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Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Opportunity Missed on the UC Davis Quad

What were they thinking?

By now, the reaction of the police at the University of California to the student protest on the Quad between Shields and the M. U. has gone viral, and the administration response was the classic two-step: first, it was justified because “the encampment raised serious health and safety concerns, and the resources required to supervise this encampment could not be sustained, especially in these very tight economic times when our resources must support our core academic mission” and “[w]e are saddened to report that during this activity, ... pepper spray was used” [1] ; then, after the video of the police officer spraying pepper spray at non-violent, sitting protesters, the “use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all” and that the Chancellor will be forming a task force to look into this [2].

As a UC Davis faculty member, I am quite surprised that the people who made the decision to order the police in did not think of our “Principles of Community” [3] first. The first principle is:

We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we strive to maintain a climate of justice marked by respect for each other.

The students were protesting tuition hikes. Tuition has almost tripled over the past decade (from $4595 in 2001-2002 to $13,080 in 2010-2011) [4]. Students are having trouble financing their education. And non-violent, civil protest is a time-honored way of making one's concerns public, in hopes of effectuating change.

The UC Davis administration, and indeed the entire UC system administration, seem not to like the tuition hikes either. President Yudolf announced that UC “will not raise tuition this school year” [5].

Suppose Chancellor Katehi had gone down to the quad, talked to the students, and (since apparently health was a concern [1]) provided some Port-a-Potties and other supplies to ameliorate the health and safety issues? Surely a lot cheaper than what will come from the current approach. And what would the news have reported—administrators and students united in the goal of making education more affordable, and better, in these tough times! I suspect that would give UC Davis much better publicity than what they are getting now, and underscored the seriousness of the problem, because the UC administration and the students would be working together instead of being in conflict.

Perhaps, had the administration given a bit more thought to the situation, and the police used a bit more restraint, the University would be able to use the money to support “our core academic mission” rather than using it for public relations, the inevitable lawsuits, and to compensate for the money that alumni will no longer contribute.




References

  1. Letter from Chancellor Katehi to the UC Davis Community (Nov. 18, 2011 at 9:00 PM PST)
  2. Letter from Chancellor Katehi to the UC Davis Community (Nov. 19, 2011 at 11:12 AM PST)
  3. “The Principles of Community”, University of California at Davis; available at http://principles.ucdavis.edu
  4. “Annual Fees and Tuition for Full-Time Attendance, 1997-2010”, University of California at Davis; available at http://facts.ucdavis.edu/annual_fees_and_tuition.lasso
  5. “UC: No Tuition Increase Even if Mid-Year Budget Trigger Pulled”, The Sacramento Bee (Nov. 8, 2011); available at http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/11/uc-no-tuition-increase-even-if-mid-year-budget-trigger-pulled.html

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