I usually stick to science on this blog, but Friday’s events on my campus compel me to take a moment to discuss what happened.
I am proud of our school and to be a member of the UC Davis faculty. I’m proud of our students too.
I am shocked and disappointed at the events that took place Friday because I think it was an attack on UC Davis as a whole.
Peaceful Occupy Davis student protestors were attacked by UC Davis Police without provocation. There’s really no other way to put it than “attacked”.
What happened ?
As the students sat peacefully on the ground, heavily armed police in full riot gear attacked them with pepper spray and with brutality. You can watch the shocking video here. I understand that from the officers’ point of view it was a difficult situation, but their claim that they were in danger is simply untrue. In fact, it is ridiculous.
Many colleagues from around the world have contacted me with questions and with concern.
The job of the UC Davis Police is to protect the students, faculty, and staff so that when we see UC Davis Police attacking students apparently backed by the authority of the Chancellor, we know that something has gone seriously wrong.
The world has made that judgment too. For example, there is a new story in the NY Times just today.
The Davis Faculty Association has called on Chancellor Katehi, who called in the police, to resign. Many individual faculty believe that Katehi shares ultimate responsibility for the attack and should resign, and they have written to her asking for her resignation. The two police officers who did the pepper spraying as well as the UC Davis police chief have been suspended.
But is that enough?
As I watch the videos of the police attack on students, our UC Davis students, I am horrified. The situation could have easily gotten people killed.
Today in just about 2 hours there is going to be another protest and you can imagine it will be far bigger than what happened Friday. Chancellor Katehi is reportedly going to participate.
Whether you believe Katehi should resign or not, I think we have a new reality today that we have to deal with immediately.
UC Davis is not the same school any more. Some of our innocence is gone forever, but also some of our academic freedom is damaged. Our reputation is tarnished.
At the same time, there is an opportunity here to make UC Davis better in the long run. The future UC Davis will embrace academic freedom not just in theory, but in practice.
The general consensus amongst students and faculty and importantly staff who are talking to me is that it is difficult at this point to imagine Katehi as part of that future. I’m not arguing the case one way or another, but I think over the next few days we will have a clearer picture of the future.
I will say that from everything that I have seen and heard, that I remain very proud of UC Davis and UC Davis students, but I am not proud of the UC Davis Police nor the leadership that let them loose on the students.