Protesting punishment

CAMPUS ISSUES: The recent lawsuit filed by current and former students against officials reflects an unfortunate campus schism.

Another day, another legal battle in the UC Berkeley community.

Nearly two years after UCPD arrested 66 people in a week-long protest in Wheeler Hall, a group of former and current students filed a class action lawsuit Oct. 7 against administrators in regard to their response to the situation.

During the week before finals in the fall of 2009, protesters staged an “Open University” protest inside Wheeler Hall, intending to stay during the day and overnight until the end of the week. They reached a spoken agreement with administrators to stay as long as they were not disruptive. However, when administrators heard of a concert planned for that Friday night, they feared the event would disrupt the first final set to take place that Saturday morning. UCPD proceeded to arrest the 66 individuals at about 4 a.m. that Friday.

This incident and the subsequent lawsuit are indicative of the relationship between campus officials and activists, in which protesters feel that the best way they can capture administrators’ attention is by filing a lawsuit and in which administrators believe the most effective way to deter misconduct is through arrests.
We acknowledge that the dynamics among administrators and protesters, as well as the events leading up to the arrests, are complicated. The administration surprised and outraged those who thought they would be able to study peacefully in the hall that night, and the protesters’ planned concert presented officials with a difficult decision to tackle at the beginning of finals week.

Ultimately, we hope this ordeal can reach a productive resolution. Campus officials and activists cannot continue to interact with each other in this manner, with arrests and lawsuits occurring every time there is a disagreement. Both parties must realize that they share more common ground than these conflicts portray. The protesters are opposed to budget cuts and their effects just as much as administrators and UCPD.

Perhaps protesters will learn how to better communicate with officials, and hopefully administrators can demonstrate in the future that they have learned from this situation. Maybe one day the two sides will understand each other, or at least not have to resort to taking their grievances to court.

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