Before the UC Regents voted on another fee increase, several of them voiced their concern for the future. One Regent bemoaned the role of shared governance in blocking some of President Yudof’s efforts to save money. After arguing that the committee structure on the campuses should be “zero funded” and scrapped, Regent Island affirmed that the faculty are holding up cost-saving measures like moving classes online. He stated that due to the faculty’s resistance to change, the online initiative would be so watered-down that it would fail to generate significant revenue.
After this discouraging attack on shared governance, I received word that a police officer pulled a gun on a crowd of protesters. After reviewing the video, I asked during public comment for a full investigation of this incident, which came very close to being a new Kent State tragedy. As I have discussed with campus police in the past, they need to do a better job at preparing for protests and making sure that they only use force as a last resort. Posting a single officer at a sensitive point makes no sense and ends up putting police and the protesters at risk. Moreover, the use of a single row of bicycle racks to hold off hundreds of angry people is a poor defense and opens the door for unneeded police over-reaction.
The general hostile climate against free speech was extended inside and outside of the Regents meeting. Before the start of the meeting on Wednesday, I was told that only people on a special list would be able to enter into the meeting. When I pointed out to a campus police officer that this goes against California’s open meeting law, I was told to back off. In order to make sure that anyone from the public could line up to enter the meeting, I had to contact a staff person from the Board of Regents office who informed the officers to let the public enter the meeting.
While I do feel that the police were often put in harm’s way due to bad planning, there is no excuse for detaining and arresting people for chalking messages, and the police should not be able to simply tear down the signs of protesters. Furthermore, the use of pepper spray at the meeting appeared to be indiscriminate and counter-productive. In general, some police officers displayed a hostile and defensive attitude towards the protesters and the general public.
Since no actions have been taken to discipline the campus police who used tasers on students last year at UCLA, I believe that it necessary for us to investigate filing suit against the university for creating an environment that is hostile to free speech. If we do not counter the aggressive actions of the campus police, we will lose our ability to defend the public nature of our university.