SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – On February 8th, 2010, the UC Santa Cruz judicial affairs office sent approximately 45 e-mails to various undergraduate and graduate students. The e-mails present a list of 10 of the university codes of student conduct that had been allegedly broken by these students; these e-mails were identical, all including allegations of theft, destruction of property, disorderly or lewd conduct, among other codes said to have been broken at the November 2009 occupation of Kerr Hall at UCSC. The letter requested that the student in question meet with the judicial affairs officer, Doug Zuidema to discuss the allegations. In return, many if not all of these students met with Mr. Zuidema.
Last Wednesday, April 7th, many of these students received a resolution statement stating that they were responsible for breaking all 10 codes each. Some of the students that originally received a judicial summons in February were not found responsible for breaking the codes, however everyone that remains unabsolved of the allegations have apparently received identical resolution statements. The university offers an appeal or a formal hearing process and has given these students a week to respond. As a part of the sanctions, the judicial affairs office has given a formal warning to the students and is requiring the students to pay a restitution to Kerr Hall of $944 each, paid by June 30, 2010.
Among the students originally summoned include an officer of the Student Union Assembly, one of the three journalists covering the event, and three of the five student negotiators. The student negotiators, uninvolved in the actual demonstration, had been asked by the occupiers to present and explain the demands to the administration and later negotiate with them. The judicial affairs office supposedly found the journalist and one of the negotiators also responsible for breaking all 10 codes.
The Kerr Hall occupation that had started on a Thursday and ended on a Sunday saw hundreds of individuals pass through its doors, ranging from students, teachers, community members and corporate media. However, these serious allegations have so far only targeted a small handful of students handpicked by the administration. Many students have requested to be given evidence that they were responsible for the charges, for instance, of theft or property destruction. The judicial affairs office told these students they would be contacted and shown evidence of their crimes, only later to indiscriminately fine them without producing any evidence.
The reality the university administration has naively yet to accept is that the occupation of the main administrative building on campus attracted hundreds of concerned students about the budget cuts and the tuition increases. Although staff members and administrators may have identified a few of them in the building, those grounds alone don’t equate to participation, let alone criminal charges that in truth should be handled in a court of law with proper legal representation, and not in an irresponsible imitation of a court proctored by the university administration with equally damaging consequences.
Reckless, inaccurate, inadequately supported and unjustified claims by the university continue to plague this process, suggesting both their incompetent disregard for students’ futures; but also the blatantly political nature of these charges that exist less like a fair legal dispute and more like a tactic of fear. A blanket financial charge incorrectly assumes equal fault which speaks less of an administration seeking restitution for damage and more of an administration too embarrassed to admit their inability to manage the university in a state of budgetary crisis. Challenging and scapegoating students as if the threat on the university is actually a student movement, disregards the real problem. Nearly thousand-dollar charges deter many students from participating in the fight against the budget cuts in fear of random unsubstantiated targeting, that is if the expensive restitution in itself doesn’t force the student to withdraw from the university entirely. On the other hand, even with the concession that thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars of damage had been done to an administrative building, these numbers pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in cuts we face. Somehow the quiet dismissal of students, both through targeting activists and decreased accessibility, is more suitable to the administration than accepting a proportionately small loss in favor of respecting students’ rights and a resistance to this crisis.
A legal defense has begun to be organized at UC Santa Cruz. They are requesting any individuals given similar judicial charges contact them immediately at studentlegaldefense [at] gmail [dot] com.