UC President Mark Yudof and the California State Legislature announced yesterday that they will launch separate investigations into recent university police violence against student protesters at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.
Yudof commissioned William Bratton, the former Police Chief of both Los Angeles and New York City, to examine last Friday’s pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis. Meanwhile, UC Vice President and General Counsel for Legal Affairs Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. will head the investigation into system-wide policies regarding law enforcement at campus protests. At the request of Higher Education Committee Chair and State Assemblyman Marty Block (D-San Diego), the state legislature will also hold hearings next month to address civil rights concerns raised by the university police response.
Block said the university administration’s actions contradict the system’s reputation for protecting free expression.
“Our UC system has been a bedrock for free speech, and a model for tolerance in respecting the rights of students and others to peacefully protest,” Block said in a press release. “As a representative of the higher education community and a retired professor, I value students’ rights to express themselves and exercise their first amendment right to free speech with safety and dignity.”
Yudof’s decision to initiate the review was prompted by a written request from UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who delivered a public apology to the student body on Monday for authorities’ actions. In addition, Yudof will establish an advisory panel consisting of students, faculty and staff to review Bratton’s report and make campus safety recommendations.
UC Davis student Davis Bushco, a victim of the pepper spray incident, filed an online petition calling for Katehi’s resignation. The petition has acquired 86,871 signatures as of press time and aims to collect 150,000.
According to Lynn Tierney, Vice President of Communications for the University of California, Katehi has acted appropriately in the wake of the incident.
“I believe that the firsthand apology of the chancellor at Davis was a courageous thing to do,” Tierney said. “The [chancellor] said [she] is appalled at the response to the protests. [She] fully supports the students’ rights to protest.”
According to a press release from Block’s office, the Assembly Committee on Higher Education and the Senate Education Committee will jointly head a public hearing on Dec. 14 at the state capitol to determine the extent of force used and examine the responsibilities of university police at non-violent campus protests.