Asian American Studies Faculty Support the Davis Dozen


8 May 2012

Dear Chancellor Katehi and Provost Hexter,

The faculty of the Department of Asian American Studies is deeply troubled by the criminal charges filed against the Davis Dozen, who include eleven students and one faculty member, for their sit-in at US Bank. This action, taken at great risk by the students and our colleague, was not only a fight for the rights of students, but serves as an effective protest against the intensified privatization of public higher education.

The Davis Dozen are not guilty of the excessive charges placed against them. We ask you to request District Attorney Jeff W. Reisig to drop all charges against the Davis Dozen. The charges and plea bargain offered by the District Attorney are unjust. By alerting us to the terms of the contract with US Bank, the Davis Dozen has exposed the Administration’s complicity in going against the public mission of our university and all that it stands for. Having student ID cards serve simultaneously as US Bank debit cards highlights not only a conflict of interest, but also a collusion, in which UC Davis serves as both marketing tool and profit-making machine that does not serve the students’ best interests.

The bank sit-in occurs in light of years of protests against the increase in tuition fees and the neoliberalization of the public university. While the Administration turns a deaf ear to these appeals, the budget cuts and increased tuition fees have greatly impacted all students who attend UC Davis, including many of our students who major in Asian American studies. A number of our own students have had to drop out of school due to their inability to pay the increased tuition and some are forced to take two or three low-wage jobs or take on exorbitant student debt.

As an ethnic studies department inspired by student protest movements and built on the legacy of civil disobedience, we are disturbed that the Administration is not only regulating student dissent through policy and force, but also criminalizing protesters in ways that are contrary to what you call part of the “learning process” (Letter to UC Davis Community dated April 27, 2012). In our classes, civil disobedience is seen as a continuum in which students from an earlier era who challenged racial segregation, were, in fact, breaking the law. The Administration’s actions are having a chilling effect on our students in which many are increasingly anxious about the consequences of participating in any kind of political protest activity on campus and fear that they, too, will face criminal charges, or eleven years in prison, if they were to engage in public protest. Our students are not criminals; they are simply demanding the right to an affordable and accessible higher education, one not segregated by class or race.

Part of the public mission of the university is to create and maintain a space for freedom of expression and spirited debate. However, the Administration’s actions speak louder than the words expressed in recent letters and memos to the Davis community. Last November, campus police used brutal force against peaceful student protesters, provoking national and international outrage. Now, the Administration is using the equivalent of legal pepper spray to repress and contain student and faculty protestors: a retroactive move that is neither transparent nor public. The Administration’s attempts at claiming to protect freedom of expression while in actuality repressing freedom of political speech and protest is a form of doublespeak; analogous to the policies and task force reports regarding multiculturalism and racism. The student protesters are not fooled by this and, we would like to note, neither are we.

As scholars working in a field that offers students critical skills to challenge the status quo, in which civil disobedience is one strategic mode of action in the struggle for racial, economic, and social justice, we declare our solidarity with the Davis Dozen. We will continue to encourage our students to not only support the Davis Dozen, but also to engage in critical analysis, public discussion, and agitation until access to higher public education can be an equal opportunity for everyone. We are also planning to establish a legal defense fund to assist and support student protestors with their legal expenses in defense of their civil rights. We hope that the Administration will join us in these pursuits, beginning with a public demand that the DA office drop all charges against the Davis Dozen.


Nolan Zane, Chair


Professor Darrell Hamamoto,

Professor Wendy Ho,

Associate Professor Richard Kim,

Associate Professor Sunaina Maira,

Professor Susette Min,

Associate Professor Robyn Rodriguez,

Associate Professor Sarita Echavez See,

Associate Professor Caroline Kieu Linh Valverde,

Assistant Professor Isao Fujimoto, Emeritus

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Reflections from UC Davis: On Academic Freedom and Campus Militarization

via reclaim UC

The following article by Joshua Clover was just published in the journal College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies. A PDF of the article is available here.

The autumn of 2011 offered extraordinary images of police brutality against students (and not students alone) on University of California campuses. Two stand out, both seemingly following on from the national Occupy movement. On November 9, students attempting to ‘occupy’ a grassy area at the edge of Berkeley’s famed Sproul Plaza, next to the Mario Savio Steps, were batoned by riot police summoned to campus by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, first during the day, and then again that night when Occupy Cal returned. In no small part because a couple of professors were among the beaten, the event became a national news story. This would pale in comparison to events on the Davis campus nine days later, when a low-key tent occupation on the quad — Occupy UC Davis — was broken up by riot police summoned by Chancellor Linda Katehi from three jurisdictions. The images of one corpulent and distressingly nonchalant officer disbursing military-grade pepper spray to the faces of a couple dozen seated students would swiftly become one of the iconic images of the year, not just for the campus or the university but globally.

In train, there has been considerable discussion of removing the Chancellors who either authorized such actions or were too incapable to command the situation adequately. There has also been a perhaps more consequential debate around the presence of police on college campuses, regarding either their presence per se (for those familiar with the internationally and historically common situation of police-free universities), or in terms of their increasingly militarized form. And these changes in campus dynamics — toward the heavy hand bearing advanced weaponry — have prompted concerns about the implications for the intellectual and academic pursuits of the university, and what we might expect to develop from here.

I want to argue as directly as possible that grasping this new security regime as primarily pertinent to campus intellectual climate is misguided. While this line of inquiry is no trivial matter, it confuses and obscures core issues.

The confusion comes from two entangled commonplaces regarding these dramatic events (and others like them in kind, if not in media saturation). The first is the assumption that we can identify in each case a two-part sequence of cause and effect, in which students protest and police overreact disastrously. The second (with evident implications for the question of academic freedom tout court), is that this to-and-fro is to be conceived exclusively as a freedom of speech issue.

These assumptions form a unity. In this understanding, students first protest, as students are wont to do. The question arises as to the limits of protest, and to what extent certain actions — in this case, politicized camping — count as protected speech. ‘Time, place, and manner’ provisions are invoked; the police are summoned, heavy with tools. Orders to disperse are given, no dispersal is forthcoming, and then the intolerable thing happens, and everyone scrambles to understand and manage the aftermath.

There can be no doubt that these ‘overreactions’ are judiciously calculated to produce a chilling effect on student struggle. As with the endless nuisance charges levied against student (and other) organizers, they are designed to exhaust resources, both inner and material. And further there can be no doubt that this chilling effect spills over to the entire campus. In this sense it is certainly reasonable to consider the implications of these actions for free thought and intellectual exploration.

But there are also good reasons — better reasons, I believe — not to shift the debate onto the terrain of thought, ideas, expression, and so forth. It has suited all sides to allow that this drama revolves around First Amendment issues. Under considerable internal and external pressure, both Chancellors conceded that in these cases, the riot police may indeed have curtailed what really should be protected rights of speech and assembly. Katehi insisted (twice; she is in the habit of using the same formulaic language in multiple press releases) that: “Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression” (2011a, 2011b); her counterpart at Berkeley, Chancellor Birgeneau, extolled the same virtues. Meanwhile, students did not hesitate to pillory both administrations for having failed the Bill of Rights, while dismayed if still-timorous faculty demanded that Birgeneau “respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus” (UC Berkeley Academic Senate 2011).

The fantasy at play here is that what has gone wrong somehow concerns the excessive assertion of First Amendment rights by students, or conversely, the excessive limiting of same by the administration. The logical remedy is inevitably discovered to be a rebalancing of these matters, extending adequate protections to ‘protest’ and ‘expression’ as abstract ends in and of themselves.
The underlying reality is radically different.What must first be recognized is that in neither case did we see the abstract two-part motion, protest/repression. The unity of each event is considerably more concrete: administrations must deploy force to implement austerity policies. The initiating acts were not student protests but university policies designed to assure that the costs of running an educational system increasingly devolve to students, who are at once ever more compelled to pursue higher education for competitive advantage in a forbidding employment landscape, and concomitantly less able to afford the same without increased debt and workloads.

This misrecognition of the sequence of substantive events is compounded by another, whereby the campus protests are presented as arising from the charisma of Occupy Wall Street and the ensuing national movement over the course of the preceding months. As the Occupy movement has not made a significant issue of education, and as students (especially at purportedly elite or top-tier universities) are often thought to be cushioned at least temporarily from the buffets of the economy (especially the employment market), the inference is frequently drawn that the campus variants of Occupy are lacking real content of their own, and are thus reducible to protest for the sake of protest.

What is forgotten is that the Occupy movement, doubtless inspired by 2010’s ‘Arab Spring’ and Europe’s ‘Movement of the Squares,’ has its local roots in recent US campus organizing, specifically the anti-privatization campaigns of 2009-2010 on UC campuses. They have been ongoing if uneven, and characterized throughout by police violence. The shock over recent events at Berkeley and Davis this November must be taken with a grain of salt. After all, only two Novembers before, both Chancellors called riot police from multiple jurisdictions onto the same campuses to break up anti-privatization occupations. Both times, the police attacked non-violent protestors, and lawsuits are still pending. In short, we are looking at a clearly defined confrontation that has been in progress for some time, on the concrete terrain of economic crisis — not a timeless confrontation between academic freedom and policing, on the abstract terrain of rights.

So we might say that a mistaken assessment of the sequence of events, both this November and over the last few years, allows for a misrecognition of the fundamental issue.This seems perhaps a neutral slippage; aren’t rights good for everyone? However, this reflexive motion — in which future political organizing and action turns on itself to address the formal conditions of previous actions rather than the preceding causes — in actuality serves the university administration admirably by displacing the debate into the arena of form rather than content. The administration can offer a remedy, with tonalities of magnanimous self-correction: they can promise to be more thoughtful and diligent about respecting the right to protest, and thus seem to slip out of their position in the struggle, that is, as enthusiastic co-authors of the privatization process. They themselves turn to become a context, not a class antagonist.

This is indeed precisely what has happened. One suspects there will be some payouts to injured students, and that a cop or two will be pastured. And the matter will be tentatively resolved, despite the economic content remaining entirely unaddressed; thus, the administration wins by ‘losing.’

One can see that this movement has become a substantial quagmire for the professoriat within this political cycle: what is sometimes called ‘the articulation trap.’ It is a double truism of the faculty member’s position, especially the professor’s, that she is not identified clearly with either side of the current struggle between the economic interests of students and administrators; at the same time, her job’s basic supposition (especially in the humanities) is that position-taking is itself an action. These two factors supply a powerful if implicit determination toward intervening not by entering into the content of this struggle, but by offering, at a remove, often-eloquent assessments that tend toward seemingly neutral ethical (or pseudo-ethical) categories like rights and freedoms. I fear we professors are quite often guilty of looking for our car-keys under the streetlight — that is, participating in this particular antagonism in the ways we are best equipped for, rather than in the ways that the conditions and goals demand.

In thinking about campus militarization, UCSC professor Bob Meister provides an extraordinarily useful account of the relation between campus securitization and securitization of university economies, as they have recently developed. In his talk on “Debt, Democracy, and the Public University,” he sets forth the cruel historical developments through which William Bratton was retained to lead the investigation into the pepper spray incident, and what it reveals about “the link between the privatization of public universities, the financial services industry and the national security industry” (Meister 2011). Meister observes that:

Since 9/11 the US defense industry of the Cold War has morphed from being mainly in the military hardware business into a new role as global provider of security services that enables government and corporations throughout the world to outsource intelligence, policing, background checks, construction of secure sites and various operations that may need to be deniable — as well as the public relations efforts necessary to support such deniability.

Most Americans do not know that there is a huge domestic market for services provided by the defense industry….The fastest growing market for the defense and security services industry is in the area of local government and public agencies that feel threatened by political protests, such as the Occupy movement, and that have reporting and other obligations under the Patriot Act. Former LA Police Chief William Bratton was hired to build this market for Kroll Security by its parent company, Altegrity, a defense contractor that is itself now owned by a private equity firm that also invests in both for-profit higher education and financial services (Meister 2011).

While the specifics of such connections inevitably vary from place to place and situation to situation, the systemic logic is plain enough. Heightened campus security is inextricably linked to heightened campus securitization in its two main forms: the decision of universities to pursue a certain line of investment strategies which move money away from educational services and into capital projects; and the corresponding decision to cover those educational costs by shifting burdens to students at a rate which can only be financed though student loans, concomitantly providing profitable investment for banks laden with otherwise fallow capital.The rise in tuition and indebtedness within the context of economic crisis simply is the militarization of campus; they are one and the same.

It is impossible to conclude other than this: even if one does adhere to the belief that the matters of intellectual freedom, free speech, and free assembly are fundamental to this unfolding political economic sequence, the place where such things will be arbitrated is not on their own terrain — the terrain of formal rights — but elsewhere. The necessary arena in which such rights might be protected presently and for the longer durée is the arena of direct antagonism between, on the one side, those fighting against backdoor privatization and austerity programs on campus, and on the other, those who implement and enforce them.This is not a rhetorical struggle, and moreover, the retreat into the sphere of articulation risks affirming the misrecognition of the struggle’s character. Such formal rights are far less an enabling condition for this struggle than an outcome of its material content.

Professors: stand with your students, literally. It is the best thing to be done for academic freedom; it is the least you can do for them.

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May 10: All Out to Support the Davis Dozen!

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UC Irvine Stands in Solidarity With the Davis Dozen

Action at the UC Irvine campus Wells Fargo branch, in solidarity with UC Davis.

UCI Wells Fargo Protest from Court of Appeal on Vimeo.

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We Do Not Misunderstand You

Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down. The lack of effective communication by the Chancellor at this time not only contributed to misunderstandings that made it difficult to evaluate the decision to use police to take down the tents. This communication failure also substantially undermined the goal of avoiding a physical confrontation between the police and protesters. — from the Reynoso Report.

It is no doubt in the interest of Linda Katehi and the UC Davis administrative class to take refuge behind the idea of a “misunderstandings.” The Reynoso and Kroll reports paint a striking picture of incompetence, malign stupidity, and an organizational “culture” that, barring any countervailing force, moves naturally in the direction of physically hurting people it believes to be in its care. This is, regardless of any questions of intent, an entirely adequate argument not just for removing the leading incompetents, but dissolving the structure itself.

The flimsy pretext to which Katehi clings is absence of malice. No matter how incompetent, delusional, and unable to exercise either command or good judgment, she is somehow credited with good intentions. Things would not have gone so poorly for the students, we are meant to believe, if not for a series of misunderstandings which should have been avoided but were not. The legal standing of the protest; the supposed presence of “non-affiliates” among the students; the authorized force level to be deployed against the protestors; and many other matters were all supposedly subject to misunderstandings.

This is not the case. Linda Katehi we do not misunderstand you.


Let us first grant all the disavowals. We don’t believe them for a second: they are the filler text of brutes and stooges, and we have seen them a thousand times.

But let us accept them all at face value:

¶ that the application of a law on a Friday afternoon which prohibits “non-affiliates” (and non-affiliates only) from camping overnight on the Davis campus was somehow merely a misunderstanding of that code (110).

¶ that claims regarding the presence of these “non-affiliates” — which proved utterly false, and which were authoritatively contradicted in advance of any police action by the only administrator who had visited the quad — were somehow just misunderstandings of who was there (21).

¶ that the purported desire of Linda Katehi that no violent force be used was simply misunderstood over and over again down a long chain of command, despite all indications to the contrary (34).

Let us grant all that; we are generous souls. What then remains that all sides and parties agree upon — that involves neither actual nor implied misunderstandings?

The following: that Linda Katehi did intend to deploy the force of law against “non-affiliates” to remove them from campus where they were legally disallowed. This is clear in the law cited and in her orders, and led directly to the violence (113). No one disputes this point, nor was there any misunderstanding regarding this rationale.

Let us now restate the November situation in which nothing is misunderstood:

In order to justify arrest and extraordinary physical force against students, on November 18th, 2011, Linda Katehi chose to consider the open quad of the UC Davis campus to be private, reserved for students, staff and faculty of the university.


Let us now move forward to March of 2012, some four months later, when 12 affiliates (eleven students, one faculty) were served with arrest warrants by mail threatening eleven years each in jail, and a million dollars in damages. Half of these affiliates were pepper-sprayed and/or arrested on November 18, unfortunate casualties of that series of misunderstandings amidst the military-grade war on non-affiliates.

The charges are as follows: one count each of “conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor” and 20 counts each of said misdemeanor. The conspiracy was, it would seem, a conspiracy to sit on the hallway floor in front of the US Bank lodged in the Memorial Union, allegedly obstructing said hallway. This was what the University went with. We know from the record that these charges were first chosen by the UC Davis police at the behest of the administration, and then forwarded to the District Attorney.

Said misdemeanor is California Penal Code 647c: “Every person who willfully and maliciously obstructs the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk, or other public place or on or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor.” For the purpose of bringing the force of law to bear on affiliates, the hallway of the Union is to be considered, as a legal matter, a public thoroughfare — that is, not limited in access to campus affiliates. The law in question applies only insofar as it protects the access of non-affiliates.

Here then is the March situation in which nothing is misunderstood:

In order to justify arrest and extraordinary charges against students and faculty, in January through March. 2012, Linda Katehi chose to consider the Memorial Union to be public, which is defined as freely open to non-affiliates.


Let us pause to restate this curious double situation.

In November, the presence of non-affiliates on the quad was officially and openly treated as cause to send in riot cops with unauthorized weapons in which they were untrained and bring grievous harm to students sitting peacefully.

In March, the full force of law and threat of eleven years in prison were levied officially and openly against these same affiliates to protect the right of passage of non-affiliates.

Linda one can see how this might be confusing. We have already stipulated all your ludicrous disavowals, the ones believed by small children and science professors. Even if we reduce it to matters on which all parties openly and officially agree, you wish to have it both ways. The campus is closed to all but the university community, and affiliates must be protected from non-affiliates; the campus is open for business and non-affiliates must be protected from affiliates. One can imagine how misunderstandings might arise from such contradictions, such an absurd jumble of desperate positions that shift with the breeze.

Linda we do not misunderstand you.

Behind this there is absolute coherence. Not around the law, not around campus health and safety, not around basic reason. The only coherence is this: If those who work and study on your campus gather together as a body with a political purpose, you will mobilize whatever petty and ludicrous pretext is to hand in order to beat, pepper spray, and arrest them. That is the goal for you. The evidence here is, we fear, inarguable. It cannot be misconstrued. Indeed the clarity of the situation and of your desperation is rather pathetic.

You are not a serious person but you are a dangerous person. We do not misunderstand you.


It will have escaped the notice of nobody that the convenient slippage between public and private which appears above as contradiction is a shadow cast by the central drama of the University of California over the last three or thirty years — the stage-managed indistinction between whether or not the school is public (as it claims to be in matters requiring public sympathy) or private (as it behaves otherwise, ceaselessly shifting cost and labor burdens onto the backs of students and workers). Surely it is this development, which has occasioned increasingly ambitious counter-struggles by students and staff, that has in turn allowed Linda Katehi and her crack team to bring the pain no matter the given circumstance.

In truth the circumstance is more precise and perverse than this. Images may help. Here are the two places on campus described above, the quad and the Memorial Union, which are in fact immediately adjacent each to the other:

So it is not a simple slippage but a true inversion — or a chiasmus, as the Greeks would have it.  The quad, with its double memory of shared, common space —the meadow and the agora — turns now to become private, and will be defended by military force from the public real or imagined. The student union, larded now with private franchises from the gleaming new food court to the corporate travel agency (there used to be a bank here as well, we gather) must be protected by the university and the District Attorney on behalf of the public.


And it is now we realize that Linda Katehi, while a manifestly failed administrator, is perhaps a gifted educator. Clearly she specializes in Greek thought. For is this not a lesson in the dialectic itself: each antagonistic term folding into its opposite, until a higher truth is revealed? This hides behind every contradiction, after all.

It is not a static opposition, to be sure, but a historical one. It is eerily familiar, in truth. The first scene is that of enclosure, the privatizing by force of common lands that inaugurates the modern world of employers and employees, commodities and wages, blood and fire. The second scene is that of globalization, wherein every corner of the earth must be drawn into the dream of liberal democracy, open to all — in so far as every corner of the earth might thereby become another outpost of the market, hiring a few, dispossessing a few more, and assuring that commerce is equally available to each with sufficient coin in purse. The whole history of capitalist modernity in four months!

Perhaps the higher truth is as simple as this: the opposition of public and private, and the insistence the administration is stewarding us in a single direction is itself inadequate to understand the present situation. “The public” in fact persists; it now refers to purchasers, who literally have no business on the quad; the businesses await behind the Memorial Union’s doors. We might, we must demand “public education” because this is an idea cherished by the public.

But at the same time we must understand that “public” too takes on a perjured meaning. Every word can be a double agent, as a Belgian gentleman once said. The word “public” is only too happy to serve power, to serve those who advance in a double column of armies and bankers, making free with the pepper spray and the debt machines. These too are public, as needed. It would be a misunderstanding, finally, to settle for “public” as the realm of freedom. It would be a misunderstanding to think that the administration will not embrace such things, if it justifies the crushing of any political act. And it would be a misunderstanding to think that we will stop before the shell game of public and private is annihilated, and the history that our friend has so recently summarized for us is brought to an end.

Linda we do not misunderstand you. Do not misunderstand us.

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Berkeley Solidarity at Today’s Davis Dozen Rally

reposted from reclaim uc

Today’s rally in support of the Davis Dozen was inspiring; those speaking offered compelling accounts of the mutually constitutive, and mutating, relations between university privatization and forms of state repression, and there were lots of people out, talking to each other and writing letters to the DA and the Chancellor. Everybody should make sure to call the Yolo County D.A. and Chancellor Katehi this week, and demand that the charges against the Davis Dozen be dropped.

DA Reisig’s number: (530) 666-8180
Chancellor Katehi’s number: (530) 752-2065


Hi everybody…. Along with twelve others, I’ve been facing stay-away orders and charges from November 9th, a day when hundreds of students linked arms around the occupy cal encampment, facing waves of police aggression. A number of people had their ribs broken or bruised that day. And a few, including someone who was standing next to me, had to go to the hospital because of their injuries.

Among the thirteen of us being charged, many of us were struck but almost all of us weren’t even arrested on the 9th; rather, we simply received a letter this March from the District Attorney informing us of our arraignment dates. It seems that the UCPD and the Chancellors selected a number of organizers and groups they wanted to shut down this spring, and, not having the legitimacy on campus to prosecute us through the office of student conduct, they just asked the District Attorney to do the work of repressing student protest for them. But their plan hasn’t worked: the attempted prosecutions have been met with pickets and other expressions of outrage, including dozens of phone calls on our behalf from students and instructors at UC Davis. The pressure you all and others have been able to exert seems to have convinced Chancellor Birgeneau and the District Attorney to back off on the charges.

We’re organizing against the charges, but the charges haven’t subsumed our organizing or shut down other protests: these past weeks, we’ve continued fighting the Regents’ attempts to take even more from students; their attempts to impose ever heavier debt burdens, and to convert UC campuses into homes for banks and other capitalist firms. Just yesterday, hundreds of people, including dozens of UC students and alumni, reclaimed a tract of land that the University was planning to sell to Whole Foods. We remade the field into a small farm, planted 15,000 seedlings, and established an encampment beside the rows of vegetable shoots. We’re fighting to reclaim the material conditions of our lives and for our learning; and as we fight, we won’t let them cut us off from each other, or cut any of us down.

In many ways, what’s been happening at Berkeley echoes what’s been going on here in Davis. There’s a similarly discredited chancellor, who is similarly trying to shut down student protest by getting the DA to bring severe charges after the fact against a dozen-or-so people. Our outgoing chancellor discredited himself in various ways last fall: but not nearly as badly as your chancellor, Katehi. A lot has been said and written about what they’ve done though; I don’t have much to add right now about that. Instead, I want to say a little bit more about how we’ve responded to their acts of aggression.

In November, after they struck and sprayed us, we cared for and supported each other, linking arms, washing each other’s eyes out with liquid antacid and water, putting bandages on cut up backs, staying up at night beside the tents to watch out for raids, and escorting from campus those who attacked friends and classmates. We came together in ways we hadn’t before. In the hours and days after the police injured us, we gathered in assemblies of thousands and called strikes, asking people on other campuses to join us as well, to leave their classrooms for a day and take action together against fee hikes and recent police violence.

How students at Berkeley and at Davis acted in concert on these days was particularly inspiring. You all were there for us then; and you’ve come through for us more recently as we’ve faced stay-away orders and charges. In November, you all were gathering, partly in support of us, when Lt. Pike sprayed burning chemicals across your faces and down your throats. A number of those pepper sprayed that day are now facing charges in connection with another action. You all have exposed yourselves to risk in standing with us; now, we’re going to be there for you as you face these charges. We’ll chip in and make calls this week. And we’ll talk to our classmates and fellow workers about how they can support those being charged. A number of us in the GSI union, from different campuses, actually just put together an email that’s being sent out to all our members statewide, asking that they call the Yolo County DA and Chancellor Katehi, and demand that the charges on the Davis Dozen be dropped.

Together, let’s get these charges lifted. And let’s keep up our struggles to abolish student debt and to reclaim the spaces and times of our lives.

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Rally Against Repression: UCD Quad, Monday, April 23, 2pm

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The Reynoso Report: A Portrait of Administrative Malice, Stupidity, Incompetence, and Immaturity

Today the Reynoso Report was released. The distribution of this report, initially due within two months of the pepper-spray incident of November 18, has been much delayed. But the timing of its release is opportune, because this is precisely the moment for a serious, honest assessment of the conduct of the UC Davis administration with regard to campus protests against rising tuition and in defense of public education. This is the moment for such an assessment because twelve students and faculty, among them some of those pepper-sprayed on November 18, are currently facing serious criminal charges at the behest of the administration for their political activities on campus—charges which carry a possible jail term of eleven years. If an assessment of the administration’s approach to political activism at this crucial moment is to be both serious and honest, it will necessarily be blunt and uncompromising: in a word, excoriating. That is the tenor of the following letter, addressed to students, faculty, and staff at UC Davis and throughout the UC system.

The Reynoso Report is based on the fact-finding of Kroll Securities, and the manifest conflicts of interest inherent in the appointment of Kroll have been well documented. Thus we might reasonably expect Kroll’s report to offer something like a best-case assessment of the administration’s involvement in the pepper-spray affair. And indeed, the fact-finding upon which the report is based is often middling and ineffectual. On the key issue of the Chancellor’s actual orders on and prior to November 18, it has very little to say. Rather, it relies primarily upon an interview with the Chancellor conducted after the fact, on December 20, to gauge her position. Given the international condemnation the Chancellor was facing at that time, no one should be surprised to find her remarks composed of efforts at self-serving revisionism. The report states openly that Kroll “relied upon UC Davis in the area of document production; it was deemed infeasible for budgetary, timing, and other reasons for Kroll to conduct an independent, systemic forensic review and analysis of UC Davis servers, hard drives, and electronic devices.” In other words, only those documents (such as administrative emails) that UC Davis itself offered for inspection were reviewed. In short, on the key matters of concern we might expect the report to address, Kroll’s fact finding leaves serious omissions.

Nevertheless, the information we are offered in the report amounts to a damning portrait of administrative malice, stupidity, incompetence, and immaturity.

1) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi and other senior administrators propped up their decision to evict the Occupy UC Davis encampment with fear-mongering based on the fallacious claim that numerous “non-affiliates” of the university were involved in the camp, ignoring and rejecting clear statements to the contrary by their own staff.

2) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi insisted on the removal of tents from the quad by police with no legal basis for such a police action, and that there were thus no legitimate grounds for ordering a police operation at all.
3) The report makes clear that Katehi ignored the concerns of her own staff and of the police that attempting to evict the encampment at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon would lead to a confrontation.
4) The report makes clear that, despite the Chancellor’s belated claim of November 21 that she ordered the police not to use force, the Chancellor made no concrete effort whatsoever to avoid the use of police force against demonstrators on November 18.

In short, the report makes clear that the so-called “Leadership Team,” and particularly the Chancellor, acted in a flagrantly totalitarian fashion. The Chancellor promulgated falsehoods concerning the basis for police action; she ignored the lack of legal grounds for such an action; she overruled objections to the timing of the eviction; and she made no reasonable effort to avoid police violence against students.

Since the Chancellor has been calling upon us to wait for the findings of the report before passing judgment concerning the events of November 18, let’s assess its conclusions and pass judgment accordingly. Its “key finding” is unequivocal:

While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day.

This means that it is the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration, not the police, which bears primary responsibility for what happened on November 18. With the faintest glimmer of urbane wit, the report finds that “the actions of the Leadership Team provide a case study in how not to make important institutional decisions.”

For the sake of clarity, let’s summarize the report’s findings apropos of the points listed above.
1) On the matter of the supposed threat posed by “non-affiliates”:

When explaining their decisions on Nov. 17 and 18, UC Davis administrators repeatedly referenced this concern about individuals not affiliated with the university at Occupy movement protests and encampments on campus, and the security risks created by their presence. Indeed, in Chancellor Katehi’s letter distributed to campus protesters on Nov. 18, the day of the pepper spray incident, theChancellor wrote “We are aware that many of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus are not members of the UC Davis community. This requires us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.” As our report will indicate these concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll.


Leading up to the eviction, Chancellor Katehi and Vice Chancellor Meyer were not swayed by the reports from Student Affairs staff that the Occupy activists were overwhelmingly comprised of students.


2) On the absence of legal justification for police action:

It is clear that the UCDPD leadership was concerned about its legal authority to remove the tents, at least during the daytime. It is equally clear that the UC Davis Administration was adamant that it did not want tents on campus and that the tents were considered a threat to health and safety. Just as the Leadership Team ultimately failed to arrive at a policy that appropriately constrained the conduct of campus police, so too did it fail to press for a definitive legal assessment of the scope of its authority to order the removal of the tents. In the course of its investigation, Kroll has been unable to identify the legal basis for the decision of the Leadership Team to act against the protesters and for theoperation mounted by the UCDPD. It appears that the UCDPD mounted its operation absent the clarity of legal authority under pressure from the Administration to do something to get rid of the tents.

3) On the administration’s failure to heed warnings about the probability of a police confrontation with students if the eviction was carried out at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon:

In the 24 hours before the police operation commenced, both Student Affairs staffers and campus police provided warnings to members of the Leadership Team that a confrontation might occur between activists and police on the Quad. These warnings do not appear to have impacted the decision-making of the Leadership Team, however….While the Chancellor viewed herself as chairing a consensus-driven discussion, her subordinates instead heard her issue an executive order. By insisting that the tents not be allowed to stay up on Friday night, Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day….Based on the accounts of several officers, including Lieutenant Pike, Chief Spicuzza informed her officers that key and controversial decisions, including the 3 p.m. time for the operation, had been made by Chancellor Katehi herself.

4) On the Chancellor’s failure to pursue any real measures that might prevent the use of force against students:

Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down….Vice Chancellor Meyer explained that “he did not understand that Chancellor Katehi believed that no force at all would be employed in taking down the tents until her comments following the November 18 police action.”…No members of the Leadership Team took responsibility for ensuring that all the members of the Team including the Police Chief had a common understanding of the scope and conduct of the police operation to be executed on Nov. 18.

These are devastating conclusions. Not only do they indicate unacceptable failures of leadership on the part of the Chancellor and other senior administrators, they indicate a willful disdain for the facts of the situation and a complete lack of effort to avoid the sort of outcome we witnessed on November 18. The report finds that “there was no immediate need to order the police to take down the tents on Friday, Nov. 18.” But despite the fact that “possible alternatives for protecting students in the encampment seem almost self-evident,” “the administration decided to deploy police to remove the tents on Nov. 18 before considering possible alternatives.” The Reynoso Report makes it clear that the UC Davis Administration acts in an extra-legal fashion, deploying the police force at their disposal without justification while criminalizing those who act against their policies.

Given the gravity of these charges, what do we find in the report which might account for the decisions of the Chancellor and her “Leadership Team”? Here we turn from tragedy to comedy, encountering statements from senior administrators of such frivolous stupidity and lugubrious immaturity that it is difficult to believe they could be made by people attempting to defend the validity of their leadership at a major research university.

On the inconvenient dearth of so-called “non-affiliates” at the encampment, Vice Chancellor Wood states: “students for us range all the way from eighteen…through the graduate postdoc, they could be 30 and be a student….I want to be fair that someone might see a pretty scruffy older person [and] presume them not a student.” I’m afraid this is indeed the caliber of seriousness and rigor—scruffy or not scruffy?—upon which the most important administrative judgments are based at UC Davis.

But let’s turn to Chancellor Katehi’s gravely earnest explanation of why tents just could not be allowed to remain on the quad for even one more night. Perhaps we might encounter a finer degree of reasoning from someone of so high a station:

We were worried at the time about that because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students…we worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record.

The best rationale our Chancellor can come up with (after a month’s reflection) for a major police operation against non-violent student protesters is “the use of drugs and sex and other things” in the midst of “very young girls.” This is the sort of thing, or so she has heard, that goes on in “Oakland.”

But if this is utterly laughable nonsense in the context of university life, where football games and fraternity parties give rise to all kinds of “drugs and sex and other things” among “affiliates” and “non-affiliates” who “come from the outside,” perhaps Vice Chancellor Meyer has something more intelligent to say?

Our context at the time was seeing what’s happening in the City of Oakland, seeing what’s happening in other municipalities across the country, and not being able to see a scenario where [a UC Davis Occupation] ends well . . . Do we lose control and have non-affiliates become part of an encampment? So my fear is a long term occupation with a number of tents where we have an undergraduate student and a non-affiliate and there’s an incident. And then I’m reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act with your daughter, and how could we let that happen?”

Ah, once again, “the City of Oakland”—what sort of people might one find there? And is it not the case that what was actually happening in the City of Oakland and other municipalities was egregious police violence against peaceful demonstrators—including the near-killing of protester Scott Olsen in Oakland on October 25? And what is it, exactly, that our tepid Vice Chancellor has in mind when he refers to “this unthinkable act” that might transpire between an undergraduate and a “non-affiliate”? Does he mean rape? It seems this is either a concept he does not to understand (“with your daughter,” he says) or a word he is unable to use in a sentence. But perhaps he just means “sex and other things”? Perhaps the very notion that an undergraduate—and a “daughter” no less—might have sex with a “non-affiliate” is an unthinkable act in the view of our painstakingly upright administrators.

That is to say: all that the pathetic and infantile discourse of the “Leadership Team” has to offer in its defense is the danger of sex and drugs, of “older people,” and the terribly frightening specter of “Oakland.” One needn’t look far to find an identical sexist, paternalist, pseudo-moralist discourse deployed in the most unbearably racist, xenophobic contexts. It is always the same thing with authoritarian bureaucrats who send in police to guard the young and innocent against those who “come from the outside”: they are more than willing to sanction brutal violence to buttress whatever obscene fantasy of purity serves as their faulty moral compass.

Let’s be honest then: whatever the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration says to legitimize its actions only certifies its illegitimacy by pointing up its remarkable stupidity, its dangerous incompetence, its apparent inability to say anything even remotely credible. These are people who have nothing to do with what a university is supposed to stand for—except to the extent that they directly oppose and obstruct it.

At the moment, the Chancellor and her totalitarian administration have only one claim upon legitimacy: the failure of an Academic Senate ballot measure expressing no-confidence in her leadership, and the success of a ballot measure accepting her “good faith apology.” Over 110,000 people signed a petition calling for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. But 697 faculty, after all, voted against the no-confidence measure. 442 faculty voted to accept the Chancellor’s apology. Surely, then, this is all the information we need to affirm the Chancellor’s right to remain at her post? But let’s look at the results of another ballot measure, which:

1) condemns both the dispatch of police and use of excessive force in response to non-violent protests on November 18, 2011

2) opposes violent police response to non-violent protests on campus

3) demands that police deployment against protestors be considered only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted and with direct consultation with Academic Senate leadership.

It turns out that 343 faculty voted against this ballot measure, a shameful fact for those of us who call these people our colleagues. This result makes it very likely that over 300 of those who accepted the Chancellor’s apology or who expressed confidence in her leadership also voted against condemnation of and opposition to the excessive use of force by police, or the consideration of alternatives to the use of police force. With friends like these, the Chancellor finds herself among the only company suitable to uphold the authoritarianism of her administration: the sort of people who are happy to support police violence against students.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor’s “good faith apology” to students pepper-sprayed in the fall now takes the form of an effort to have those same students prosecuted for their blockade of the US Bank branch on campus: another principled and courageous stand against the privatization of the university. Subject to international humiliation for her malfeasance in November, the Chancellor has reached out to student protesters in March by trying to destroy their lives through criminal charges. This is what the “good faith” of the administration amounts to.

Enough is enough. The Chancellor has made it clear that she will cling to her station by any means necessary. But the case against her is now so overwhelmingly clear it brooks no argument. Since the Chancellor has called for “healing,” let me offer a prescription: those of us among faculty, students, and staff who care about the university and about the demonstrators who stand up for it should immediately organize an ongoing picket and blockade of Mrak Hall, until the Chancellor is forced off the UC Davis campus—just as Chancellor Birgeneau tendered his resignation when faced with a picket of California Hall over retroactive charges against those beaten by police at Berkeley.

Surely this is the only genuine way the Chancellor’s disingenuous calls for “healing” can be answered.

Of course the Chancellor will find this proposal, and this letter, “uncivil.” But now that we finally have documentation of the hollowness of her words and the culpable folly of her actions, we can cut once again through the drivel with which she insistently responds to the most serious allegations.

Katehi: get out.
Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis
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“Freedom” and “Neutrality” at the University of California

On April 9, two UC Davis law professors—one is an administrator and the other holds an endowed chair—published an article called “Defining the Boundaries of Free Speech in College Protests.” The article takes issue with the Davis Faculty Association’s call for the Yolo County DA to drop politically motivated charges against the “Davis Dozen.” The authors, Alan Brownstein and Vikram Amar, castigate the DFA for its characterization of the legal action as “retroactive” and for engaging in “viewpoint discrimination.”

In the first place, the authors misunderstand what is meant by “retroactive.” This adjective conveys a simple fact: it was only after US Bank announced that it had permanently closed its doors that the UCD administration requested that the DA bring criminal charges against the 12 protesters. The university is targeting the dozen in a clumsy attempt to limit its liability to US Bank, which claims it was “constructively evicted,” and is threatening a lawsuit.

Despite their claims to the contrary, Brownstein and Amar’s argument targets these protesters and aims to imprison them. This is the meaning of their twisted invocation of Martin Luther King Jr. to claim that civil disobedience gains its force from the willingness of protesters to be arrested and sanctioned. In other words, Brownstein and Amar think that a successful protest is one in which protesters go to jail, not one that achieves its concrete aims.

Brownstein and Amar’s own “viewpoint neutral” claim is the following:

Laws regulating the time, place and manner of activities on public property in race-neutral, content-neutral, viewpoint neutral ways that leave open ample other opportunities for expression (and the campus’ regulations have to and do satisfy these standards to be permissible) are not unjust laws.

In constructing their argument, the authors remain firmly planted on the reified terrain of legality, whereupon unequal class and race relations are institutionalized, normalized, and presented as “just.” The “neutrality” from which the authors articulate their position, then, is a sanitized abstraction of a status quo whose maintenance depends on the continued oppression of women, minorities, queers, and the poor. For their argument to seem reasonable, domination must be understood as neutral and just, and resistance to domination must be seen as unreasonable.

It’s no coincidence that the authors chose the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech to underpin their argument against the US Bank protests. The administration wants to shift the struggle onto the familiar terrain of “free speech,” where supposedly fair and neutral limits have been established.

“Free speech” remits to the plane of the symbolic and the preterite, to the dusty images and grainy video of a bygone Free Speech Movement. “Free speech” can be celebrated, promoted and even commodified by the authorities, but the movement must remain a thing of the past. By concentrating on speech, the administration wishes to confine today’s dissent to the rhetorical realm, where it poses absolutely no threat to the established order.

“Speech” and its associated practices and prohibitions were simply the local site on which a broader conflict over civil rights and militarization was fought in the 1960s. The name “Free Speech Movement” is problematic, at once a misnomer and a convenient way for the current university administration to transpose the struggle from material action onto a purely rhetorical “marketplace of ideas,” where we all have the right to say what we want, as long as we don’t take concrete steps to make our dreams real. Jamming the movement into the free speech cage also permits administrators and politicians to repress the aspects of popular resistance that truly frighten them—it’s enough to recall that the Free Speech Movement took place in a context of riots, bombings, and other acts of physical resistance. The bank blockade is so threatening because it crosses the line between the rhetorical and the material, between the abstract and the concrete. In doing so, it succeeded.

Both authors took part in a “Freedom of Expression Forum,” whose name evokes the administration’s notorious Freedom of Expression Support Team. The forum was sponsored by the Civility Project, the Office of the Chancellor’s Orwellian initiative to lump political dissent, along with racism and hate speech, into a broad category of speech and action called “incivility.” Together, these forums, initiatives, and spy teams constitute a sustained effort to suppress meaningful resistance to the university’s privatization program by placing strict boundaries on dissent.

These boundaries are codified as law and “protest guidelines,” but they are actually quite malleable. Nowhere is this more apparent than in interactions with the police. Here, at the point of conflict, the police apparatus defines legality according to the situational demands of its function: to maintain (the existing) order. The police declare a gathering to be illegal or a march to be a riot. The cops’ basic operational procedure is to first eliminate the threat to normal circulation of traffic, conducting of business, or growing of grass and, later, to define illegality as whatever the arrestees and police-brutality victims were doing. They typically employ weasel words: “assaultive” in the absence of actual assault; “not non-violent” to describe protesters who had linked arms in order to face, together, the coming beatings; “resisting” to designate someone arrested violently in a one-sided use of force and “pain techniques.”

Sometimes these words make it into the legal code, as in California Penal Code, Section 405a, which makes it possible for one to be charged with lynching for, among other possibilities, rescuing a black friend from bodily injury at the hands of an angry white mob—the cops.

More often, though, the police exercise their legal authority—based nakedly on the violence they inflict or imply—to limit or prohibit being in a place. Gang injunctions, as prohibitions on being a black and/or latino youth in designated areas, are an obvious example of this. In such cases the state exercises its God function on individuals, letting them be, or not be. The police merely utter le non du père, the declaration of unlawful assembly, the “nein” to our Dasein. They tell us we cannot set foot on campus, that we must “stay away,” that we cannot sit in this hallway that happens to adjoin a bank whose presence, unlike ours, is never questioned. The grass is closed.

This, then, is the moving terrain of law, the neutral vantage point from which which our serious, business-suited Ivy League Constitutional scholars have written an essay which may well serve as an amicus curiae brief intended to imprison twelve individuals.

Never mind that the student protesters have not harmed anyone. Never mind that the administration has. What matters is the manner in which dissent occurs. The UC administration has embarked on a campaign to criminalize all forms of dissent which depart from the purely rhetorical and cross into material resistance that threatens the practices and structures of privatization, and which depart from the notional and enter the real.

Shit’s about to get more real.

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Davis Dozen Press Release

Occupy UC Davis Antirepression Crew Media

What: Call-In to Oppose Prosecution of the 12 UCD Protesters
Contact: Yolo County District Attorney at (530) 666-8180 or Fax: (530)666-8423
Support: Come to the Arraignment on Friday, April 27th, 8:30am at the Yolo County Superior Court, Dept. 9, 213, Third Street, Woodland, CA, 95695


Accused May Face up to Eleven Years in Prison

Just months after UC Davis police pepper sprayed seated students in the face during a protest against university privatization and police brutality, Chancellor Linda Katehi’s administration is trying to send some of the same students to prison for their alleged role in protests that led to the closure of a US Bank branch on campus.

On 29 March, weeks after an anti-privatization action against US Bank ended with the closure of the bank’s campus branch, 11 UC Davis students and one professor received orders to appear at Yolo County Superior Court. District Attorney Jeff Reisig is charging campus protesters with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, the protesters could face up to 11 years each in prison, and $1 million in damages.

The charges were brought at the request of the UC Davis administration, which had recently received a termination letter from US Bank holding the university responsible for all costs, claiming they were “constructively evicted” because the university had not responded by arresting the “illegal gathering.” Protesters point out that the charges against them serve to position the university favorably in a potential litigation with US Bank.

Three of the protesters had received summons from UCD Student Judicial Affairs in mid-February, and it was only after US Bank announced that it had permanently closed its doors that the UCD administration requested that the DA bring criminal charges against the 12. Supporters argue that the university is targeting the dozen in order to limit its liability to US Bank and that the university is effectively using public funds (through the DA’s office) to protect a private corporation’s right to profit from increasingly indebted students at an increasingly expensive public university.

Among the 12 are some of the protesters pepper sprayed by campus police during the infamous November incident. But whereas the District Attorney declined to file charges against protesters then, this less publicized prosecution seems to be an attempt to punish the dissenting students, perhaps in retaliation for their pending ACLU lawsuit against the university. “We might not think of this as violence, because there aren’t broken bones or pepper spray or guns—it’s not as explicit—but sending someone to jail, holding them for a day, let alone 11 years, is violence,” said Andrew Higgins, a graduate student in History and representative of the UC graduate student union.

Supporters are requesting that the public contact the Yolo County District Attorney at (530) 666-8180 and voice their opposition to this prosecution. Supporters also request public attendance on the day of their arraignment, Friday, April 27th, 8:30am at the Yolo County Superior Court, Dept. 9, 213 Third Street, Woodland, CA, 95695. The website in support of the 12 accused is

Posted in Students, UC Davis | 3 Comments