“passing off as reform”

by zunguzungu

As Rei Terada put it:

In appointing LA Police Chief William Bratton to investigate UCPD police brutality and Berkeley law school’s Dean Christopher Edley to “to lead an examination of police policies in handling student protests at all 10 UC campuses” (LA Times), Mark Yudof travesties the independent thought and autonomy that students and faculty are now calling for. Bratton has made his career as an advocate of less physically violent police tactics that control and diminish public space in precisely neoliberal terms. The last thing the UC system needs right now is advice on how to make UCPD even more like a contemporary municipal police force. Similarly, Dean Christopher Edley is one of Yudof’s closest companions, best known for his end-run against the expansion of online classes in the face of faculty governance policies. A commission run by Edley is the opposite of an independent commission. Everyone who signed the petitions of outrage against the police violence at Davis and Berkeley ought to mobilize against this. (I hope the owners of the petitions can use any emails attached to the petition process to re-contact literally everybody.)

There is one thing that is good about Yudof’s move: it makes in the most public of circumstances the same move that he has made throughout his career as a privatizer of public goods. Yudof has done to the UC at every level and in detail the same thing he is doing now: passing off as reform what is actually vulgar cronyism on behalf of the 1%. Now this will be visible to everybody, even far outside the UC — if we make it so.

The point is pretty simple: these people have no interest in real reform, something that it is as clear as it is, right now, because we’ve seen incident after incident of this type, for two years now, with no trace of real accountability or reform. For example.

Also see, please, the work Lili has been doing to document the complete corruption of communication that characterizes the way UC admins talk to us. Here’s something from her first post, where she took them much more seriously than they deserve:

Word choice seems trivial much of the time. “We” or “I,” “distress” or “regret.” But this use of “we” is not to be taken lightly. It is not a mistake to be cosmetically airbrushed out of the record. It is a persistent, unapologetic use of that pronoun “we” to drive home that he was in full control of what had gone on, and that he approved of it. It’s a rhetorical choice, the utter baselessness of which is revealed, in that second letter, through the admission that he had exactly none of the information he claimed to have carefully considered when making his first assessment of campus events.

This is a dead horse worth beating: the Chancellor of UC Berkeley unapologetically authorized the police action against faculty and students and unapologetically supported that decision, claiming both responsibility for the action and knowledge of the circumstances: he represents himself as part of the “we” that “encountered” a situation that forced police to use inexcusable violence.

You don’t get to walk away from that particular kind of mendacity, no matter how many letters you issue. Here’s why: it’s symptomatic of an institution whose checks and balances are sick, whose appeals processes are broken, and whose administrators appear to speak only in terms of what makes good or bad press.

It’s likely that the Chancellor wrote that letter, not maliciously, but carelessly. That does not make it better; it makes it worse. It reveals that this is a practice that isn’t limited to one Chancellor or to one day—it’s a pattern, a habit, a system.

Then, via the great ReclaimUC, she found that the statement released by the UC admins after a mass arrest of student protesters (in 2009) was actually composed twelve hours before the arrests took place. Our chancellor actually asked that a quote be written for him “expressing my admiration for the very professional way in which the police managed to apprehend and remove the illegal occupiers,” the day before those actions had been taken. Let us call this what it is: an abdication of responsibility and the presumption that whatever the police do is the right thing. Read that whole post.

Also worth reading, is UCD professor Nathan Brown’s statement demanding his boss’ resignation. Read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

I have never been more proud to be a member of our campus than I have been since Friday.

The Chancellor’s inability to share in this pride is indicative of two things which now compromise the legitimacy of her leadership irreversibly.

First, the Chancellor must resign because her actions on Friday have indeed become a mark of shame which tarnishes the international reputation of our university and will continue to do so. The Chancellor’s actions on Friday, and the script of backpedaling and obfuscation she has followed since, surely do not make anyone on our campus proud. More than 79,000 people have now signed a petition demanding the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The Board of the UC Davis Faculty Association has demanded the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The largest department in the Humanities, the Department of English, now carries a statement on the front page of its website demanding the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The majority of faculty in the Physics department have signed a letter calling for the Chancellor’s prompt resignation. At a rally of thousands and thousands of students on Monday, deafening roars met any and all demands for the Chancellor’s immediate resignation. The student General Assembly has officially voted no-confidence in the Chancellor’s leadership, stating that “Her actions have stripped her of the legitimacy required to continue to rightfully wield the authority of that office.” Statements of international condemnation are multiplying rapidly, one scheduled keynote speaker at a UC Davis conference has already cancelled his appearance, and calls for an international boycott of UC Davis have begun to circulate, demanding the Chancellor’s resignation as a condition of association with our university.

In this context, the Chancellor’s decision to cling to her post is a stain upon the reputation of UC Davis. It is not “yesterday” (Friday 18) which is shameful; it was the decision of the Chancellor herself that was shameful. Her refusal to resign is just as much so. Her refusal to resign at this point is just as authoritarian as her actions on Friday and as her defense of the police following their attack on peaceful protesters. And this does not bode well for her actions in the future. The Chancellor continues to call for “dialogue” with the students. For their part, the mass of students continue to call for her immediate resignation. The fact is: the Chancellor does not listen to students. She has not in the past and she does not now. That is why she cannot understand that Friday is a day that does indeed make many on our campus proud. Friday can only be a source of pride for those of us who listen to the students, who hear their grievances, who see their determination, and who share those grievances and that determination. The Chancellor is not among us.

Second, by refusing to heed mass calls for her resignation, the Chancellor continues to make herself the focus of the student movement. And the student movement has better things to do. For example: disband the UCPD, end tuition increases, and continue to struggle in solidarity with the national occupation movement. Demanding and forcing the Chancellor’s resignation is necessary, but it is hardly sufficient. It is an important step toward securing new conditions of possibility for the student struggle on our campus—conditions under which administrators understand that there are consequences for forcibly dispersing student protests. But these are only conditions of possibility for the struggle against privatization in which we have been engaged for two years.

As student protester Alex Barnard puts it:

“On Wednesday, I knowingly violated university policy by setting up a tent on the lawn,” Barnard said. “I didn’t deserve to be beaten for it, but I am nonetheless prepared to accept the disciplinary consequences of my actions. And so I say to Chancellor Birgeneau — I’m willing to face the consequences of my actions. Are you?”