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Media coverage of last week’s “anti-Marxist” protest and counter-protest in Berkeley was predictably all over the place, the result of no one participant or media organization being able to witness every sign, shove or provocation. Occurring so recently after the tragedy in Charlottesville, the scene was described as comparatively peaceful, though outlets emphasized the violent tactics of Antifa protestors. While the 4,000-strong crowd was described as mostly peaceful and right wing protesters scarce, accounts focused on the behavior of roughly 100 counter-protesters lumped under the Antifa banner.
In a piece of commentary in The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb argued the violence propagated by Antifa helps Trump’s movement. In his telling, the peaceful counter-protest by anti-racists was “fractured the moment that contingents identified as anarchists and Antifa radicals slipped into the crowd and began attacking right-wing protesters who had assembled there under the banner of free speech.”
Cobb goes so far as to argue that the actions of Antifa at the Berkeley protest validate Trump’s now infamous “many sides” comment in reference to Charlottesville. According to the writer:
But the images out of Berkeley—outnumbered right-wing protesters being pepper-sprayed by counter-demonstrators, one person lying on the ground while a black-clad group punched his face and torso—will be held up by many on the right as evidence that Trump was correct about the blame falling on “many sides.”
In their coverage, The Guardian noted the counter-protestors were largely peaceful, but also emphasized that Antifa members chased and pepper sprayed an alt-right organizer. Reporting by Mother Jones included footage of Antifa members jostling reporters. Meanwhile, a headline in the LA Times read “Violence by far-left protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm.” Local blog Berkeleyside placed more attention on the activity of peaceful protestors than other outlets, saying in an aside, “the moments of tension, and some sporadic violent clashes, were largely perpetrated by 100 or so anti-fascists, masked and clad in black, who swept into the park mid-afternoon en masse.”
A group of faith leaders wrote an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the media for “ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully” in Berkeley and other recent anti-racist actions. The piece suggests that violence should not be dismissed out-of-hand, noting its role in the civil rights movement, thought their claim is hedged behind the framing of self-defense.
8/29 – The Antifa Protests Are Helping Donald Trump (NewYorker): Cobb notes Antifa are not as abhorrent as racists, but nonetheless adds, “there is no escaping the fact that the elements that lashed out in Berkeley were both morally wrong and politically vacuous. ”
8/28 – After melees, Berkeley mayor asks Cal to cancel right-wing Free Speech Week (SFChronicle): Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin asked the campus to block a series of talks organized by a conservative student group that are set to include Milo Yiannopoulos. Arreguin argues the talks are likely to result in violence.
8/27 – Berkeley pro-Trump rally cancelled but tensions still flare between protesters (The Guardian): The article quotes a protestor who defended the Ohio man who killed a counter-protestor in Charlottesville.
8/28 – Violence by far-left protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm (LATimes): The article includes footage of Antifa members beating protestors.
8/27 – Live Updates: thousands come out against racism; far right a no-show (Berkeleyside): The article provides a sequential series of reports from the scene.
8/28 – In Berkeley, community comes out in force against hate, racism (Berkeleyside): The blog’s day-after summation of the event emphasizes that the vast majority of the 4,000 who gathered were peaceful counter-protestors.
9/1 – Op-Ed: Waiting for a Perfect Protest? (NYT): The authors note, “In spite of extensive training in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, individuals and factions within the larger movement engaged in violent skirmishes, and many insisted on their right to physically defend themselves even while they proclaimed nonviolence as an ideal….”
9/1 – UC President Janet Napolitano wades into campus free speech debate (SFGate): Napolitano defends Christs’ decision to support the right of controversial speakers to appear on campus.
9/1 – Protest During Poli-Sci Meeting (InsideHigherEd): Silent protestors critiszied an academic presentation by Berkeley’s Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law John Yoo. The protestors called out Yoo’s defense of torture. In 2003, while a member of the Bush administration, Yoo authored the so-called torture memos, which argued “enhanced interrogation” is legal.
8/29 – California Today: Courting First-Generation Students at U.C. (NYT): The article highlights the UC system’s efforts to support first-generation students. About 42 percent of the system’s undergraduate students are first-generation, though at Berkeley the figure is 28 percent.
8/31 – UC President Janet Napolitano blasts idea of ending DACA (SJMN): Napolitano took a strong defense of DACA, which President Trump has signaled he intends to end following a six-month delay.
At a meeting last week, the UC Regents were critical of a decision by lawmakers to directly fund UCOP, saying they’ve hired outside counsel to look into whether the change is constitutional. The new funding model is intended to increase legislative oversight of the office, a response by Sacramento to a critical state audit that characterized UCOP’s budget process as overly opaque. The Regents’ new chair, George Kieffer, called the change a “troubling incursion into the board’s authority.”
At the meeting, the Regents approved the hiring of Alexander Bustamante as an internal watchdog for the system. Set to earn $350,000 annually, Bustamante was previously the inspector general for LAPD. In another appointment, Michael Brown, a UC Santa Barbara professor of education and former chair of the UC Academic Senate, was named UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. The Regents also approved a measure that will allow admissions officers to solicit recommendation letters for up to 15 percent of applicants. The move is intended to allow admissions officers to gain more information about prospective students who are on the bubble. A pilot program at Berkeley asking for letters allayed concerns that soliciting letters would advantage students from better-resourced schools, though opposition remains.
During the meeting, some Regents criticized the costs associated with the HR system overhaul known as UC Path. Napolitano defended the program, saying it “will be an essential part of the structural governance of the university.” Meanwhile, a presentation to the Regents by UC Provost and Executive Vice President Aimée Dorr noted survey results that found 35 percent of graduate students have feelings of depression spurred by concerns about living costs, poor mentorship and job prospects.
In other news, Berkeley’s new chancellor, Carol Christ, will not move into University House, the chancellor’s mansion which her predecessor had spruced up to the tune of $1 million. In an op-ed published by the Guardian, Christopher Newfield reiterated his pitch to make public higher education more affordable, a case he made in his recent book, The Great Mistake. Commentary in the Fresno Bee criticized the turf war between the state’s three higher education system, putting a spotlight on opposition to a program that allows community colleges to offer a single four-year degree. The author notes such a program may help the state combat its projected shortage of degree-holders.
7/13 – In wake of critical audit, UC Regents take a close look at president’s budget (LATimes): Board Chairman George Kieffer called the state’s move to directly fund UCOP “very wrong,” though the article notes the Regents more closely examined the proposed budget than in previous years. Kieffer is quoted as saying: “Most troubling … is the incursion into this board’s authority to manage the university, for there is no daylight between legislators setting the [president’s] budget and legislators someday setting a particular campus budget.”
7/13 – Regents choose LAPD inspector general for UC system oversight role (LATimes): In a statement, Napolitano said: “Alex Bustamante was selected for this critical position at the university based on his impressive career focused on legal and compliance matters.”
7/13 – UC Regents Approve President’s Budget, Question Constitutionality of Legislative Control (KQED): Regent Hadi Makarechian said of the new funding model, “This is an erosion of our autonomy. We need to preserve our rights. If we continue with this precedent, next time we may get into the chancellors’ budgets.”
7/13 – UC Board of Regents passes budget, debates new HR program (DailyCal): The article quotes one Regent as saying, “It looks like we’ve gone from UCPath to the long and winding road.”
7/12 – UC Regents discuss UCOP audit implementation, student climate (DailyCal):
7/13 – UC gets OK to ask some applicants for letters of recommendation (SFChronicle): Campuses will also be able to ask for students to complete a questionnaire or to submit more grades.
7/12 – UC regents panel backs limited use of letters of recommendation at campuses systemwide (LATimes): The change will take effect for fall 2018 admissions.
7/12 – UC Board of Regents adds experts in sports management, media, arms control, finance (LATimes): A profile of the four new Regents recently appointed by Gov. Brown.
7/13 – UC regents name new provost, chief compliance officer (SFGate):
7/10 – New Cal chancellor shuns campus’ pricey mansion (SFChronicle): In addition to the houses’s renovations, $700,000 was spent on a security fence.
7/14 – Op-Ed: Let’s undo the great mistake – make university tuition free (Guardian): At the end of the article, Newfield makes the $48 pitch.
7/10 – Commentary: California faces higher education crisis, but politicians dither (FresnoBee): The author notes allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees is especially key in rural areas.
Berkeley’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics released a report this past week which highlighted the immense financial shadow the university’s stadium casts over the entire campus. As a Dead Spin headline succinctly and colorfully noted, “Cal Is Fucked Because Of Its Stupid Stadium Deal.” The over $400 million debt tied to seismic retrofitting of Memorial Stadium and the creation of a new gym could continue to cost the university well into the next century. Interest on Cal Athletics’ debt will exceed income for the foreseeable future, the report notes. Media accounts focused on the task force’s failure to reach a consensus on cutting any specific sports programs, a move a San Jose Mercury News columnist mocked as indecisive. Instead, the task force recommends cutting administrative costs and conducting an external review of Cal Athletics.
In other news, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle asked whether recent UC regents appointments violate the law. According to the state constitution, a 12-member advisory committee is supposed to be consulted by the governor before appointments are made. In recent memory, the advisory committee has been inactive and members are simply informed who will be appointed, the paper reports. The article also raises questions as to whether the composition of the regents reflects the state’s diversity. Following a 1974 amendment, the state constitution reads regents should be “broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the state, including ethnic minorities and women.”
The state’s revised budget should be finalized by June 15. As of the weekend, the budget was poised to directly fund UCOP, a move recommended by the recent state audit which was very critical of the office led by UC President Janet Napolitano. In the past, UCOP was funded through assessing fees on each UC campus. The funding change is intended to give the legislature more control over UCOP. Meanwhile, the future of a middle class scholarship program is up in the air, though a report on Thursday suggested the program, which Gov. Brown proposed to be scrapped, will survive.
6/10 – Are governors ignoring law when appointing UC regents? (SFChronicle): The article notes the tony makeup of the regents:
Of the 18 appointed regents, including the four just named, half are financiers, corporate executives, investors, real-estate developers or corporate attorneys. Three are former politicians. One is Brown’s senior policy adviser, and another — a former finance expert at UC — is chief financial officer at a company that supplies technology to a private college in San Francisco. The others are an eye doctor, a Sacramento lobbyist, a nonprofit policy director, and the chancellor of the California Community College system.
6/7 – Cal Is Fucked Because Of Its Stupid Stadium Deal (DeadSpin): As the article notes, Cal’s debt may last into 2113, at which point, statistically speaking, it’s not too unlikely the “big one” will have struck, potentially destroying the stadium.
6/5 – No Cal sports cut yet, athletics task force says (DailyCal): The student newspaper notes that, despite the university’s claims that such debt is a problem for universities across the country, Cal leads the nation with the greatest debt.
6/6 – Column: On Cal’s task force, the debt vise, squandered opportunities, donor truth and the future of the athletic department (SJMN): The article is critical of the task force for failing to take a stand on cuts. It begins with the memorable lede: “The inspiring, frustrating, complicated, money-losing, opportunity-creating, labyrinthine, heart-breaking, title-winning 30-sport behemoth that is the Cal athletic program has claimed another task force, outwitted more sharp minds and remained an unsolvable puzzle at a university that has won 22 Nobel Prizes.”
6/5 – UC regents hires law firm to investigate central office’s handling of state audit (SJMN): The Regents hired Former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno to conduct an investigation into whether UCOP interfered with the state’s recent audit.
Read a statement from Regents Chair Monica Lozano here.
6/8 – California budget panel approves spending plan as talks with Brown continue (SacBee): According to the article:
Acting on the findings of a recent state audit castigating UC’s leadership, meanwhile, Thursday’s agreement will pay for the University of California Office of the President out of the general fund. The $296.4 million will replace assessments the office now collects on individual campuses, a situation that the Bureau of State Audits found had contributed to the university’s need fr increase tuition.
6/8 – Partial California Budget Deal Reached, But Sticking Points Remain (CapRadio): Unlike below, this more recent article notes the middle-class scholarship program may be spared.
6/6 – How should California spend $180 billion-plus? Here’s what is under negotiation in Sacramento (LATimes): The article notes uncertainty around Gov. Brown’s plans to cut out a middle-class scholarship program.
The flood of news concerning the UCOP audit slowed to a trickle this week, though the repercussions of an earlier audit made news. The Regents approved a cap on nonresident undergraduate enrollment, a policy change spurred by a 2016 audit that found in-state students were disadvantaged in the admissions process as UC sought the financial benefits of out-state-students. System-wide, UC’s undergraduate student body is about 16.5 percent nonresident. The cap will allow the proportion to grow to 18 percent at five campuses currently below that threshold. Four campuses—Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego and Irvine—exceed that limit. Instead of being forced to cut down on the proportion of nonresident students, these campuses will be capped at their current level. The Regents considered an even more lax plan, but withdrew it from consideration after lawmakers expressed exasperation, citing constituents with high-achieving high schoolers who had been denied admission to the state’s premier higher education system. As part of a deal with Gov. Brown, the system should now receive an additional $18.5 million in funding, money that will be used to fund the enrollment of additional resident undergrads, according to the Sacramento Bee.
News about the more recent UCOP audit focused on a Regents meeting which protestors briefly shutdown. The protestors were there to criticize UCOP for what the audit characterized as excessive compensation. The Regents voiced their support for President Napolitano at the meeting, pushing back against some aspects of the auditor’s characterization of UCOP’s budgeting practices. In an op-ed, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-South Gate) urged the Regents to more closely monitor UCOP.
In other news, Gov. Brown’s May budget revision makes the receipt of $50 million contingent on three conditions:
- State Auditor Recommendations: In an April 2017 report, the State Auditor identified a number of problems with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), including the office’s staffing size and costs, spending on systemwide programs, and overall budget. The Auditor’s report included dozens of recommendations designed to enhance transparency, operational performance, and state oversight. The Auditor called for these recommendations to be implemented over a three-year period (between April 2018 and April 2020). The May Revision would link budget-year funding with UC’s implementation of the April 2018 recommendations.
- Transfer Enrollment: The May Revision also expects all but two campuses (Merced and San Francisco) to enroll at least one new transfer student for every two new freshman students for the 2018-19 academic year. That is, at least one-third of each campus’s new resident undergraduate enrollment would need to be transfer students. This target is intended to align with policies called for in the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. In 2015-16, 31 percent of UC’s incoming resident undergraduates were transfer students.
- Activity-Based Costing: The May Revision’s final condition is for UC to pilot activity-based costing at three campuses. The purpose of activity-based costing is to identify program- and course-level costs of providing instruction and other services to students. Currently, one pilot is underway at the Riverside campus, and two campuses (Merced and Davis) have completed scoping studies for pilot programs
The Legislature is debating the budget, which has a June 15 deadline for passage.
5/18 – UC pulls back welcome mat for nonresident students with first enrollment cap (SacBee): The article notes that nonresident enrollment increased rapidly during the recession, when the UC system saw its budget sharply cut. However, as the budget has recovered, nonresident enrollment has not slowed. Two Regents voted against the measure, with at least one casting their vote to signal support for more out-of-state students and the diversity they bring.
5/19 – UC leaders to cap nonresident student enrollment in 2018 (SFGate): The article notes UC enrolls more resident students than peer public universities.
5/18 – UC regents defend Napolitano, thank auditor for probe (SFGate): The Regents pushed back on the auditor’s characterization of funds being hidden.
5/17 – UC students protest hidden funds, shut down regents meeting (SFGate): Protestors briefly shut down the Regents meeting, calling out President Napolitano for the perceived excesses of her office.
5/17 – UC regents meeting disrupted by protests over state audit finding of undisclosed surplus (LATimes): “Shame on you, Janet Napolitano. Shame on you, UCOP,” one student said at the meeting.
5/16 – Op-Ed: Speaker Rendon: In wake of audit, UC Regents need to wake up, better oversee President Napolitano and roll back tuition hike (SJMN): In his op-ed, Rendon wrote:
Regents must also demand transparency. We must receive clear, quality information and timely answers to our questions. That’s the only way to make informed budget, personnel and policy decisions.
I am frustrated with what Napolitano’s office has communicated and not communicated to the State Auditor, the public and the students. I will be ready with tough questions at the meeting. Legislators have to hold the Regents accountable, and the Regents have to hold the President accountable. That is what will bring lasting change.
5/15 – State of California: LAO Budget Revision Analysis (LAO): The UC information is on page 26 of the report.
A massive police presence in Berkeley encountered two opposing but peaceful protest camps Thursday. Following the cancellation of a speech by Ann Coulter, authorities feared a repeat of the violent clashes between right- and left-wing protestors that have plagued downtown Berkeley in recent weeks. One of the points of contention is who, exactly, cancelled the appearance.
Student groups invited Coulter to speak on Thursday, but the university asked for Coulter to come at another date so that student safety could be protected. Coulter refused, and called the rescheduling an assault on free speech. A student Republican group who helped invite Coulter also took up this framing. The university emphasized its embrace of free speech while at the same time noting it’s deep consideration for student safety.
SF Gate’s take on the protests can be read here: “Calm prevails in Berkeley after cops gear up in wake of Coulter cancellation”
Even though Coulter said she would not appear Thursday despite earlier indicating she would speak on Sproul Plaza, opposing protestors stated their intent to appear, with threats of violence circulated online. Those threats went unfulfilled, though the protest by the right-wing activists included Islamophobic and racist rhetoric.
Despite the peaceful protests, police did make arrests. One Cal student, Jorge-David Mancillas, was arrested for allegedly possessing a weapon. Mancillas is a stand-out student on campus, according to the Daily Cal, and was accepted into numerous prestigious PhD programs in sociology. Students protested his arrest Thursday afternoon claiming he was racially profiled.
A multi-agency police response in Berkeley has stood watch over largely peaceful protestors, according to media reports. Right-wing protestors have mostly gathered at Civic Center Park, across from Berkeley high. Left-wing protestors have stuck to campus, according to reports, where a large police presence is visible.
According to the Daily Cal, two arrests were made by 1 pm. The student newspaper reports:
As of 1 p.m., UCPD had made two protest-related arrests. One individual was arrested on suspicion of carrying a knife on campus, while the other was arrested and charged with wearing a mask and providing false identification to a police officer.
City and university administrators had feared a violent clash even after Ann Coulter announced she would not speak on campus. In recent weeks, violent clashes between those on the far extremes of the political spectrum erupted in downtown Berkeley. In February, a riot on campus resulted in the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, also disrupting a mass of students who had protested peacefully.
Based on coverage from the Daily Cal’s twitter feed (a good source of on-going coverage), some right-wing protestor have framed their protest as one in favor of free speech and dialogue while other right-wing protestors have made violent threats and outlandish claims directed at former President Barack Obama.
For more coverage, see SF Gate.