Letter from Prof. Art Shapiro to Chancellor Linda Katehi re #OccupyUCDavis

A lot of email flying around UC Davis right now. Some are from faculty who are sending copies of letters they have written to Chancellor Katehi regarding the current crisis on campus.

I am asking people if they are posting them anywhere not the web and if so I am posting links to them on Twitter. Art Shapiro a butterfly expert from the Evolution and Ecology Department sent this one around and said I could post it:

Chancellor Katehi: 

The image of the University of California, Davis has been damaged locally, nationally and internationally in a way that will be very difficult to repair. That was made clear to me when an old friend who is a member of the national media called me at home last night to talk about this. We talked for 20 minutes. He said –and I quote — “This could be a game-changer, like Kent State, only thank God no one was killed!” Whatever decisions led to Friday’s debacle and whoever made them, the time for mere “damage control” passed as soon as the video went viral. The video renders ludicrous the claim that the police felt threatened–by demonstrators sitting, arms linked, on the sidewalk! I have no doubt that a resolution of censure will be introduced and will pass, probably by acclamation, at an emergency meeting of the Representative Assembly of the Academic Senate. 

You must assume personal responsibility and apologize on behalf of the University to the entire University community, sincerely and in plain language, without any bureaucratese or references to the task force and its mandate. If you do, there is at least a chance that escalation of the situation can be averted. If you do not… 

I am in my 40th year at this institution. I was at Penn and Cornell in the 60s and know campus crisis from the inside. I have seen crises at Davis before, but never anything like this. Not an hour before the police moved onto the Quad, I was observing to a friend that Davis is not Berkeley, and “vive la difference!” Before this incident, that was a fair statement. Now the shock and the fury are all too palpable, and the fundamental dynamic has changed — and a replay of Berkeley in the 60s looms. 

Please make the right decision, and do so at once. Time is an ally only of the forces of unreason now. 

Arthur M. Shapiro
Distinguished Professor, Evolution & Ecology

Statement from #UCDavis Division of the Academic Senate re #OccupyUCDavis

Just got this email and thought it was worth posting/sharing:

Dear Colleagues,

The Executive Council of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate issues the following statement:

“The Executive Council, on behalf of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate, strongly supports the right of all campus citizens to assemble and protest peacefully. It is totally unacceptable to use excessive force against peaceful protesters. The UC Davis administration must assume full accountability for the actions taken on Friday, November 18, 2011. We must assure a campus environment that welcomes diverse perspectives and fosters freedom of expression. We are in full support of an investigation into recent events and a public accounting of all findings.”

The Executive Council also approved the formation of a Special Committee to investigate in a thorough and timely manner the events leading to the use of force on Friday, November 18, 2011.

Finally, I am also calling a Special Meeting of the Representative Assembly. 

Linda Bisson
Linda F. Bisson,Chair, Davis Division of the Academic SenateProfessor, Department of Viticulture and EnologyUniversity of California, DavisDavis CA 95616

Compiling some links of interest relating to the #UCDavis Pepper Spray #OccupyUCDavis story

Links of interest in UC Davis Saga.  In no particular order.  Just trying to keep track of things somewhat

My posts

Letters to the Chancellor and/or commentary by faculty at UC Davis



Pepper Spray info from Deborah Blum: About Pepper Spray
Stories about Yudof response
Police officers and police chief
About the Saturday Press Conference
Stories about/by protestors 
Group Pages of Interest

Local papers and Blogs

My accidental encounter with the #OccupyUCDavis crowd at #UCDavis #impressed

Well, yesterday was certainly interesting.  In the morning I biked into Davis to go to the Farmer’s Market to pick up some goodies.  It was a spectacular fall day – crisp – clear – a bit chilly – and I great day to be on a bike.

I got to the market, wandered through the crowd and bumped into a few colleagues and friends and was a bit stunned to find out that none of them had even heard about the pepper spraying incident the day before on UC Davis Campus.  Wow.  It had taken over my life in a way all night – see my post about it here: A day of almost pure joy in #DavisCA and at #UCDavis, until … #OccupyUCDavis

So I told them about the incident, and then did some shopping.  It all seemed a bit surreal.  I felt disconnected.  So after filling up my panniers, I biked over to campus.  The Quad at UC Davis – where the whole pepper spray incident had gone down – was eerily quiet.

I stopped to post the pics:
  • Went by #ucdavis quad today – hauntingly empty – but talked to protestor planning massive event Monday http://post.ly/3xByM

I biked around the quad and it all seemed a bit creepy with nobody out there.  Then I saw a UC Davis Tour being led through the quad and I wondered what exactly they would say about the incident.  But they headed inside the Student Union so I decided it was time to bike home.  I headed back around the top of the quad area and saw another tour.  This time, a biker came up next to me and then passed and went up to the tour.  And he shouted something about “better tell them about the pepper spray”.  And then he kept riding towards downtown Davis.  I caught up to him and asked him, in my still sultry laryngitis tinged voice – if he had been there the day before.  He said yes – he had been sprayed and was still pissed off.  We talked for a bit about the craziness of the whole thing (he was an undergrad) and then he told me that Monday they planned a much bigger operation in the Quad with hundreds of tents.  He said they had received many donations of tents to help set things up.
We then went our separate ways but I was left with a feeling of being a bit out of touch.
I went home and kind of stewed in my own juices, reading about the incident and the responses and the calls for the Chancellor to resign. Now – I really like the UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.  I think she has done an absolutely fantastic job as chancellor in every single thing she has done (prior to this incident).  She has hired excellent administrators.  She has gotten rid of bad ones.  She has tried to reduce expenses on campus in a humane way.  She has been pushing to get private funds to supplement the ever reducing funds from the State.  And I think she is in general a great leader – inspiring in many ways.  So the calls for her to resign over this felt like a kick in the gut.  Now mind you – I have not been impressed with what has transpired here – first the order to bring in the police and then the responses to what happened.  But prior to this event I would have gone to the end to the world for her.  And I was not going to join the call for her to resign without some clearer picture of what happened here.
Then I heard from a tweet from the California Aggie that there was going to be a press conference at 4 PM on Campus in a Building Called Surge II with Katehi and the UC Davis Police Chief. This seemed like it was the most important incident perhaps in the history of UC Davis or at least in the last 10-20 years.  And as I am a prominent promoter of UC Davis in my blog, I figured I should go.  I figured, they probably would not let me in but I should try.  After all – I am a blogger – that could count as the press right?
So at 3:10 PM I hopped in my car (bike had some issues that needed fixing) and drove to campus – scouted out parking by Surge II (nobody was there yet) but decided to park a bit further away in case crowds grew.  So I parked in a lot a few hundred yards away and got out and walked over to the small building where the Press Conference was going to be.  I got there and outside there were about 15 people milling around.  

I went up to them and asked if they were letting people in to the Press Conference.  They said they were not allowed in.  So I stopped and chatted with a few of the people there and took a few pictures.  

I guess this was some of the heart of the OccupyUCDavis protest crowd.  They were discussing with each other how Katehi had come out a few minutes before to talk to them and what she had said.  But I felt a bit awkward joining in their conversation because I was not there to officially join the protest.  I was there to try and get into the Press Conference.  So I tried to get in.  I knocked on the door and was told that the room was too small to allow anyone else in.  I did not tell them that all the public affairs and UCD press people in there probably knew me – that seemed lame.  I said “well, I am kind of a reporter” or something like that.  But no go.  I tweeted a comment:
  • Oh well – just got told I cannot attend the #ucdavis press conference on pepper spray incident “room to small” #occupyucdavis

O got some responses including from MarilynM on twitter

Other people tried to get in too a little bit later and were also herded away.

Oh well.  So I posted the pic with a complaint.

So I had now turned from someone who had hoped to ask questions and report on the press conference to someone who was going to report from the outside.

I then saw a TV truck pull by down the street and took a picture and posted it

And then Marilyn M responded

And so I realized there were people reading my live tweets and interested in them.  And so I decided to be the eyes for people on the ground.  A reporter if you will.  So that is then what I tried to be.
And I took some more pics of the TV trucks as they arrived:

The crowd began to grow a bit and I focused for a while on taking some pics and video of the crowd:

I basically lingered outside the SurgeII building as the protestors tried to disrupt the press conference and have their voices be heard.  While I was there I must say I was generally impressed with the OccupyUCDavis crowd.  They were very upset about the pepper spraying but were trying to turn their anger into something useful.  They wanted their voices to be heard.  They very friendly overall, dedicated to peaceful protest mostly (there were some chants here and there that I did not like – like one calling for the police officer involved in the spraying to come out – but this chant was stopped quickly from within the crowd).  And overall they seemed genuinely concerned with UC Davis and its future.  They were also very very upset that the Chancellor did not choose to have a press conference where they could attend.

The crowd was also quite mixed in background.  There were many undergrads and grad students there.  But also post docs, faculty and others.  I saw some faculty I knew and talked to them for a bit.  And I saw a few students I knew too.  The crowd eventually grew to be maybe a few hundred people.

And at one point they decided it was time to try and disrupt the press conference.  They then proceeded to march from one side of the building to another where a door was open and they thought maybe they could be heard better through the door.  I filmed the march:

Every once in a while during this someone would report on what was going on in the press conference which was live streaming on some channels.  Cheers erupted when apparently the chanting from outside put the conference on hold.  Information was pretty fluid outside the building.  At one point someone went up and down the aisles of people saying the Hiliary Clinton had just called for Katehi to resign on twitter.  I figured that must be misinformation, but it did get the crowd excited for a minute.

I filmed some other videos too

Eventually it was clear the press conference was over and Chancellor Katehi was looking for a way to get out of the building.  The protestors clearly wanted to see her and engage her in some way and they waited and waited but no Katehi.  They kept trying to coordinate placing people at the various exits to the building and at one point they were even allowed into the building through various entrances but I guess there were not allowed into the room where the press conference was happening.

I was impressed with how the crowd desperately wanted to be peaceful.  They kept offering (in the form of chants) statements that they would give Katehi a clear way out of the building when she wanted to leave.  And then another chant would break out saying something about how she should resign.

And then alas I had to go home to my kids.  As I was getting ready to go the crowd was trying to form a line of sorts in which Katehi would be allowed to pass if she came out.

And then it was time for me to go

Overall I left being very impressed with the OccupyUCDavis protestors.  I still did not agree with the call for Katehi to resign.  I guess I want(ed) more information about who decided what. And that is why I wanted to go to the press conference.  I was going there open to the possibility that she made mistakes but that the most egregious ones may have ben made by others.  I still have not seen the press conference so I am going to check it out and see if it adds anything to the story.  In the end, I think she has been such a great Chancellor so far that I am going into this willing to wait for more details before joining the choruses calling for resignation.

Though I note – I am so far extremely disappointed with the UCD responses to the incident and extremely disturbed by the incident itself.  There must be major changes and they should not wait for a 90 day investigation.  It seems pretty clear that the truth is not emerging from the UC Davis officials – it is only coming out via video and interviews and posts from the protestors and witnesses.  From what I can tell the UCD police are definitely being deceptive and/or completely dishonest about what happened.  I personally have ben unsure whether the UCD administration is doing the same.  But it certainly is starting to seem like a possibility.   I think the jobs of many of the UCD higher ups involved in this hang by a thin thread right now.  But when I left the protests, I was not willing to say we should cut that thread just yet.  I wanted to be measured in response to the outrageous unmeasured actions of the UCD police.

So I went home.  And then I saw the most amazing thing.  The video of the response of the protestors to Katehi leaving the building is incredible.  An absolutely amazing show of solidarity, peace and wisdom.

All I can say is – wow.  An iconic moment.  Though I was not there for the actual moment I felt like I was there in spirit.  The OccupyUCDavis protestors in a single moment have made a statement that will last forever.  And they alone seem to be the ones carrying the torch for a restoration of the good name of UC Davis that has been plunged into the depths by this crisis.  It is these silent protestors that hold the spirit of the University.  Whose University?  Our University.

A day of almost pure joy in #DavisCA and at #UCDavis, until … #OccupyUCDavis

Well, yesterday seemed to be such a good day at first.  In the AM my wife dropped my daughter off at her school (Birch Lane Elementary School famous for the scroll they sent the New York Times earlier in the year) and I stayed at home to watch my son (he does not have school on Friday’s).  Normally I take my daughter to school by bike but today she wanted mommy to take her.

While watching my son, I had a conference call to “discuss” the education series for PLoS Biology.  I put discuss in quotes since I have laryngitis and could not really speak.  But Liza Gross signed on to gchat during the call and I sent her messages which she then read to the crowd.  While on the phone I posted a few things to twitter too (must multitask):

Then, after my wife got back, I opened up my new purchase that had come in the mail the day before:

This is a “Tree of Life” collage by Michele Banks that I had purchased from her Etsy site.  Spectacularly gorgeous by the way.  

After this,  we all headed off to my daughter’s school for her class’s “heritage festival.” All the parent’s were there and they had made various foods reflective of their kids heritage (my wife made alfajores – she is from Argentina).  Here are some pics from the classroom:

To kick off the event, the kids sang a bunch of songs including “This land is your land”

And when everyone sat down to eat, I headed off to UC Davis campus where I work. But first I stopped at “The Paint Chip” in Davis to get my new Tree of Life art framed.  I was not really sure what to do so I sent a twitter DM to Michele Banks the artist to ask for advice and she emailed me some suggestions.  And I had sent her my phone number and she ended up calling to give some additional suggestions (we had communicated a lot on twitter but never by phone – with my voice the way it was, I am sure my first impression on the phone to her was a bit unusual).

And then I headed in to work.  I got to my office that I have on “Main Campus” (where I go when I am teaching) and did a little bit of work (reviewing papers, sending email).  And then at 2 PM I had another conference call, this one about the UC Davis search for a Librarian (we were getting a presentation by the Education Advisory Board about a study they had done on libraries).  I called in on my cell phone, put in on mute (after introducing myself in a hoarse whisper) and started walking to the UC Davis Student Union area to get some tea.  I had about an hour to “kill” before I needed to go to see Brad Shaffer lecture for our Intro Bio class at 3PM.

This was the first of two lectures for the class.  The next was at 5.  In this lecture I posted to twitter some of the things Shaffer was saying and had an interesting discussion with various folks that continued into the night:

  • Brad Shaffer in intro bio at #ucdavis asks “what is the most meaningful measure of evolutionary success of a lineage?” 

And while I was trying to engage in this discussion, I noticed some tweets from the outside world about the protests in the UC Davis Quad.  I reposted some of these

And then class ended and I rushed across the street to a meeting I had at the Student Union in the Coffee House about a project I am working on.  We had our meeting and while we were there we could hear and see some hints at a commotion going on outside in the Quad but I had put down my phone and it was unclear exactly what was going on.  Finally at 4:40 or so our meeting ended and I rushed out to the quad to see what was going on.  Not much sign of commotion there though I did hear some people discussion “police action.”  Then I ran into some of the students from my class who told me the police had pepper sprayed the protestors and that there was some serious confrontation.  I took a few pictures before heading in to the next lecture for our intro bio class:

But I really had no clue what had happened.

I posted a little “ditty” about how happy I was with the Tree of Life poster I had received:

In class, I continued with the posting stuff to twitter (I really like to promote UC Davis to the world and this class was kind of fun … so I kept posting away).

And I kept an eye on twitter and started to see more detail about the police-student interaction. I RTd some of these but did not get to look at details.

And then class ended and I rushed home.  It was then that I was able to see some of the photos and video of the interaction between the police and the students.  And to be honest, my day turned from one of nearly pure joy, into one of deep sadness, shock and dismay.  Here are some of the pics and vids from the scene:

From http://www.davisenterprise.com/media-post/ucd-police-remove-occupy-uc-davis-tents/attachment/occupyucd3/

Ugggh.  I don’t really know what to say here.  I usually sympathize with police in some of the interactions with protestors because the police are frequently put in a really hard spot trying to maintain control, enforce laws, and deal with dangerous situations.  But this just seems from every way I look at it to be completely unacceptable.  UC Davis, a campus that takes pride in the “Principles of Community” has turned into this?  Students camping in the quad to express their opinions about a particular issue needed to be removed why?  And they needed to be pepper sprayed why?  I get that cities and campuses are freaked out about what to do with all these protestors camping in places.  But there must have been an alternative to this.  I am a bit tired now since I tossed and turned all night in regard to what happened yesterday.  I am very worried about my campus now – what happened yesterday is not a path I expected UC Davis to go down.  And I have no idea where it is going to go from here.