Let’s update the developments in the UC-Davis pepper spraying case. As we know, two unidentified police officers (we don’t even know if it includes the pepper spray wielder Lt. John Pike) have been placed on administrative leave, and chancellor Linda Katehi announced some vague investigation into the incident (because I guess the multiple pieces of video evidence weren’t enough). The President of the University of California, Mark Yudof, has now released a statement expressing shock and dismay at the events in Davis:
I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.
I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.
Chancellors at the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses already have initiated reviews of incidents that occurred on their campuses. I applaud this rapid response and eagerly await the results.
The University of California, however, is a single university with 10 campuses, and the incidents in recent days cry out for a systemwide response.
Yudof plans to convene all 10 chancellors of the UC system about “how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.” He added that “free speech is part of the DNA of this university.”
Students at UC-Davis, meanwhile, have planned a rally for today at noon. Students from other UC campuses plan to join forces in Davis, and the rally could attract thousands of demonstrators.
This is all happening around an imminent announcement of another round of fee hikes for the UC system. The University of California was once the envy of the nation, providing free or near-free higher education to in-state residents at some of the best colleges in the country. The colleges, by and large, are still great, but they now have become unaffordable for most Californians, and students have been protesting this fact for going on three years.
UC Regents raised tuition by 32% back in 2009, and added to that another 9.6% fee hike in July of this year. The Occupy movement on UC campuses specifically convened in protest of tuition increases. The UC Regents, perhaps preparing for another set of fee hikes, cancelled their meeting on November 16 at UC-San Francisco, out of fear of protests. It was rescheduled for next week, but will be held in four separate sites and conducted through a teleconference.
The regents aren’t necessarily the problem here: dysfunctional government has led to a starving of revenue in California, and students are paying the price. The regents disapproved of a proposal in September that would have mandated ongoing fee increases of around 8-9% every year between now and 2016. The larger problem is that the cost of college has become completely unaffordable for most of America, and students who believe they have a right to education are rebelling. That has resulted in what you see in Davis.