Struggling to cope with recent protest activity, the university released guidelines last Wednesday on how it will respond to future demonstrations.
But with some students now criticizing the university as being “too weak,” the administration may eventually crack down.
“We want to start a dialogue and get out of that push-pull mode,” said Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter.
The guidelines were written in response to University of California President Mark G. Yudof’s Jan. 10 letter asking chancellors of the 10 campuses to re-evaluate policies surrounding the use of police force.
“This would help to ensure any decision to use force is consistent with academic values and campus culture,” UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi wrote.
The guidelines call for the presence of a “senior official” from the university at major demonstrations and the establishment of a police advisory board. Hexter, as well as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Fred Wood have been designated to serve in that capacity.
Hexter said the new policies were inspired by the principles of patience, dialogue and collaboration, but admitted most of the guidelines are still works-in-progress.
That has led the university to take a hands-off approach in dealing with the occupation of the former Cross Cultural Center and the persistent blockade of the campus U.S. Bank. But for some students, patience is wearing thin.
“At first there was solidarity, but now it’s chaos. Instead of bringing people together, the Occupiers are divisive,” Rebecca Lopez, a fifth-year Russian major and one-time Occupy supporter, said of the recent occupation and blockade.
The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) was slated to move into the building currently occupied by protesters. Negotiations between EOP and Occupy are at a standstill, with protesters demanding EOP sever links with the university before being allowed to move in.
“The university is being too weak and soft on the protesters. At some point, students will rebel and there will be a riot,” Lopez said.
Sacramento-based KCRA reported that the Occupy movement has cost the campus over $21,000 thus far. The costs included $7,000 for repairs in Dutton Hall and $5,850 in police and staff overtime. The Davis Enterprise also reported that the university paid a consulting firm $100,000 in wake of the aftermath of the Nov. 18 pepper-spray incident.
According to Hexter, Student Affairs personnel are actively engaging the protesters, although he admitted no significant progress had been made.
When pressed to draw the line for when the university’s patience would run out, Hexter said, “At a certain point, we would like to believe that discussions would end.”
RICHARD CHANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.