University of California protests and, um, leadership

When the Alameda County Sheriff’s cops suited up in their riot armor and, AFAIK with our campus officers , beat a bunch of our students and faculty with batons, my chancellor was in Shanghai setting up a branch campus; I don’t know who was nominally in charge and forgot to be in charge.  When the chancellor got back, he sent a remarkably tone-deaf and misinformed letter to everyone, regretting the injuries to police as though there were any. The similarly ham-handed episode at Wheeler Hall last spring, and its devastating PR impact, obviously had faded from everyone’s memory, so no-one bothered to give the police appropriate orders or plan an operation with a lick of sense or humanity.

I am not inclined to lambaste the police excessively, as they are mostly blue-collar workers as scared of layoffs and cutbacks as everyone else and properly in the business of controlling behavior by force when necessary. Someone on the ground completely misread the mood of the students, but cops do confront dangerous people and sometimes get hurt or dead doing it.  The violence at Berkeley was mainly a major fail at high administrative levels.

What’s genuinely astounding, however, is this, at Davis more than a week later. Notice how aggressively the students are sitting; that is one tough crowd! Pepper spray is no joke, especially if you’re asthmatic; at least one student went to the hospital.  What mystifies me is that the chancellor at Davis, and the police chief (who are having a very bad couple of days since), didn’t issue the following memo within two days of the Berkeley incident:

Occupation protests by students can be expected at Davis in the coming days and weeks.  Under no circumstances will police use weapons, including chemical weapons, against students not presenting an immediate threat of violence.  Anyone responsible for an episode such as occurred at Berkeley last week will be summarily suspended without pay, and probably dismissed permanently.  Responsible for includes failing to prevent; I will not have Davis known as a place where the police abuse non-violent members of our community.

And check to be sure she got signed copies back from everyone from her #2 to the lowliest recruit on the force.  And the City of Davis police chief, just for good measure.

The LA Times reports “the chancellor initially didn’t criticize police but later said seeing the images ‘left me with a very bad feeling.'” Uh, huh. What is the matter with these people? What have they trained their subordinates to be?  She has furthermore responded by appointing a task force to report back to her in 90 days.  Chancellor, if you need a task force to tell you what went wrong here, let alone three months of investigation, you either have a screw loose or a piece missing.

The latest, extraordinary, piece of video from Davis is here, putting a cherry and whipped cream on top of the humiliation of Katehi as she walked from a meeting past a line of her students (here’s the escort’s report), but also possibly beginning her rehabilitation.  I hope some Aggies come to Cal and infiltrate our protestors to teach their incredibly effective, dignified, disciplined tactics.  And I hope our own chancellor gets out among his students and faculty, on his feet.  A couple of spam emails don’t cut it, and neither does his bizarre public demand that legislators from Sacramento come to Berkeley to debate education funding. I don’t doubt his commitment to education for everyone, but his leadership style is a riddle to me, and it’s sure not doing him any good.

The president of the system has finally taken notice.  For some reason the chancellors have his “full trust and confidence” . But he’s “appalled”, and…calling a meeting with “full and unfettered discussion” – woah!  His board, the regents, are really out front; they cancelled their meeting last week fearing protest.  Way to keep in touch with the customers, boys.

Dammit, I work hard and earn my pay, and I deserve better leadership. I wish I could have more respect for the higherups in my company.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

34 thoughts on “University of California protests and, um, leadership”

  1. Ok…so say Teabaggers decide to occupy Acorn’s offices. They just sit there with locked armed, heads down, and refuse to move. How do you get them out?

    1. 1) F’gawd’s sake, when will the wingers figure out that ACORN disbanded two years ago? Get with the times, chum. Find a new iconic leftist organization to use in your hypotheticals. Or if you must invoke anachronisms, make them interesting ones.

      2) Assault with excessive force is not a legitimate response to nonviolent refusal to comply. Heck, it’s not even a legal response. There are options between passive inaction and dowsing a row of protesters with a pain-inducing chemical that will linger for days and send some people to the hospital. Using multiple officers to remove and arresting the protesters one at a time, for example.

      3) If I did want to use excessive force to get people out of my office, soaking the carpets in pepper spray probably wouldn’t be my first choice.

      1. IIRC, arresting protesters elicited howls of brutality too. Pepper spray seems less bloody.

        Didn’t know about ACORN. I’ll switch to Soros Fund Management.

        1. Didn’t know about ACORN. I’ll switch to Soros Fund Management.

          …Also, Please send better ‘wingers. This batch has been disappointing in the extreme. Should the quality not improve, I will be forced to conclude that your brand is fatally tarnished.

        2. People made noise about arrests – but not all that much noise, and just the people who were always going to side with the protesters. This isn’t about police action, it’s about police abuse. Try reading the link I posted above.

          The images and videos that have (rightly) inspired broad-based outrage have been those of sitting students and 85-year-old-grandmothers getting dosed with pepper spray in nonviolent circumstances, and of Berkeley cops cracking the ribs of nonviolent protesters. By contrast, the images of more careful arrests haven’t inspired outrage. The contrast between the careful raid at Seattle’s Westlake Park encampment, in which teams of trained, disciplined officers surrounded protesters and then frog-marched individuals to the waiting vans one by one, and the indiscriminate use of pepper spray at a Seattle march a week or two later, is instructive. You may only have heard about the latter; certainly, you’ll have seen far more outrage about the latter. This is because the former was achieved without the use of excessive or indiscriminate force.

      2. It’s so tiresome being treated as an idiot. ACORN changed it’s name two years ago.

        That said, I do believe that there were better ways of moving them. Problem is, there isn’t any way of moving a group who don’t want to be moved, that doesn’t carry a large chance of injuring somebody. Pepper spray might even be the safest approach. But, man, they really launched into it casually, didn’t they.

        Pity you can’t hang this on conservatives, ’cause the campuses are all controlled by your guys.

          1. ACORN changed its name in the sense that rather than being rounded up and shot, the people involved in ACORN survived, and many of them found new ways to be active in their communities, including working with people they’d previously worked with. As a result, some local organizations are highly similar in personnel and mission to what had been local chapters of ACORN prior to its dissolution. You will note that Brett doesn’t offer the new name for the former ACORN, because no such national organization exists.

            Although I’d be interested in knowing whether Brett, Manju, or anyone else purporting to have a brain thinks ACORN did anything wrong. As far as I can tell, their offenses consisted of running voter-registration drives using volunteers and badly paid casual labor, resulting in their collecting a fair number of humorous or fraudulent applications that they by law were required to preserve and submit, and their humoring O’Keefe’s absurdities – including humoring him while they collected information from him in order to report him to the police.

    2. We know the answer to that question. See “anti-abortion movement”.

      The answer is “make protesting a felony, and charge anyone who maintains the communication networks with conspiracy to commit a felony.”

      1. This is of course nonsense. The issue here is not about “felony” versus “misdemeanor”, or about office versus reproductive health facility. Protesting outside such facilities is not illegal, only the obstruction of such facilities. Trespassing is illegal, in either type of property. I have no idea whether it’s any more illegal to trespass in Planned Parenthood than in a branch of the Bank Of America, but that’s an issue for when the protester sees a judge. This isn’t about the legal penalties facing the protester, it’s about the illegal use of police force they face.

        The issue is about the manner of the arrest (or, all too often, the times when the cops assault someone and don’t bother to arrest them). If any nonviolent anti-abortion protester has ever been hospitalized by a cop, I’d be interested to hear of it. And I’d denounce the cop.

        1. If any nonviolent anti-abortion protester has ever been hospitalized by a cop, I’d be interested to hear of it. And I’d denounce the cop.

          Very well said! I’m so tired of these guys on the side of the oppressors always trying to play the victim. There’s no way they’re fooling anyone but themselves.

          1. I think the protester was correct about their having a right to protest there, and the cop was wrong – although I’m not a lawyer, etcetera. Certainly they should have a right to protest, if in some way the current law means they don’t. If the cop’s action was illegal, the cop (or their supervisor – whoever instructed them regarding the relevant law) should be reprimanded, the cop should apologize and return the sign, and the cops should be better trained about peoples’ right to protest in future.

            However, it would appear that the entire “assault” in the video is some finger-pointing and a phone getting knocked out of someone’s hand. Unnecessary and wrongful, but not really on the same scale as prancing about some protesters and then dousing them in pepper spray.

          1. I followed your link. I’d encourage anyone to follow the link it contains to what it calls the original report, to see just what sort of sick folks these people are. Their sly insinuations and outright slanders about a campaign against gay bashing were especially delightful.

            If his account is true, he was treated with unnecessary force. Of course, it’s just his word; that’s why the videos of police brutality are so effective. I’m inclined to believe his story; although I have led a sheltered life, I have read enough to believe that an awful lot of roughing up of arrestees occurs on a regular basis. But a black eye and disputed circumstances aren’t an ex-marine lying with a cracked skull on the streets of Oakland, with gas canisters launched among the people seeking to come to his aid – on video.

            Some of the story you link is garbled. The story you link, but not its alleged original source, makes an unclear reference to his membership in some sort of militia (with a quote not found in the “original source”) – either that he is in some such organization, or that he’s protesting against the assumption the police made that he is in one. Terrorism against the government and against perceived liberal institutions by members of the militia movement and its hangers-on are hardly unprecedented, and it is perhaps not crazy that if the cops arrested a protester with militia affiliations in a violent altercation they might check his truck for bombs – even if the violence was the cops’ own fault.

        2. The point is that you can find ample instances of the police abusing people regardless of their politics, whether they are protesting or just minding their own business.

          1. Was that the point? Didn’t seem like it. That’s certainly something we can all agree with, and that should be changed.

            But it certainly appears that what happened at UC Davis was something rather different. In broad daylight, in front of dozens of cameras, and hundreds of witnesses, many of them sworn peace officers, a corpulent lieutenant soaks a dozen completely nonviolent (heck, motionless) protesters with a chemical weapon. That’s not an officer, unobserved, banging the head of some “lowlife” as they hustle him into the back of their cruiser. That’s not some policewoman illegally confiscating a sign in a disrespectful manner, or possibly socking a possibly nonviolent demonstrator with no witnesses. It’s a whole different sort of thing from the casual sly violence the cops allegedly perpetrate.

            By the way, given your interest in anti-abortion politics, I thought you might find this interesting.

        3. I have no particular interest in anti-abortion politics. You suggested anti-abortion protesters might be the exception to protesters being mistreated by the police.

          I suspect more than a few nonviolent protesters have been soaked with chemicals by police in broad daylight in the “bad, old days” before everyone and his dog was walking around with a camera.

          Besides, well within my lifetime, the police felt comfortable enough appearing on national TV using fire hoses on people.

          1. No, the accusation that liberals were indifferent to abuse of anti-abortion protesters came from SamChevre, not from me. I certainly never suggested they were some sort of exception.

  2. Michael O’Hare: “I don’t doubt his commitment to education for everyone, but his leadership style is a riddle to me, and it’s sure not doing him any good.”

    Michael, WTF is wrong with you? You’ve had posts about the UC system which have shown that the administration has no commitment to anything other than their power and prestige.

    Didn’t you write several posts about UC Berkeley’s administration pumping millions into useless sports facilities while making fraudulent promises about their payoff? Is that the plan of ‘commitment to education for everyone’, or even just for UC Bekeley students?

  3. “I am not inclined to lambaste the police excessively”

    I, on the other hand, feel perfectly comfortable saying that Lt. John Pike is a sadistic SOB who has no business being a cop.

    1. What I haven’t heard in the news during the last two months: one police officer, ONE, who has been publicly critical of the many and escalating examples of police brutality directed against the occupiers.

      In that context, why not call them all pigs indiscriminately?

  4. The latest, extraordinary, piece of video from Davis is here, putting a cherry and whipped cream on top of the humiliation of Katehi as she walked from a meeting past a line of her students

    That was truly amazing. And it hilights just how incompetent these folks are. I mean, assuming the goal is to be a bunch of storm troopers and try to extinguish the protests by force, for $400k a year, they can’t find a competent thug?

  5. I can’t figure this out either. Out of any group of ed presidents, I’d have thought UC ones would do better than this.

    I agree with O’Hare, they all need to go. No excuse for this. And the Regents don’t look very good either.

    Perhaps it is because they are just fundraisers now and hang around too much with the 1%? What’s funny is, I bet a lot of actual 1% people wouldn’t do things like this. They are over-toadying.

  6. Not sure I have any deep thoughts on this, but what a contrast to the Penn State/RC Church/_____ (who will be next?) child abuse situation. Here, the incompetence and lies are right there for everyone to see. Maybe OWS really should stay outside, where at least we can see for ourselves.

  7. If he says anything other than “the chancellors have his ‘full trust and confidence'” immediately, they will scapegoat him. As it is, the way to read that is, “I fully support Jeff Tedford as coach of the Golden Teddies.” (Note also that every sentence around that one clearly indicates they do not have his “full trust and confidence”; otherwise, there would be no need for the forthcoming unfettered palaver.)

    “Chancellor, if you need a task force to tell you what went wrong here, let alone three months of investigation, you either have a screw loose or a piece missing.”

    Ask the Illini; they can answer which it is. (Hint: both; President Yudof needs to review U of C hiring practices.)

  8. At Berkeley, students aren’t allowed within 40 UCPD officers of an administrator. If we were, I’m sure we could muster something “incredibly effective, dignified, disciplined.”

  9. Would a male authority figure walk through al line of this sort of dishonor? I think she made a terrible mistake in doing so. I’m not for her but want to point out that this only hurts her more.

  10. Fox News reports that “pepper spray is a food product, essentially.” Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly have so informed their viewers.

    Let’s give them a hamburger with mustard gas, which is a condiment, essentially. Maybe some psilocybin mushrooms too; this food product may do them some good, as reported previously on this site.

    1. And lye is a food product too. But lye and capsaicin both can be rather nasty if consumed in greater than very diluted amounts.

  11. A food product – of course; UCD is an ag school! It’s part of the experimental condiment development program. Furthermore, how many of those freeloaders aren’t on the meal plan, and then have the nerve to complain about a free snack?

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