With so many voices constantly demanding salvation for the University of California in the face of the state’s ever-mounting budget crisis, solid and constructive victories are often difficult to find.
When protesters occupied Kroeber Hall’s anthropology library between last Thursday and Saturday and pushed UC Berkeley’s administration to preserve its hours, they set a benchmark for how direct action can and should be used.
Though the library is just a tiny part of our campus’s framework, what the protesters achieved through their occupation was no small feat. In quickly reacting to an abrupt cut to the facility’s hours after the resignation of a long-time library staffer, the demonstrators found a way to voice their opposition productively.
At the core of this demonstration’s success was the concrete brevity of its demands. Protesters took issue with a specific problem rather than an amorphous one when they refused to accept cuts to the library’s hours and effectively targeted the people, places and organizations that mattered to their cause. And as a result of their clearly-defined actions, students ultimately became part of the solution — the library will be operated in part by student workers until a replacement staffer can be found.
Collaboration between protesters and faculty members — with some instructors going so far as to occupy alongside demonstrators and supervise the proceedings — was another key to the demonstration’s success and is essential to future victories.
Though the responsibility for getting busy instructors and professors involved falls primarily to protest organizers, faculty members must remember the power they have to facilitate conversation between the administrators they work for and the students they teach. Just as the demonstrators’ conduct deserves imitation, so too does the anthropology department’s quick support for the protesters.
The campus response to the occupation stands in welcome contrast to past engagements. That the protesters did not betray the administration’s trust to demonstrate peacefully should encourage a similar campus response in the future. Recent events have shown that student activists oppose violence on our campus just as much as administrators and UCPD officers do.
It is good that a few students were able to engage with the faculty members and administrators to make something happen. In the coming weeks and months, the campus community should remember the success of the demonstration at Kroeber Hall and build upon the occupiers’ protest methods as a campus community.