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Protesters occupy campus library

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Protesters gather in Kroeber's anthropology library to protest the cuts made to the library's operating hours.


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JANUARY 19, 2012

Update, Friday 12:25 p.m.  — About a dozen demonstrators remained in the UC Berkeley anthropology library Friday morning after holding an overnight study-in as part of a day of protests Thursday to coincide with the UC Board of Regents meeting and oppose cuts to library hours.

The study-in — which involved about 70 protesters as of press time Thursday and decreased in numbers as the night wore on — garnered support from a number of faculty members from the campus anthropology department who signed up for rotations to stay with the protesters until 6 p.m. Friday., according to UC Berkeley senior Alex Kim.

Kim said the protesters plan to hold a general assembly meeting at about 5 p.m. Friday to discuss further action and that their demands include increasing funding for library staff to maintain hours, creating a public forum to discuss the importance of libraries and standing in solidarity with protesters at UC Riverside, where the regents meeting was held.

The protest to cuts in library hours began Thursday at 3 p.m. after a noon rally on Sproul Plaza. Anthropology department faculty members who support the study-in at the George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library made arrangements with the campus administration to help supervise the protest past the library’s closing hours on the condition that campus police officers would not intervene.

Campus anthropology department chair Terrence Deacon — who galvanized department faculty members to support the protest by sending out an email asking for support — read a statement from chief campus counsel Christopher Patti on behalf of campus administrators at the official closing of the library at 5 p.m. and the 10 p.m. building closure, which informed protesters that they could not remain in the library without faculty supervision.

“The administration wanted to avoid any police conflict, and I offered to have my faculty be present throughout the occupation,” Deacon said. “I did not think it was appropriate to have police in the library. I had the sense that I could rely on students to be respectful.”

About 50 Occupy Cal protesters began their day of action with a noon rally calling for the resignation of UC President Mark Yudof, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, campus Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and campus UCPD chief Mitch Celaya. They then began a general assembly meeting at 12:30 p.m., which culminated in a vote to endorse a March 1 national day of action against cuts to public education and a decision to reconvene at the library.

Protesters chose to hold the study-in at the library as a reaction to cuts made to the library’s operating hours at the beginning of the semester, which occurred as a result of the resignation of a long-time library staff member who has yet to be replaced, according to university librarian Tom Leonard.

“This cut in the library’s hours was not talked about as temporary,” said Callie Maidhof, a third-year UC Berkeley anthropology graduate student. “Because so many library positions have been cut, this is really about opposing the model that the campus is moving towards of more temporary and part-time workers, rather than full-time employees.”

Leonard said the campus does not have the budget or time to hire a permanent person — the campus library system has lost 70 positions in the last three years — but a team of university librarians and other staff members is currently studying how to deal with tighter budgets.

“We’re trying to study, understand and move,” he said. “The team will come up with facts, figures and recommendations, and we will take them to students and faculty.”

More than 100 protesters participated in the study-in at its peak, and about 70 stayed to participate in the occupation. At around 7 p.m., the students and about 10 faculty members began a discussion on the role of faculty in the protest.

Dennis Nguyen, a UC Davis alumnus who has participated in campus rallies since the 2009 Wheeler Hall occupation, said the faculty should participate in the letter-writing campaign that demonstrators started around 8:30 p.m.

“Since the faculty agree with the students, they should be part of the movement,” he said. “They should force the administration to act on our demands.”

However, Deacon said faculty did not want to act as mediators between administration and students.

“It’s cold outside, and it might be raining tonight,” said Colleen Young, a fifth-year UC Berkeley anthropology student. “Occupying the library is not only warmer, but it also represents our message.” 

Betsy Vincent and JD Morris of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Callie Maidhof is a second year graduate student. In fact, she is a third year.
Amruta Trivedi is the lead academics and administration reporter.

JANUARY 20, 2012