to awaken California taxpayers and legislators to the dire predicament of public education is important,” Brown said in an email. “Every additional participant in the movement strengthens the chance of getting California to reinvest in its public education system.”

At 7:30 a.m. Thursday, protesters plan to rally outside of California Hall, which houses Birgeneau’s office.

According to a Wednesday column in the Berkeley Daily Planet, protesters plan on “encircling the entire building with crime scene tape” to make visible “mishandling of university resources and repression of campus activism.”

Teach-outs will begin at 8 a.m. on Sproul Plaza, followed by the first of 11 scheduled workshops an hour later. The first workshop will be led by Mark Mason, a campus alumnus and a professor who has taught at a few schools, including CSU Sacramento.

“I cannot adequately articulate how important this movement is to the civility of a nation,” Mason said in an email. “I support the March march … Human rights, dignity, and truth-telling are Occupy in the face of university hypocrisy.”

Gilmore said in an email that all opinions are welcome, even if they are critical.

“This freedom is a cherished value here,” Gilmore said in the email. “Of course, everyone is also expected to follow campus policies and state laws when they engage in protest, and we encourage protesters to respect the rights of people who simply want to go about their day in class or at work.”