Not enough voices were heard when the UC Board of Regents met on Wednesday. In discussions of UC protest procedures and Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Student Regent-designate Jonathan Stein’s voice was one of few offering clarity and reason.
The protest report — authored by UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley and UC Vice President and General Counsel Charles Robinson — outlines 50 university police protest policy recommendations. However, the distinction between active and passive protest resistance is important, and we are disappointed that the report did not include a clear definition of these concepts along with a recommendation to change UCPD response to each.
This issue, as pointed out by Stein at the meeting, came up during the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protests. Even though protesters were standing and linking arms, UCPD considered their actions to be “active resistance” and responded by hitting them with batons. We, like Stein, regard that as a passive method of protest.
Yes, the difference between active and passive resistance can get blurry. We believe that refusing to leave a location or follow orders is passive resistance. Nonviolence, in this context, is generally passive resistance, whereas active resistance is a generally unprompted, violent action or a clear threat of physical assault to police, property or authority.
That the report did not touch on this issue — and the regents did not push it — is a serious problem. The Nov. 9 protesters were following traditional, nonviolent, passive demonstration, and so too will future demonstrators. The procedure for campus police should have clear policy and definition.
The May 25 deadline for public comment may be extended, according to UC spokesperson Lynn Tierney. Students and demonstrators should take advantage by actually giving feedback. Instead of complaining about police response, occupiers should contribute to the discussion and do so in a constructive way.
Stein also encouraged the regents to endorse Gov. Brown’s tax initiative. We completely agree. The regents should not be dragging their feet when taking a stance on the plan — which imposes an increased income tax rate on the top 3 percent of California taxpayers — because if it does not pass, the UC system will face an additional $250 million in cuts.
It is important for legislators and students to see the regents step up to the plate. They need to take action, establish momentum. The regents are state leaders, and their voice is significant for what it does for all of California, even beyond the university.
Higher education could still be cut even if the plan passes but not nearly as much as if it does not pass. If this is a critical issue to the regents — which it should be — they should join Stein and make their voice heard.
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