Friday, November 20, 2009

The Berkeley protest (2)

Fri, November 20, 2009 5:00 pm
Since 3:00 p.m. today a group of senior administrators, faculty, and student leaders
have been reaching out to the protesters inside Wheeler Hall. Attempts to engage in
a conversation with the 15 to 30 protestors estimated to be in the building have
been refused. The protesters are demanding reinstatement of 38 AFSCME custodial
staff who were recently laid off and amnesty and the dropping of charges against any
of the protestors. Today's takeover of Wheeler Hall has affected 3800 students who
were not able to attend classes in Wheeler Hall, as well as many others who have
offices and work in the building. Activities in many other campus buildings were
disrupted by falsely activating fire alarms. We continue to attempt to resolve the
situation and encourage the protestors to leave the building of their own accord.

Fri, November 20, 2009 10:47 pm
The Wheeler Hall protest ended peacefully this evening when 40 protestors who had
occupied the second floor of the building were cited for trespassing by UC Berkeley
Police and released. Thanks to the efforts of ASUC student leaders and faculty who
worked with Vice-Chancellor Student Affairs Harry Le Grande, Executive
Vice-Chancellor & Provost George Breslauer, and me, our police were able to diffuse
the situation and end the protest.

Throughout the day, the large crowds that gathered around Wheeler Hall necessitated
significant police presence to maintain safety. It is truly regrettable, however,
that a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict
with law enforcement officers. Overall, the officers who managed the day's events
did very well under difficult circumstances.

I understand that our students are justifiably angry over the fee increases and
reductions in staff necessitated by the egregious disinvestment by Sacramento in the
University of California. They are not alone in this. Clearly, we cannot allow
illegal occupations of our buildings and disruption of our academic programs. Today
3800 students were unable to attend class in Wheeler Hall.

We have a strong tradition of free speech on campus. Let us not forget that we are
all fighting for the same cause: to maintain the public character of our university
by sustaining Berkeley's excellence and accessibility. Taking over our classroom
buildings is not a productive way in which to advance our shared interests in
gaining support for public higher education. Let us work together, not in
opposition, to move forward our cause.

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