UC Security culture May 15, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, university.
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“Today’s report on the November 18 pepper spray incident at UC Davis clearly shows the systemic and administrative problems that led up to an outrageous and excessive use of force against peaceful student demonstrators. The report demonstrates that UC Davis officials are responsible for allowing the incident to occur, both in failing to provide clear guidance to the campus police, and in their oversight of the police themselves, as evidenced by the fact that the officers were neither authorized, nor trained, in the use of the specific type of pepper spray used on the students. Officials at UC Davis must be held accountable in addressing the very troubling revelations that this report has brought to light, and I will work with my colleagues on the Board of Regents and in the Legislature to ensure that they are held accountable in that work.”
OCCUPY AS FORM, UC BERKELEY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012 February 29, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog.
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Today’s guest blog comes from Evan Buswell, Kevin Smith, Blake Stimson, Geoffrey Wildanger (Buswell, Smith and Wildanger are graduate students in Cultural Studies, Anthropology and Art History, and Stimson is a Professor in Art History):
The four (Evan Buswell, Kevin Smith, Blake Stimson, Geoffrey Wildanger) of us attended a day-long working session on the topic “Occupy as Form” organized by Shannon Jackson, the Director of the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley, and Michele Rabkin, Associate Director, with some minimal help from faculty at UCD, Berkeley and CCA (California College for the Arts). Approximately 10 faculty, 30 graduate students, and 10 area arts professionals attended, most having contributed a short essay on a related keyword in advance of the meeting on Friday, February 10th. The essays are collected here: http://arcdirector.blogspot.com/.
The central framing device for the working session was to try to consider the overlapping roles of activism, art, and scholarship. There were several activities that were designed to cultivate discussion about these overlapping concerns including a lively “speed dating” session in which the participants were set up in pairs and given the opportunity to quickly exchange insights about the personal meaning and significance of the movement.
Occupation and the Public University February 23, 2012Posted by Naomi Janowitz in Guest blog.
Guest blog by Abigail Boggs, graduate student in Cultural Studies
On Thursday, I’m excited to be one of several students invited to have a public conversation with Angela Davis about her views and advice on Social Justice in the Public University of California. The event, envisioned and orchestrated by the recently formed Hart Hall Social Justice Initiative, offers the UC Davis community a much needed opportunity to reflect upon the events of the last several months and years, including the drastic increases in student fees, an ongoing incidence of, and occasional official recognition of, racially, sexually and religiously motivated violence on campus, and, perhaps most immediately, the gratuitous, and now infamous, use of a chemical agent by UC Davis police officers on student activists.
In the immediate aftermath of the November 18th pepper spraying incident and the violence of UC Berkeley PD just a week earlier, many faculty and administrators called for the University of California to recommit itself to its public mission of accessibility with specific attention to questions of diversity and economic and social justice. Several faculty members even called for the formation of new departments, programs, or projects dedicated to these causes. Following a similar impulse, Chancellor Katehi announced the development of a study group on poverty just a few weeks ago. While perhaps well intended, these calls for the creation of flashy new institutional formations seem a bit odd when considered from the perspective of the faculty, students, and staff who have been working on precisely these issues for decades, and who, in recent years, have arguably been the hardest hit by cuts in funding, faculty lines, staffing, and general university support, narrowly and repeatedly struggling to avoid “death by a thousand cuts” while providing many of the university’s most historically marginalized students with services and support that extends from the academic to the quotidian.
From what I understand, the Hart Hall Social Justice Initiative is a collaborative effort of the various departments and programs housed in Hart Hall, including African-American Studies, American Studies, Asian-American Studies, Chicano/a Studies, Cultural Studies, Native American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies to reinvigorate a sustained conversation about the responsibility of the public university to serve as a space for the production of emancipatory knowledges. That is, the initiative works to understand the role of the public university, and the University of California in particular, in the generation of forms of thinking, knowing, and understanding genuinely committed to antiracism, feminism, and decolonization — a commitment to knowledge for a more equitable distribution of life chances.
On Dissenting Cultures, or Against The Head in the Sand February 17, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, university.
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Today’s guest post comes from Sasha Abramsky, who is a journalist and a lecturer in the University Writing Program.
In the weeks following November 18, it struck me that something was stirring on the UC Davis campus – something quite intangible. In looking at the student encampment, in reading the slogans chalked onto the sidewalk or hanging on banners from building walls, in listening in on conversations amongst students, faculty and staff, one got the sense that a new sensibility was emerging.I blogged about this sensibility in Dissent, writing that in some ways a counter-cultural mentality was taking root – not just at UC Davis, but in Occupy protests and their support networks around the country. By this I meant not so much that people were protesting, but that they were starting to develop a systemic critique: of existing financial priorities, of existing ways of prioritizing values, of existing hierarchies and so on. And, in developing that critique, they were creating a new set of political and cultural rituals. It struck me as something of a breath of fresh air – mainly because it meant that young people’s critical faculties were being given free rein after decades in which campuses had become evermore apolitical and the broader community had truncated the language in which was discussed politics and social relationships. Yes, some of the Occupy Movement’s rituals were silly, some perhaps even open to ridicule – but they were new and they were creative and they came out of an optimistic impulse that young people had the power to remake their world. (more…)
Musings From the Middle Ground February 15, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, students.
Today’s guest post comes from Nickolas Perrone, a graduate student in History:
I have struggled with how to remain involved in a movement that appears to be fragmenting along ideological lines. Many of the more radical leaders suspiciously question the intent of those who are interested in taking a moderate route to reform. The moderates claim that the radicals are too submerged in their own ideology to see a clear way forward. Meanwhile the majority of students have gone back to the library and coffee shops as if the events this past Fall were only a minor interruption in their otherwise peaceful university experience. It is this last group that is sorely needed in order to create any substantive change in the way that business is done on UC campuses. How can we include the majority of UC students who might not want to camp out on the quad, or haven’t read enough Fanon or Foucault to converse with the “certified” radicals?
I would like to think that most students are too consumed in schoolwork, avoiding or paying off debt, and just trying to get by to get involved in revolutionary activities. I would like to think that if they were only made aware of the oppressive system that they are entrapped in, then they would throw off the harness of oppression and leap to the front lines of revolt. But when I speak with undergraduates I come to the bitter realization that most of them are simply uninformed and apathetic.
So how can we bring these students up to speed? How can we radicalize students who are entrenched in a system that only works with their acquiescence? I believe that we need to start with the simplest solution first. We need to show them a system that they are familiar with. We need to show them how the University of California has suffered and decayed under fits of tax revolts and privatization. We need to show them that the UC is a microcosm of a larger system that has abandoned the very people it purports to support. (more…)
What to do? Thoughts on Staying Positive in Confusing Times February 8, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, personal, protests, students.
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(Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of Natalie Roman. She is an American Studies major and transfer student from the Bay Area, interested in visual images and activism).
There is a lot of information out there for us to research to see where we as students stand in the University of California system; we are finding out that rather than being educational investments for the future, we are actually a financial investment for the big banks and businesses that run the state. While they happily swim in our sea of debt, we drown in their storm drains. Yes, it is very confusing and frankly, it is very fucked up.
The response to these unjust financial practices has been a month-long series of sit-ins and blockades of the US Bank branch located in the Memorial Union. This is a really great, non-violent action against a neoliberal system that has unfortunately been ridiculed and violently criticized from the student-body and the community. The occupation of the old Cross-Cultural Center building butted heads with the Educational Opportunity Program who had dibs on the vacant building. This was met with more criticism and has left a large part of the student body with more division, confusion, and uncertainty of where our strong front went.
Right now, what is really important is to stay positive. (more…)
Choreographing Nonviolent Action and Response February 3, 2012Posted by Naomi Janowitz in Guest blog.
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Jay Mechling, Professor Emeritus of American Studies
The violence on the Quad November 18 could have been avoided in many ways. I want to suggest at least one way to avoid future violent reactions to nonviolent action on campus.
Back in the early 1990s, when I was writing about the Animal Rights social movement, I attended an animal rights conference in Harrisburg, PA, a conference in preparation for the action the group would take the next day to protest the annual Labor Day live pigeon shoot in Hegins, a small Appalachian town north of Harrisburg. I attended a half-day-long workshop on nonviolent action. Although I had participated in anti-war marches in graduate school in Philadelphia years earlier, I had never been trained in nonviolent action. I was not going to be a protestor at Hegins; I was still a scholar trying to see what American values were in conflict in the animal rights movement. (more…)
Leave the sidelines, join the fight (a student’s plea). February 2, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, protests, students.
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Today’s guest post comes from Patrick Sheehan, a second-year Political Science/Mathematics (soon to be Computer Science major). Patrick is currently an ASUCD Senator.
The Prisoner’s Student’s Dilemma
I have always enjoyed solving problems. Whether it’s in math, computer science, or the so-called real world, I derive the most utility from taking on complex issues, breaking them down into simple components, and manipulating them to extrapolate a solution.
Today, the primary issue before students at UC Davis is the long-run divestment from and degradation of California’s public institutes of higher education. This problem is undoubtedly intricate. Instead of supposing that I can fix our state’s problems, I will focus on bringing attention to an issue that has not yet been confronted with institutional measures.
While students are arguably the most “active” demographic and have many reasons to rebel against the systems that continually short-change them financially, the alterations in California’s approach to higher education have created a truly vicious cycle.
As our state government diverges further and further from the glorious (now archaic) Master Plan, the protest and activism of students rises in importance. Paradoxically, as student voices become more necessary, those voices have also become scarcer. This is not to say that my peers and I have grown passive in the face of regular “trigger” cuts and massive fee tuition increases, but that our time is now more valuable. Going to college has evolved into a substantial investment; one in which each class period can be linked to a non-trivial monetary value. This means that going to a protest or rally presents a significant opportunity cost. No matter how high a student’s political efficacy may be, we can no longer ignore the idea that simply trying to get a degree in four years, and moving on with life is beginning to surface as the option that maximizes the utility of a majority of undergraduate populations.
If UC Davis students are to protest at Capitol Hill more often or funnel more efforts through student organizations like ASUCD and CalPIRG, they will need institutional support. This can mean anything from a shift in the focus of class projects to the offering of extra credit to politically involved students; the main idea is that it is not enough to simply agree with the movement; a skipped class is $100 out of my pocket to progress our cause. What we need from our faculty, staff, and administration are real, measurable incentives to pursue changes to the unacceptable status quo of higher education.
Leave the sidelines, join the fight.
Who has access to what? January 27, 2012Posted by Julie Sze in Guest blog, students, university.
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Laura Grindstaff, Sociology
It’s been more than two months since footage of the pepper-spraying of peaceful student protesters went viral, re-energizing the student movement and prompting a flurry of media coverage, campus town-hall meetings, teach-ins, and letter-writing campaigns. As it was for so many others, business as usual was on hold for me as I organized some events and attended many more, sometimes speaking out (not always coherently, I recall) but mostly seeking to learn as much as I could from those in and outside my regular networks. Although I have devoted much of my academic career to studying social inequality, I’m not an activist and have little activist experience aside from helping to unionize UC graduate students in the mid-1990s (a largely successful venture: my own TAs now have better pay and half the work I had when in their shoes).