Just another Monday at #UCDavis: contentious UC regents meeting, a strike (sort of) & some occupying #OccupyUCDavis #OUCD

The Prelude

Well, today was interesting at UC Davis (and I note – it is only 5:15 PM as I start to write this).  Two major related events were happening on campus today.  First, there was a meeting of the UC Regents that had a presence on campus (more on this in a bit).  Second, partly in response to the Regents meeting, there was a call for a “Strike” by UC Davis students as well as “sympathy” events planned at all other UC Campuses (Cory Golden in the Davis Enterprise has a good summary of these two related events here).  I note, I am adding links to my posts about the various events for those interested.  I know this is a bit self centered but I think it may help explain my thinking on the various issues.

The momentum for the strike came from a rally on the UC Davis quad last Monday (see my post about that here: An exhausting and exhilarating day at the #OccupyUCDavis rally).  On that day there was enormous amount of passion to rise up and do something in response to the pepper spraying incident of last Friday (see my post about that day here: A day of almost pure joy in #DavisCA and at #UCDavis, until … #OccupyUCDavis).  1000s of people were there and though the Chancellor of UC Davis Linda Katehi talked, she did not assuage the crowd much if at all.  Then there was a General Assembly of sorts, out in the quad, where a vote was taken to hold a “strike” on Monday the 28th (i.e., today).  Some of the passion clearly came from the pepper spraying incident itself, some of it came from ongoing frustration with financial issues (e.g., tuition hikes) and some of it came from dismay and/or disappointment at the UC Davis administrations role in the incident as well as their response (e.g., the Saturday Press Conference did not go so well: My accidental encounter with the #OccupyUCDavis crowd at #UCDavis #impressed).  And one thing that happened that day was the “re-occupation” of the UC Davis Quad – this time with more tents, a geodesic dome, and many people.

The next day (Tuesday as we call it) the UC Davis administration held an open Town Hall meeting for members of campus to “address concerns”.  The meeting seemed to temper some of the anti-administration component of the passion on campus, but did not seem to stop the momentum behind a growing movement (Reporting from #UCDavis Town Hall meeting re: #OccupyUCDavis).  And on Wednesday (#UCDavis quad – a place for gatherings for a long time) the Occupy UC Davis crowd hunkered down for a long four day weekend while most people left campus.

I spent much of the long weekend obsessing with the events of the week.  I posted and posted and posted and tweeted and tweeted and tweeted.  And I tried to wrap my brain around everything going on.  My gut told me that a general strike, where faculty stopped teaching classes, seemed, well, misguided (Should #UCDavis faculty “walkout” from teaching to “support” students? I do not think so).  If only they had proposed a big march, or a picketing of some administrative buildings.  But how exactly would walking out on teaching help?  It just did not make sense to me.   And most of the people I talked to said the same thing.  So it seemed to me possible that with the long weekend, and with the limited support for a strike, that Monday might be a quiet day.  On the other hand, there were a growing number of “teach ins” being scheduled for Monday and for the rest of the week and these at least seemed interesting (thought I note, the list of events was extremely heavy on the Socialist point of view, which is not really my cup of tea).

I note I had wanted to go to the quad over the weekend but came down with a nasty cold and did not make it.  And then quicker than I expected, Monday arrived.  What follows is a bit of a quick update on the events of the day.

Regents Meeting (in absentia) at the ARC

My day started off a bit annoyed.  I had trouble sleeping, mostly due to my cold, and woke up at about midnight after having slept for about an hour.  I could not get back to sleep an eventually ended up browsing the web.  That’s when I discovered an announcement from UC Davis about the events coming up today and, well I got a bit annoyed about it since while trying to promote tolerance for free speech they also said “no banners” would be allowed in the Regents meeting.  Was that really necessary?  I mean, making sure people get to speak their mind is a good thing for these meetings.  But outlawing banners?  Uggh.  So I wrote a a blog post: UC Davis News Release: “A Day of Civil Discourse & Peaceful Expression” – except when not allowed #Uggh #OccupyUCDavis.  I posted a collection of things to twitter and then finally managed to get to sleep again.

I got up pretty early (thus not much sleep) to help get my kids going as today they had to get to school.  And then I finally got out the door to head to the Regents meeting which was taking place at the “ARC“.  I note – this was not really a Regents “meeting” in that it was unclear if any Regents would show up at UC Davis and what was really going on was an “open mic” with an audio call to the Regents scattered around CA.  The meeting was to start at 9 AM and I did not get out the door until a minute after 9.  Fortunately the prelude to the meeting was being covered live on the radio (I think KDVS) and I got to listen to the Roll Call.  It was very very foggy which made me wonder how many people would come out to the rallies later in the day (i.e., if the fog did not burn off).

As I got to the ARC, there was a fire truck and an ambulance pulling in with sirens blaring and this freaked me out a bit worrying it might have something to do with the Regents meeting.  Apparently they were there for some bike accident instead (not a good thing, but I did breathe a sign of relief).

There was a small crowd outside the meeting area, some of whom had signs.  It was very quiet – just chatting going on.

I went past them, up to the security gate and, after a brief screening, got inside.  And then I made my way to the ARC Ballroom.  I note, the last time I had been to the Ballroom (I think) was when I hosted a talk by Rebecca Skloot about her HELA book.  I then stood on the side and in the back and took a bunch of pictures and posted some updates to twitter about what was going on there.  First, some of the local “Regents” and other administrators got to say a few words.

This included the Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez.

I posted a few of his comments to twitter “Speaker John Perez says he objects to notion of tuition because education is supposed to be free in CA” “Speaker Perez thanks students for not backing down in face of appalling police activity” and “Speaker Perez – it is not enough to speak to people who agree with us about education funding – need to talk to others too”

Overall he seemed quite concerned and vowed to do what he could to support students in the continuing budget wars in the California legislature.  Then some others spoke on the phone including I think the Chair of the Regents.  FInally it was time for the public comments from the four places where meetings were being held.  And Davis got to go first.  They called some “numbers” which I guess people had gotten online by registering a question and then people lined up to make statements.  They were told they would get one minute each.

I took some pictures of the questioners and posted a few of their comments to twitter.  Here are some of the pics.

Comments included complaints about tuition hikes unequally affect minorities and working class, a call for student regents to have a voting voice, a student complaining about chancellors salaries vs. tuition increases, and a call for regents to sign pledge to public education just like UC requires pledge by faculty. The student who made this last call  got cut off for going to long.  And fortunately the next person just continued reading their statement.  And then I noticed something after my own heart.  A student started unfolding a (forbidden) banner. 

 I rushed over a took a closer pic and then when she came to the back took some more.

Statements continued.  Then more signs and banners started showing up.  Not that I agreed with everything they said.  But I LOVE freedom of speech, so this made me happy:

And then the Davis statements were done.  I lingered listening to statements from people at Merced and left in the middle of statements from UCLA.

I took some pictures and talked to some of the protestors outside.  The tone was a bit muted compared to the people the previous week.  But it did seem like in a way they were just warming up.

First pass at the Quad

And then I headed on over to the quad on my bike (which I had brought in my car – normally would just ride to campus from home but with my cold was worried a bit about too much riding around and I had gotten started so late I wanted to get to the Regents meeting before too late) to see what was going on over there.  I got there at maybe 10:30 and it was quite quiet.

Intro Bio Class
And then I grabbed some tea, sat down outside the coffee house, bumped into some parents of kids in the same Coop preschool (DCCNS) as my son, talked to then for a bit.  My Intro Bio class was meeting.  Now – I was not teaching today.  Brad Shaffer was.  And he clearly was in favor of teaching classes and not “walking out” though he did note on Friday that he would respect the decision of students who decided to walk out.  Our classes are all audio podcasted and slides are posted (when used) so those who would walk out would not be severely disadvantaged.

If I were teaching today I am not sure what I would have done.  Maybe I would have tried to do something a bit different – not a normal class or something.  Maybe a teach in of a kind.  But I probably would have held class.  As I said, it just did not make sense to me to walk out on class as a part of a protest relating to affordability of education.  But I do plan to do some sort of teach in later in the week about “open textbooks” and reducing costs for students in a variety of ways.  But again, canceling class seemed, well, not right.  Plus I had talked to many of the students in the class and none I talked to were enthusiastic about a walkout by the professors.  Maybe this was a science vs. humanities thing (many of the humanities students I have talked to supported the walkout).

Regardless, I was not on the line to decide about class.  And Shaffer was lecturing in a few minutes.  And then he walked by where I was sitting and I walked with him to class.  And it seemed like nobody was walking out since it was packed to the gills.  And I got to hear a nice lecture on Echinoderms.

Quad Pass Two

And then after I went back out to the quad to see what was going on.  And things had picked up a bit since 10:45.  There were some teach ins apparently going on and at least a hundred people or so milling around.

I took some pictures of the scene for a bit:

And then there was a mini assembly where people discussed plans for the rest of the day.  It was not, they noted, one of their “General Assemblies” but more of a discussion.  There was an interesting discussion of whether the strike was a good idea or not.  Some of the comments I posted to twitter: “speaker announcing a plan for a march to disrupt classes”, “Speaker saying that he does not think classes should be disrupted ” “Continued discussion about whether disrupting class is a good idea or not ” “Speaker says if this movement is about student rights – should not disrupt classes” “Continued discussion about whether or how to shut down classes ”  Basically people were expressing some very similar feelings to what I had.  And there was a discussion and then one person said “why don’t we just let people do whatever they want – some can protest – some can picket and some can do teach ins.”  And it was sort of left there.

And finally I decided it was time to head out for a bit.  Overall the “rally/strike” seemed a bit, well, quiet but that was fine.  The teach-ins were still getting going.  Students had just gotten back from break.  And the notion of a strike was clearly not what all the students or others wanted.  But maybe momentum would pick up for protests in some way.  I then headed back to where I had parked my bike.

And just as I unlocked my bike, I heard chanting and the crowd was on the move.  So much for quiet. I took a few pics and made a few little videos (which I will post later).

I had left my bike unlocked and I decided to go back to grab it.  By the time I got to it, the crowd seemed to have disappeared.   So I headed off to my office/lab to at least check in with people there.  And I was there no more than about an hour and was still feeling crappy from my cold.  So I decided to head home.  And while heading to my bike to ride back to the ARC where my car was, I saw some tweets about “a take over of Dutton Hall”.  Hmm … that was right where the crowd was headed when I had left — I guess they had stayed there and done an occupation.  I guess things had picked up since I had left.  It was now gorgeous outside – probably mid 60s and crisp and sunny and my cold did not feel so bad – so I headed back to the Quad to see what was going on.  I parked my bike and then walked across the quad.  I got to see some sign making in progress:

And then I walked across the Quad to Dutton Hall where there were some TV crews and a bunch of people coming out.  Turns out I had missed a “teach in” there by a few minutes by Nathan Brown (I think it was about Marx).

Yet, though many people were leaving, the Occupy folks were still lingering around inside and out.  I talked to a few people about what was going on – found out that part of the reason for the take over of Dutton was to support a takeover that was done of a building at Santa Cruz.  I also watched some banner hanging and then went inside and took some pics:

It was then time for me to go home.  With my cold I promised myself to take it easy today … So I headed back towards my bike and took some pics of the TV crews.

And then headed home.

I note – I think this day was very interesting in many ways.  I think the OccupyUCDavis crowd missed a bit opportunity in many ways by pushing the strike instead of some type of picketing of admin buildings or protest march or such.  I also think they alienated many people with the excessive push regarding socialism.  As on previous days, my interactions with UC Davis students consitently left me impressed.  My interactions with some of the outsiders were less positive.  I do hope that the movement can take advantage of this moment to lead to real change in how universities throughout the country deal with students and in increasing the affordability of public education at the university level and in reducing the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors. But I think things need to be done carefully so as to not alienate too many people —

I need to get my kids to sleep right now and then get some rest and I will then revise this post to add some details and more commentary.  Apologies for being somewhat incomplete for now …

About Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis
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One Response to Just another Monday at #UCDavis: contentious UC regents meeting, a strike (sort of) & some occupying #OccupyUCDavis #OUCD

  1. Thanks for keeping us updated. The pictures really make a difference and are appreciated.


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