Milo Yiannopoulos visits, and the campus erupts in flames
In this past year, the discourse at UC Berkeley has been largely centered on free speech — a conversation that began with controversial far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’ campus visit Feb. 1. In the weeks leading up to the event, which was hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans, several campus students, staff and faculty members encouraged the campus administration to cancel the event. In response to these protests, then-Chancellor Nicholas Dirks affirmed Yiannopoulos’ right to visit campus.
On the day of the event, however, Yiannopoulos’ appearance was cancelled after about 150 masked violent agitators, among 1,500 otherwise peaceful protesters, stormed and blocked the entrance to the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. The crowd of students, staff, faculty and Berkeley community members had begun their protests about 5:30 p.m., and the protests escalated when some individuals set off fireworks, threw rocks and bricks, hammered windows and pushed over a generator, which exploded into flames. By 6:30 p.m., Yiannopoulos had been evacuated from the scene and UCPD declared the protest an unlawful assembly, ordering the crowd to disperse.
The cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ event and the violent protests spurred a national conversation about free speech on Berkeley’s campus that led to many “alt-right” rallies and “Free Speech Week”.
Documents reveal 124 cases of sexual misconduct within UC system from 2013 to 2016
After filing a California Public Records Act request, The Daily Californian obtained hundreds of UC documents, detailing 124 different violations of UC sexual violence and harassment policy by UC faculty, staff and contractors. Twenty-five percent of those who violated policy were faculty, and 35 percent of the complaints were made by students.
The documents included all violations across the UC system from Jan. 1, 2013 to April 6, 2016, seven percent of which involved sexual assault. One-third of those found in violation of the UC sexual violence and harassment policy were still employed when The Daily Californian published the story in late February — but a majority of the 124 cases were investigated and adjudicated before the UC updated its sexual misconduct procedure policy.
In the past three years, the UC Office of the President has made several updates to the sexual misconduct policy, including issuing a new systemwide policy prohibiting sexual harassment and sexual violence and creating a new systemwide Title IX coordinator position that works with Title IX offices at each campus to ensure consistency.
The UC currently faces several sexual harassment lawsuits that have been filed in the past year, including a case against a former Tang Center employee filed in September on behalf of the employee’s patient, a UC Berkeley student and two additional cases filed against UCSF employees for alleged sexual harassment. Also this year: Tyann Sorrell — whose sexual harassment lawsuit in 2016 against then-Berkeley Law Dean Sujit Choudhry made national headlines — received a landmark $1.7 million from the university in a settlement.
Carol Christ is inaugurated as UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor, becoming campus’s first female chancellor
At a time when the campus faced a $110 million deficit, criticism for previous handling of sexual misconduct cases and controversy surrounding free speech rights on campus, Carol Christ stepped into office as UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor July 1.
Christ, the first female chancellor of UC Berkeley, previously served as the campus’s interim executive vice chancellor and provost. She joined UC Berkeley in 2013 after she announced her retirement as president of Smith College. Before officially stepping into her role, Christ announced plans to halve the campus’s $110 million deficit through more than $20 million in spending cuts from academic, research and administrative divisions. Since becoming chancellor, Christ has dedicated a significant amount of focus on free speech issues as well. She will speak at the winter commencement this semester.
University of California sues Trump administration for DACA repeal
Following the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the University of California filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration Sept. 8.
UC President Janet Napolitano, who served as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration from 2009-13, helped create the DACA program in 2012. The program has since allowed nearly 800,000 undocumented people to legally live, work and study in the United States. This repeal of DACA affects a sizable population on campus. At UC Berkeley, there are about 400 DACA recipients among a population of 500 undocumented students. Across the UC system, there are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students.
The lawsuit, made on behalf of Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents, was the first lawsuit to be filed by a university against the DACA repeal. Since its filing, the UC lawsuit has since received support from various political figures, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.\
Chancellor Christ announces that campus cut deficit in half within fiscal year
At an Academic Senate meeting in early November, Chancellor Carol Christ announced that the campus made “excellent progress” in fixing the campus’s deficit, and decreased the deficit from $150 million in fiscal year 2016 to $77 million in fiscal year 2017.
At the meeting, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation presented on the campus’ spending during fiscal year 2017, highlighting that 60 percent of campus spending on non-academic salaries went towards central administration, as compared to 24 percent going toward colleges and schools.
The campus now aims to reach a deficit of $56 million by next summer through increased revenue streams, such as increased contract and grant activity, increased entrepreneurial activity, monetization of real estate and philanthropy.
President Donald Trump’s inauguration reverberates in Berkeley
The year began, most notably, with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. On Jan. 20, the campus saw hundreds of students and faculty members walk out of their classes and assemble on Sproul Plaza for a rally against Trump’s inauguration.
Before the rally, the J20 coalition — a universitywide coalition of organizations, including the UC student workers union, student groups, faculty and staff, formed to protest Trump — organized more than 30 teach-ins around campus. These talks covered various topics, including “Free Speech, Hate Speech and the Backlash Against (Political Correctness)” and “Fighting Against Trump and the Capitalist Two-Party System.”
At noon, Berkeley High School students and other community members soon joined the protest on Sproul Plaza, and together, the crowd marched down Telegraph Avenue to Oakland City Hall. The crowd’s chants brought residents and store owners down to the street and elicited cheers. This protest on Inauguration Day marked the first of many protests to occur in following year.
Berkeley Police Department gets new chief, considers controversial programs and policies
In early April, Berkeley City Council appointed Andrew Greenwood as the permanent chief of police. He started as acting police chief in October 2016 after the sudden resignation of former chief Michael Meehan, whose leadership faced internal and public criticism. Among his many goals, Greenwood has expressed his intention to improve reporting of use of force in order to address the community’s concern regarding racial profiling.
In June, Greenwood, with other BPD representatives, spoke in favor of Urban Shield, a controversial police training program, which has been widely criticized by community members for alleged racism and promotion of police militarization. Following these recommendations, the council voted to implement Urban Shield, with Davila and Councilmember Kate Harrison voting against the program.
At the meeting, many public commenters, including members of the Stop Urban Shield coalition, spoke out against the program; once the program was voted on, the meeting broke out in protest from the public, resulting in two arrests. While the department is close to having body-worn cameras issued to all officers, it has faced backlash after the city granted Greenwood’s request to allow officers to use pepper spray during protests.
20-acre fire breaks out in Berkeley Hills
On Aug. 2, 200 firefighters from nine local fire departments responded to a fire stretching across 20 acres in the Berkeley Hills. The fire originated at the intersection of Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Fish Ranch Road and resulted in the evacuation of several campus buildings, including Lawrence Hall of Science and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.
The fire was first reported by a Berkeley resident who saw “a column of smoke and flames” in the direction of the Berkeley Hills. This report came within minutes of an arson arrest made on Grizzly Peak Boulevard. UCPD investigated the cause of the fire, which, according to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich, could have been arson.
City, state prepare for upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana
Berkeley is among the first cities in California prepared to sell recreational marijuana Jan. 1. City spokesperson Matthai Chakko previously told The Daily Californian that the city is developing temporary licenses that would allow existing medical dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis until the city adopts comprehensive regulation.
In 2016, California’s voters passed Proposition 64 to legalize the use of recreational marijuana across the state. Before this, Berkeley had three medical marijuana dispensaries and three additional dispensaries that were approved for medical marijuana permits in 2016.
According to chairman of the Berkeley Cannabis Commission David Lampach, the dispensaries in Berkeley have been well-regulated by the city, so he is not concerned about granting theses businesses permits to sell marijuana for adult use. Lampach added, however, that the complication in permits comes from the difference in tax rates placed on medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries — nonmedicinal “recreational” cannabis dispensaries are taxed $100 per $1,000 of income, which generates an additional $75 per $1,000 of income for the city than medical cannabis dispensaries.
Beyond Berkeley, the state has been working to implement statewide regulations for the distribution and recreational use of marijuana. In November, the state released a variety of new regulations for the state’s marijuana market, outlining how dispensaries may apply and obtain licenses to sell adult-use marijuana.
Following evictions, Berkeley’s homeless community braces for the winter
After a contentious eviction by BART, residents of the South Berkeley homeless encampment, known as the “Here There” encampment, evacuated BART property near the Ashby BART station on Adeline Street in November.
Following the eviction, the encampment members settled down in various locations around the city, with most relocating to the area in front of Old City Hall. BPD Lt. Andrew Rateaver said that lodging on public property is not legal, but he is unsure if the current encampment at Old City Hall will be evicted as well.
In addition to this recent turmoil between encampments and city officials, the city lacks a homeless shelter for the upcoming winter, with 150 year-round beds for nearly 1,000 homeless individuals on the streets. In the face of this crisis, the city allocated more than $2 million in excess city funds to homeless aid programs, with $300,000 dedicated to finding and expanding a winter homeless shelter program.
Homeless advocates, including Guy “Mike” Lee, have taken it upon themselves to prepare the community for the winter — Lee is raising money to host Christmas dinner for the homeless community and said the leftover funds will be used to purchased tarps and tents to help the homeless community brave the winter.
“We are going to get people through this winter. I don’t want to see anybody dying on the streets this year,” Lee previously said to The Daily Californian.