UPDATE: We are still here and not going anywhere. The university called in UCPD to shut down our peaceful protest, but we are now back in front of California Hall. Rally at 9am and 3:30pm.
Because of their crackdown and because they thus far failed to schedule a meeting with us now that Chancellor Birgeneau is back from vacation in Europe, we are requesting an official negotiation meeting (not another “dialogue”) with the Chancellor and other campus administrators today for 3:30pm. We now have 3 dry strikers (meaning they are no longer drinking water) and 10 solidarity strikers (with more on the way).
At our first meeting, it was mutually agreed that we needed clarification on our demands, including what it means to have an inclusive campus environment that can be a sanctuary to undocumented students and students of color. On Friday, Breslauer misinterpreted student organizers’ attempt to clarify our demands and said that we added demands to the table. In reality, with input from community and faculty, we suggested ways in which he could actually commit to the spaces that communities of color use. There have been no negotiations between student organizers and Breslauer and Birgeneau, but rather there has been less than good faith in the “discussions” we have had thus far. This letter is meant to clarify why we are asking for our demands and expose some of the unproductive excuses that Breslauer and Birgeneau have used to stall talks. We hope to enter constructive negotiation that can satisfy the hunger strikers, bring the hunger strike to an end, and make our campus more inclusive for our communities.
Demand # 1: We requested that Chancellor Birgeneau release a statement denouncing Arizona’s SB1070 AND HR2281 and encourage other chancellors and UC President Mark Yudof to do the same as soon as possible. Birgeneau has signaled that he is thus far unwilling to issue a statement on HR2281 because it deals with high schools. It has always been our position that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. UC Berkeley, as a pioneer in the field of Ethnic Studies and an institution that prides itself on academic freedom, must denounce the racist and unjust nature of HR2281. Silence is complicity. In addition, since the UC prides itself as an integrated bridge between all levels of education including K-12, it is unacceptable for Chancellor Birgeneau to remain silent on this issue.
Demand #2: At our last meeting, Vice Chancellor Breslauer expressed that the reason why certain protections for undocumented students were not implemented in recent months was because certain UC Regents do not care about undocumented students. However, it is not acceptable that reasonable protections are not implemented because of political salience. To satisfy the demand to make this campus safe for undocumented students, we suggest that Birgeneau and Breslauer commit to implement ALL the recommendations of the Undocumented Student Task Force. We are not looking for a public proclamation that UC Berkeley is a sanctuary campus; we are demanding a university that honors its undocumented students and invests in the recruitment, retention, and basic safety of students of color as a whole. We are immensely disappointed that Breslauer and Birgeneau have offered no movement on protecting undocumented workers, except to say that ICE is not contacted by UCPD “solely” because of documentation issues. Recent legislation in Arizona and multiple hate crimes on UC campuses have exposed the UC’s systemic neglect of students of color as a whole. Birgeneau and Breslauer must commit to student color spaces in order to truly have a sanctuary space on campus. We request that Breslauer and Birgeneau commit to invest in services that undocumented students and students of color utilize to feel safe and included on our campus. There is an atmosphere of terror on our campus, created in the wake the Bain & Co.’s $3 million “Operational Excellence” project, where students of color fear that Berkeley administrators plan on cutting such resources. Failure to commit to these recommendations constitutes a failure to create a sanctuary campus for undocumented students and a safe space for students of color in general.
Demand # 3: Many of the protesters in opposition to the state’s budget cuts over the last few months have been students of color, and many of those facing our campus’ unjust student code of conduct are from the Latin@/Chican@ community. Vice Chancellor Breslauer has the power to stop the unjust conduct process and drop student conduct charges against all student protesters, including the November 20 protest at Wheeler Hall and the November 18 protest at the A&E building. We demand the Vice Chancellor Breslauer direct the Office of Student Conduct to amend the informal resolution offered to the Wheeler 43 protesters, dropping the offer of two semesters suspension and instead, making the option of completing community service without further sanctions as the maximum possible sanction. Doing so will ensure that the protesters receive an outcome that upholds the supposed “educational” purpose of the conduct process, rather than a punitive outcome that exerts extreme economic and psychological stress on student activists. Failure to offer community service validates an unjust, unequal, and punitive conduct system, one that mirrors the unjust, unequal, “justice” system that exists in the United States; it is the same unjust and unequal system that is targeting our communities in Arizona.
Demand # 4: Since the beginning, student strikers have asserted the importance our solidarity with workers. Breslauer told us that UC administrators do not “accept” our solidarity, but we refuse to accept the racist, second-class treatment of workers on our campus at the hands of UC administrators. 90% of service workers on our campus are immigrants, and ALL laid-off service workers over the past year have been workers of color. Cuts to workers on our campus are not proportionate to state budget cuts and do not justify throwing workers into poverty. This is a question of priorities. In our discussion with Breslauer on Friday, he clarified he “would not” rather than “could not” rehire laid-off workers. We know he has the power to rehire these workers, and that there is money to do so. Our campus administration has opened up millions of dollars in reserve funds to prop up the Department of Athletics and to increase the salaries of administrators, but refuses to respect our campus’ lowest paid workers, the vast majority of which are of color.
Demand # 5: Because the student code of conduct and the entire conduct process have proven to be a failure on our campus, it must be suspended. The code has been misapplied and unequally applied. The code of student conduct does not reflect the beliefs of students and faculty.
Demand # 6: Although we welcome the Chancellor’s brief statement against SB1070, his actions on our campus contradict his opposition to Arizona’s expansion of police power. Birgeneau has still not apologized for the use of police brutality against student protesters in December and has not affirmed a commitment to pursue non-violent methods for dealing with student protesters in the future. As students of color, many of us understand the terror that comes with unnecessary police escalation and police brutality. These injustices plague our communities, and should not be welcomed and validated by administrators on our campus.
Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor Breslauer have the power to end this hunger strike and prioritize the health of students on our campus by simply doing the right thing.