April 16, 2010
University of California, Santa Cruz
UC Santa Cruz students demand an immediate end to the UC’s unconstitutional and coercive judicial proceedings directed at those who were present at or involved in the occupation of Kerr Hall during a three day political uproar against UC Regents’ 32% tuition hike in November 2009. Since the three-day occupation at which hundreds of students were present, along with faculty and family observers, UC admins have conducted a cynical political campaign against 36 students to silence them, charge them “restitution” fees in the amount of $34,000, and shut them out of a campus-wide dialogue concerning debilitating cuts to public education.
Both state of California and UC admins greatly fear a growing and powerful student movement that threatens their capacity to privatize higher education and avoid addressing the failure of priorities at the UC, such as spending millions on redundant administrative jobs while laying off teachers. At stake in the student politics this year are the shared principles that guide the university’s commitment to an accessible and outstanding education. UC executives’ breathless disregard for student involvement in helping to define these principles is exposed in their use of a university “Handbook” to react to peaceful collective student behavior of a political nature: the “Handbook” may provide a workable mechanism for adjudicating non-political, individual violations that disturb the day-to-day functioning of the university, but it is wholly inadequate to comprehend the nature, intent, and ultimate justification for collective political actions to defend public education, sometimes even against leaders who seem to have abandoned their responsibility to do so. Instead of having the political courage to grant students the space necessary to disrupt what cannot be denied is a much larger, social ill in California concerning the state’s failure to support public education, Chancellor Blumenthal, EVC Kliger, and Vice Chancellor Felicia McGinty have shrunk to the status of institutional bureaucrats more concerned with law and order by (1) threatening students with police intimidation and force during the Kerr Hall occupation, (2) executing since then a shamefully uncivil judicial campaign that has a chilling effect on student dissent.
Furthermore, the UC has had the gall to pass off their judicial process as fair while barely attempting to conceal the fact that it casually dismisses basic concepts of constitutionality, including due process, protection against self-incrimination, free speech and assembly. Indeed, in a letter dated April 14 addressed to Chancellor Blumenthal, over 100 UCSC faculty demanded that “no students be separated from their student status or be charged with restitution for participation in the events in and around Kerr Hall, or for other political actions past and future…We call for a suspension of the student disciplinary procedure in these and future cases involving political dissent until the problems have been addressed.” A full rebuttal of both the University’s list of damages at Kerr Hall and its kangaroo court follows below.
Mass rally: 12:00 p.m., April 16, UCSC Quarry Plaza
A rebuttal of the University’s tactics and allegations
On November 19th-22nd, 2009, hundreds of UCSC students, faculty, workers, and other concerned affiliates, participated in an occupation of Kerr Hall, the main UCSC administration building, in protest of the UC Regent’s decision to raise student tuition 32% and their continued gutting of University programs and services. Protesters then issued seven demands to the UCSC administration which included:repeal the 15% cut in labor time for UCSC custodians, Freeze layoffs to all campus employees, and guarantee funding through employment or free remissions for both graduate students who have lost TA-ships and undergraduate students who have lost work-study positions. After negotiations between the administration and the protesters failed, in the early morning of November 22, hundreds of riot police descended upon the scene to clear the remaining participants inside and outside the building from the area. To the students inside police issued a dispersal order which told students that if they left peacefully within the next twelve minutes, no charges would follow.
On April 7th, 2010, thirty six handpicked students received from UCSC’s Student Judicial Affairs via email, a judicial “resolution” notification deeming them all culpable for the events that took place at Kerr Hall that last November finding them all equally responsible as a group for ten charges which include: 102.04 Theft of, conversion of, or damage to or destruction of, any property of the university, 102.08 Conduct, which constitutes: c. a threat to the health or safety of any person, 102.14 Disorderly or lewd conduct, and 102.16 Failure to identify oneself to, or comply with directions of, a university official or other public official acting in the performance of their duties. These resolution notifications demand of each student a “restitution” payment of $944 due June 30th conditional on their ability to reenroll in classes, or, in some cases, receive their diploma. Additionally, while most students’ resolution notification was accompanied with a warning some students were issued more severe sanctions including suspension, and, in one case, expulsion.
The University has claimed upwards of $34,000 in damages incurred during the events at Kerr Hall. An itemized list of damage/repair costs recently leaked by a student newspaper, which includes $1242 to check locks, $242 to check fire alarms, (all found to be in working condition), $684 for repairs by Comtel but charged at the companies pro-rated rate of $2585 to students, $1000 estimated for table replacement costs, $8637 for painting, and $14,276 spent on a private janitorial services, obviously attests to bloated price assessments and spending by the UC administration,. The University’s own published photos of the damage incurred by Kerr Hall involve little more than trash and debris left behind, painter’s tape on the walls, one broken table, and disassembled electronic equipment. Conversely, this last category of damage, on which the University has placed the most emphasis for being perhaps the most severe and costly damage incurred, surprisingly factors relatively low on their lists of itemized costs.
On allegations of damage costs, the University is clearly staging a press war that the evidence does not support. Why then does the University have such a vested interest in presenting the damage costs as high as they have? While feigning to have no political motivation behind finding and punishing those responsible for the events at Kerr Hall, the UCSC administration is using its self-reported damage claims as an opportunity to silence the protesters’ original message.
Among those thirty six students the administration is targeting, none have been given the opportunity to properly defend themselves against their accusers. In fact, in most cases, the accusers of these students remain anonymous. While the administration was able to gather the names of accused students in a variety of ways, many were told that their name (and subsequently the “evidence” being used against them) resulted from property claim forms they signed at the UC police station to retrieve personal property left at Kerr Hall. No distinction has been made between personal items left outside the building and personal items left inside the building. During the secretive investigative meetings the Student Judicial Affairs office conducts, many students found responsible have had no evidence presented that even links them to having been in or around Kerr Hall during the dates the event took place. In some cases such students had been promised later meetings in which evidence would be presented only later to receive resolution notifications without these later meetings ever taking place. Most problematically, no student has been presented evidence which links them as an individual to the allegation of property damage that they are being charged with. Several individual student cases which are particularly disturbing include one student journalist reporting on the event and one delegated student negotiator whose only involvement with the events at Kerr Hall was in off site negotiations with the administration.
On April 14th, many of the accused students issued requests for a formal hearing, which is the right of the student when “the facts of the case are in dispute,” per the university “Handbook.” To the majority of these students whose only accompanying reprimand was a warning, Doug Zuidema, head director of Student Judicial Affairs, responded that they were ineligible for a formal hearing and instead only eligible to write a letter of appeal to the vice chancellor on the grounds stated in the Student Judicial Handbook that “students who receive only a warning, with or without conditions” are not allowed formal hearings. Doug Zuidema, claims that for such students the $944 restitution issued to students as a distinct reprimand independent of the warning is “a condition of the warning.” In the kangaroo court of the University of California, students have no recourse to defend themselves or prove themselves innocent of the charges levied against them.
As students begin identifying the potential routes they can take to fight against this blatant violation of their constitutional rights and civil liberties, a growing number of faculty have begun to ally themselves with the accused students. In an open letter to Chancellor Blumenthal with over hundred faculty signatures, faculty request that the case against students be dropped unless evidence which could be held up in a court of law linking any individual to the charges they are being accused of can be produced.