Issue 5 (February 2012)

 

Writings of Campus Occupy and Anti-privatization Movements

Installment Three: November 16-30

 

Aaron Bady, This is a Microcosm of All Sorts of Things (Nov 17)

Posted in the wake of the UCPD’s second raid on the Occupy Cal encampment (which coincided with the annual ‘big game’-related festivities at UC Berkeley) Bady’s blog post juxtaposes the sanctioned activities of Cal fans with the unsanctioned activities of protesters. The unheralded expressions of solidarity — in opposition to police violence — by students of color at Stanford are contrasted with the administration-sanctioned torching of a tower of wood meant to stand-in for Stanford University.

 

Bob Ostertag, Militarization of Campus Police (Nov 19)

An account of the now-infamous November 18 pepper spraying of seated protesters at UC Davis, as well as an attempt at contextualizing the violence of the 18th in relation to recent transformations in policing. Ostertag oscillates between a reading of the Davis pepper spray incident as extreme relative to recent forms and protocols of policing, and a reading that sees this event as consistent with a broader militarization of policing in recent decades.

 

Nathan Brown, Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi (Nov 19)

A call for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation in the wake of Lt. Pike’s pepper spraying of seated Davis students. Brown’s letter contains a chilling account of the police violence on the 18th — detailing how they forced pepper spray down the throats of students, and how one of those attacked was coughing up blood hours later. The letter presents the repression of the 18th as consistent with recent UC administrative responses to student protest (even if more shocking in some ways), and argues that resignations are the only adequate remedy to the chancellors’ cynical and callous disregard for the well being of students.

 

Robert Haas, Poet-Bashing Police (Nov 19)

An account, published in the New York Times, of Poet Laureate Robert Haas’ experiences on November 9, when he and his wife Brenda Hillman witnessed, and were injured in, the evening police raid on the Occupy Cal encampment. The editorial contextualizes the struggle of November 9 in relation to a broader history of university privatization and of student-worker resistance to the undoing of public education in California.

 

UC Davis Bicycle Barricade, No Cops, No Bosses (Nov 20)

An attempt to expand and radicalize discourse in the wake of the police attack on November 18th. The anonymous authors insist that the pepper spraying of seated students was an unexceptional act of police violence that reveals the need for sanctuary campuses and the disbanding of police forces, and that the violence was part of a concerted effort, on the part of UC administrators, to make the campus safe for the interests of transnational capital and thus to mediate, in structurally violent ways, relations between the world ‘inside’ the university with its various ‘outsides.’ The essay attempts to sketch out a course of struggle that would lead from current antagonisms to the realization of a self-managing, open university.

 

UCLA Faculty United, Open Letter to Chancellor Block (Nov 20)

A letter, signed by over 100 members of the UCLA faculty, condemning the police raid on Occupy UCLA and calling for the dropping of all charges against arrested students. The letter offers a defense of the political project and practice of Occupy UCLA, while also suggesting that — despite the severe police force employed against students at the 2009 UCLA Regents meeting — the UCLA administration still has an opportunity to distinguish itself from the reliably callous UCB and UCD administrations.

 

Joshua Clover, Who is the Real Health and Safety Risk at UC Davis (Nov 21)

An account of the November sequence of protest at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, focusing on the Nov. 18 actions at Davis and subsequent calls for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. The editorial opens with the line, “A specter is haunting the United States — the specter of tents,” and proceeds to read university protests as both imbricated with the broader Occupy movement, and enduring similar forms and logics of repression faced by the plaza occupations.

 

Lili Loofbourow, Dear Mark Yudof: The Cemetery You Manage Can Hear You (Nov 22)

The first in a series of posts on the limits of administrative discourse, which can be found at Loofbourow’s blog, Excremental Virtue. This post presents a series of close readings of emails written by UC administrators in the aftermath of violent police actions. Loofbourow shows that both Birgeneau and Katehi’s initial emails not only unambiguously defended police actions, they also employed the first person plural in such a way as to align themselves with the actions of the police. Only after UCPD violence became national news did the chancellors express ‘shock and sadness’ at what they had ordered. The post argues that this cramped range of administrative response — from callous disregard to feigned concern — has been modeled and sanctioned by Mark Yudof throughout his tenure as UC President.

 

Christopher Miller, A Defense of Dreaming in Public (Nov 24)

A post that considers a number of contradictions accentuated by recent plaza and quad occupations, and by the forms of state repression they’ve been met with. The state’s investment in spaces evacuated of life and in times conducive to capital accumulation has been met this fall with bodies acting in concert, stubbornly remaining in parks, in tents, and in assemblies that are persistently remade, even in the immediate aftermath of police repression. On duration and mutual care as the matter of history, and of effective counter-publics.

 

Uncivil Procedure, Behind the Curtain - Background for the "No Confidence" Vote (Nov 25)

In anticipation of a vote of the UC Berkeley Academic Senate to condemn upper administrators for ordering police violence against demonstrators, a group of Berkeley law students linked to the Campus Rights Project put together this collection of documents, which were originally obtained in a 2010 public records request. The compiled documents reveal internal discussions between UC Berkeley administrators about how to respond to anti-privatization protests. The folks at Uncivil Procedure particularly highlight an email sent by Chancellor Birgeneau on the eve of a planned mass arrest in December 2009, in which he requests that an email be prepared in his name commending the police for their professionalism and referring to those arrested in suitably derogatory language.

 

Robert Meister, CUCFA Letter to President Yudof objecting to hiring William Bratton to investigate UC Davis pepper-spray incident (Nov 27)

In response to public outrage at UC police repression, President Mark Yudof appointed William Bratton and the firm he chairs, Kroll Security Group, to carry out an investigation of police and administrative responses to student occupations. Meister’s letter outlines a series of apparent conflicts of interest characterizing this investigation, from Kroll’s role in shielding financial institutions from mass protest actions to their financial ties with for-profit educational firms.

 

Anonymous, a few unexpected subjects of class struggle: notes on recent university strikes (Nov 28)

A meditation on how recent California university strikes have been shaped alongside uprisings related to the larger “Occupy” movement. The essay reflects on the various ways in which the word “general” can be understood in the recent calls for general strikes, suggesting that the recent re-emergence of the term allows for limits of our collective struggles to be expanded, calling for alliances across sectors of labor and social life. This essay draws on the writings of Italian Marxist-feminist writings on social reproduction as well as recent accounts of student debt and its effects on social reproduction.

 

Robert Meister, Debt and Taxes: Can the Financial Industry Save Public Universities? (Nov)

Published as part of Representations’ special issue on “The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University,” Meister’s essay argues that, given recent economic transformations, the post-90s administrative strategy of privatization (originally touted as a solution to declining state funds) is no longer able to realize even its limited aims of stabilizing university budgets and allowing for enrollment and real estate growth. Meister further shows how student fee hikes at the UCs are fueling financial speculation on student debt, and are contributing to the wholesale recomposition of higher education in California. As low- and middle-income students decide that the UCs are too expensive and apply instead to the CSUs, increasing numbers of CSU applicants are annually turned away, which in turn further strains underfunded community colleges and offers a boon to fraud-riddled for-profit universities. A depiction of California’s system of higher education as it is remade according to the interests of the financial services industry.

 

Anonymous, Beyond Violence and Non-violence: A Response to Catherine Cole, Prima Porta (Nov)

An intervention in the debate on violence that emerged within the occupy movement this fall, this anonymous essay responds to a piece written by Catherine Cole, a UC Berkeley professor, which had argued that student protesters should institute a ban on violence and property destruction within their movement. This response essay not only identifies certain occlusions and slippages in Cole’s essay — misrepresentations that allow for the tenuous construction of the figure of the outside instigator of violence — but it also attempts to ground students’ commitment to the tactic of occupation in relation to the dynamics of economic crisis and enclosure that characterize our present.

 

Zachary Levenson, Occupying Education: The Student Fight Against Austerity in California (Nov/Dec)

Published originally in the NACLA Report on the Americas, Levenson’s essay provides a detailed account of the fight against austerity in the public education sector beginning in the fall of 2009 up to the most recent actions. Levenson provides an overview of the sequence of protests and actions to fight fee increases, layoffs and cuts throughout the California public higher education system over the past few years and details the various forms of repression used by university administrators (whose salaries increased during these times of austerity)to attempt to quell protest. Levenson’s essay highlights the fact that the egregious use of police force demonstrated by the UC Davis pepper-spray incident, is simply one instance in a series where administrative policy is backed by various forms of police and disciplinary sanctions.