I attended a town hall meeting on Feb. 10 lead by a team of lawyers, charged by the Office of the President to propose a comprehensive police policy for all UC campuses. After this meeting, a reporter from The Aggie came up to me and asked, “What side are you on?” and “Why are you here?” I was taken aback by these questions, particularly the first one.
I hope that both The Aggie and the campus community is sophisticated enough not to paint a binary, black and white response to this crisis we find ourselves in, or the protests on campus. To fall into such a trap is dangerous and ultimately harmful as we try to seek solutions to our shared problems. To answer the question, I would hope that I am on the side everyone else is on in this campus, the side that wants to improve the operations of this university so that everyone has access to a good education, a community without bias and discrimination and a safe, all-inclusive campus. I would hope that everyone reading this is on that side with me.
As to the second question, as to why I was at this town hall: I was quoted in a recent article in your publication as saying, “I support civil disobedience,” which I do not remember saying so unconditionally. The reporter can be excused though, as we were interrupted by campus staff. So let me expand.
I was at this meeting because there seems to be a particular type of logic pervasive in this university that I feel threatens all of our long term goals, and should be brought into question. Take, for example, the logic behind the investigative team from the Office of the President on Friday. Why is it that, in all of the university’s staff and resources, the team researching how better to improve our police practices is made entirely of lawyers? We have a host of experts in the university who study protest, criminology, ethics and civil rights. Why were none of these scholars called to be on this committee? When this committee wanted to get feedback from protesters, this logic somehow prevented them from going down and actually talking to them where they were at the bank.
I can’t help but feel that this logic is part of a larger logic of privatization, that which finds it more efficient to allow income generated by managing the new West Village Properties to go to a private corporation, rather than funneled back into the university. This logic has undergraduates paying higher tuition, and yet teaching services are one of the first things cut, with ever larger class sizes and fewer TAs per student.
This particular brand of logic prevalent in the UC system is harmful to us all, and should be challenged by all parts of our community: students, protesters, administrators and especially by The Aggie. This isn’t an “us vs. them” story; rather, it is all of us trying to figure out a better way to run this institution.
I think several aspects of this logic were successfully challenged at the town hall by several very well spoken and articulate members of our community. I hope that we are able to avoid the divisive language suggested by the question asked to me by the reporter, and instead are able to come together as a community to find better ways to solve our problems.
We are all on the same side.