The full text of that letter:
MESSAGE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY
Many of you may be aware of the upcoming events on November 9 which call for a walkout and noontime rally on Sproul Plaza in support of the national Occupy Wall Street, OWS, movement.
UC Berkeley as an institution shares many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement. It is here at Berkeley, and at many other campuses across the country, where so many young people acquire the knowledge and skills that enable them to live fulfilling lives without unreasonable economic stress. In fact, more than one-third of our undergraduate students come from families who earn less than $45K a year; it is through their Berkeley education that these students and, often, their entire families are able to move into the American mainstream.
As the birthplace of the free speech movement, we hold an important place in history and are looked to as a model and beacon for others in this regard. We stand ready to support our campus community in leading the collegiate movement in a way that is productive, dignified and consequential. Our students are the future of this country, and it will be your voices and your actions that have the potential to transform this nation to fulfill its highest aspirations.
With that said, and as a model of the right to free speech, assembly and activism, we encourage our entire community to act responsibly and show the world what we are known for - a place where the best and brightest youth, staff and faculty from all socioeconomic backgrounds work collectively to solve world problems.
We understand and share your passion about the important topics that are at stake in these debates, and want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to exercise their rights - whether that is to protest, teach, or go to class. With that goal, it is important to remind our community of some of the basic expectations for our campus.
*Encampments or occupations of buildings are not allowed on our campus. This means that members of our community are free to meet, discuss, debate, and protest, but will not be allowed to set up tents or encampment structures.
*Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities - go to class, study, carry out their research etc, -- will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct: http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.pdf
*As always, our normal operating hours on this campus will be adhered to; this means that most buildings will be closed by 10 PM.
In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism. Rather, these funds should be spent on urgent needs such as financial aid for low income students including those who are undocumented, increased numbers of GSI's, increased library hours etc..
We have met with our student leaders and Deans and are encouraged by their passion and commitment to the important issues that we face in higher education and support their efforts to protest safely within the constraints of our campus guidelines.
We know that the OWS movement and the issues facing this country are filled with passion. We hope that our community will come together to express that passion constructively and safely as we carry on this generation's Berkeley tradition of free speech and activism as outlined in our Principles of Community. http://www.berkeley.edu/about/principles.shtml
Robert J. Birgeneau
Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost
Harry Le Grande
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
It sounds utterly reasonable, right? Birgeneau et al are just trying to make sure that the campus stays a peaceful place, trying to preserve access for everyone, trying to live up to the Democratic Ideals That Underlie All Our Educational Systems.
Except - when you look at what he wrote - that's not what the letter's doing at all. Let's look at a couple of major issues in just one dazzling paragraph:
*Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities - go to class, study, carry out their research etc, -- will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct
Did you catch that?
First, "occupying buildings" and "setting up encampments" are labeled "destructive actions". I'd love to know how that is the case.
Second, we have circular logic set up via "or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities". "Graffiti" is the example that throws this into relief: sure, there's a case to be made that it is destructive, but it's not going to interfere with anyone's ability to do anything. What Birgeneau's doing here - and managing to sound reasonable doing it - is conflating disruption and destruction. Anything that causes any kind of break from the everyday is now categorized as a "destructive action".
Third, "regular activities" are narrowly defined to be only those most normative academic pursuits - "go to class, study, carry out their research, etc." Coming after Birgeneau has spent several paragraphs hearkening back to Berkeley's tradition of activism and free speech, this is a stunning inversion.
Good times, right? Funny what happens when you actually look at what people say.
All y'all have a good Thursday morning.