Letters to the DA in support of the Banker’s Dozen April 24, 2012Posted by lagrindstaff in access to education, protests, students, Uncategorized, university.
Faculty around the university are mobilizing in support of the Banker’s Dozen, making phone calls, donating money, and writing letters. Below is a letter I wrote on behalf of the Sociology department. I plan to hand-deliver the letter to the DA’s office in Woodland on Wednesday morning, two days before the case goes to court. So far 21 of 23 Sociology faculty have signed, and an additional 50 faculty from other programs and departments around campus have asked that their names be added to the end of the letter to show their endorsement.
24 April 2012
Dear District Attorney Jeff Reisig,
As faculty of the Department of Sociology at UC Davis, we are writing to express our strong objection to your decision to charge 11 students and one professor with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy. (Six of the cases were referred to your office by the UC Davis administration, and your office increased the number to 12). Charges were filed after an anti-privatization blockade of the US Bank ended with the closure of the bank’s campus branch in late February. This blockade was peaceful and a form of conscientious objection to the role that banks have played in both generating and profiting from spiraling student debt. According to the Washington Post, total student debt in the US now exceeds $1 trillion. The deal struck between the university administration and US Bank signaled the further privatization of public higher education and unfairly put students at risk for accumulating further debt.
Among the 12 accused are students who were pepper sprayed by campus police on November 18, 2011. But whereas you never brought charges against the individuals responsible for that unwarranted violence, you have elected to prosecute the Banker’s Dozen to the fullest extent possible. This is a clear move to punish the student protesters and privilege corporate interest over students’ right to assembly and free speech. We object to the use of retroactive legal action against peaceful civil disobedience and we object to the use of tax-payer-generated county funds (via your office) to protect a private corporation’s right to profit from increasingly indebted students at an increasingly expensive public university. Affordable public education is essential to democracy. Criminalizing political dissent that seeks to defend access to affordable public education is itself criminal, in the spirit if not the letter of the law.
We look forward to your response.
(21 signatures, with an additional 50 faculty signing on to endorse the letter).
Dear Chancellor Katehi, Provost Hexter, and Chair Bisson:
We, the undersigned faculty of the Program in Cinema and Technocultural Studies, write to ask that you do all that is in your means to have District Attorney Jeff W. Reising drop the charges against the UC Davis community members who have come to be known as the “Davis Dozen”. Of those charged, at least four have been our students—Evan Buswell, Thomas Matzat, Kevin Smith, and Geoffrey Wildanger—and Joshua Clover is a faculty colleague of ours.
We are very concerned about the excessive criminalization of civil disobedience and the apparent unwillingness to work constructively with members of our community who put themselves at risk on behalf of UC Davis. As you know, each of those charged now faces a maximum sentence of eleven years imprisonment and one million dollars in fines. In particular, we are concerned that the decision to turn the protestors over to the District Attorney rather than working with them through university mechanisms has brought further unnecessary harm to the campus community.
The protest concerned US Bank issuing UC Davis student ID cards that could also function as ATM cards and thereby the use of the University’s persuasive imprimatur (an authority developed through decades of academic excellence and civic service) to encourage students to become US Bank customers. The symbolism of turning student IDs into ATM cards is particularly disturbing given that rapidly rising tuition is linked to rapidly rising student debt. Moreover, since banks profit from increased student debt, and since higher tuitions threaten to price public higher ed out of reach of its market–i.e., the public–the business arrangement with US Bank gives the appearance of the University having a vested interest in its own demise.
In our view, the actions of the protesters should be regarded as acts of civil disobedience on behalf of UC Davis and public higher education generally and treated accordingly. Particularly in light of the pepper-spraying incident of November 18, it is critical that we all take a strong and principled stand in support of public education and the rights of our community members to speech and dissent. Using your influence with the DA’s office to drop the charges will be an important sign of your commitment to that goal.
Sarah Pia Anderson