Report calls for UC to clarify protest policies

David Herschorn /File
Police pin a protester to the ground.

Related Posts

In the wake of controversial police force used against student protesters at UC Davis and UC Berkeley last November, the draft of a UC-commissioned report released Friday makes recommendations to minimize police involvement and help campus administrators adapt to each protest.

The report — which was commissioned by UC President Mark Yudof and includes 50 policy recommendations — suggests that UC campus administrators and police focus on mediating conflicts with protesters through “relationship building” and improve training for officers on civil disobedience.

At a press conference Friday, the authors of the analysis — UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley — added that the primary goal of campuses in responding to protests should be ensuring that the UC’s central mission of “teaching and research and not policing” is maintained.

“At the UC, we have an important tradition of free speech and protest,” Edley said. “(Protests) play a significant role in the education and maturation that students go through.”

The report also states that in their responses to protests, campus administrators should rely on the home campus’s police department and departments from other UC campuses before calling in mutual aid from neighboring cities, which would ensure that the police tactics used are conducive to preserving the campus’s primary goals of teaching and researching.

“The most salient difference (between municipal police and campus police) … in our circumstance, is that the primary value is on (the) academic mission and making decisions in light of how they will affect academic mission,” Edley said. “If the campus community feels that a different kind of caution is required, that is why we have campus police, instead of municipal police.”

The report also asks protesters to take responsibility for their actions and consider the scale of impact a protest may have on the campus community. Because civil disobedience involves violating laws, protesters should understand that engaging in it will generally have consequences, the report states.

After videos and photographs of police using batons against students at an Occupy Cal protest at UC Berkeley and pepper-spray against student protesters at UC Davis in November went viral, the handling of mass student demonstrations by campus administrators and police officers was the subject of widespread criticism from both observers and subsequent investigations into the responses.

An operational review of the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protests released in March criticized UC Berkeley administrators’ handling of the protests, but concluded that police baton use was within reason. An investigation to the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis also criticizing campus administrators called the UC Davis Police Department “dysfunctional” and found that weak communication between department and senior administrators led to the pepper-spraying incident “that could have been prevented.”

In February, the campus announced the creation of a campuswide Protest Response Team and stressed that the campus should encourage effective communication between protesters and faculty members and attempt to ensure that any decision to authorize police engagement will be made only by a fully briefed senior administrator on-site during police actions.

Among other changes, UC Davis administrators commissioned a task force to review campus policies related to protests and released an action plan to increase students’ role in police functions and updated of the campus emergency operations plan in response to the investigation’s findings released in April.

Yet, Edley said that this review, previously published reviews and others that will come in the future will not solve all the problems surrounding responses to protests, as “new mistakes” will continue to be made.

“This is not the type of thing you can do once, and then there will be reports forever,” he said. “Each hopefully will build upon earlier ones and through it all there should be a way to keep us focused on the central mission, and that is teaching and research and not policing.”

Amruta Trivedi is the lead academics and administration reporter.