The issue: All the investigations and recommendations of this past year won’t mean a thing until the campus demonstrates it can peacefully handle a student protest
It was only a year ago, but it feels like a lifetime.
ONE YEAR AGO today, UC Davis police officers, acting at the direction of campus administrators, marched onto the Quad in riot gear, intent on dismantling an Occupy encampment that had been established as part of weeklong protests against tuition increases.
After arresting a handful of protesters, police tried to clear a path to take their prisoners away. Blocking the officers’ path were other protesters, sitting cross-legged on a sidewalk with their arms linked.
What happened next — UCD police Lt. John Pike calmly pepper-spraying the line of protesters, first once, then again as he walked back down the line — shocked the campus, the community, the nation, even the world. Images of the pepper-spraying, recorded on countless students’ phones, went viral on the Internet and exposed our fine university to the ridicule and scorn of millions.
It was not UC Davis’ proudest moment.
But to the credit of university and systemwide administrators, the introspection that has taken place since then — and the many investigations that have probed the decision-making that led to the pepper-spraying — have resulted in lots of positive forward movement.
AMONG THE ACTIONS taken by UCD:
* Police Chief Annette Spicuzza resigned while under investigation, Pike reportedly was fired and Officer Alexander Lee, who also pepper-sprayed the protesters, is no longer with the department. Police Chief Matt Carmichael has instituted new training protocols and has created an information card, with student input, that can be distributed during protests explaining how students should behave and what they may expect.
In addition, all police operations plans are required to identify the difference between passive and active resistance and lay out the appropriate use of force. And the department is embracing community involvement in myriad ways, from including students and faculty in the hiring process to putting more cops on bikes instead of in cars.
* Top administrators have completed federal training on an “incident command system” for campus protests.
* The Police Department is considering creating a police commission or police auditor position. In addition, the campus is recruiting an ombudsman, who will be tasked with providing confident resolution services to staff and faculty.
* The Office of Student Affairs is reviewing the campus’ Student Judicial Affairs processes to determine if they can be used as an alternative to police intervention.
* And Chancellor Linda Katehi has established a task force that will be charged with evaluating UCD’s reforms in the past year. Among those invited to participate are California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a UCD alum; legislators Lois Wolk and Mariko Yamada; and Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza.
GETTING TO THIS point has been costly, of course. UC has reached a $1 million settlement agreement with the 21 students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed or arrested, and the campus and the system have paid out more than $1 million more for legal fees and consultants.
And the real test is yet to come: All of the meetings and investigations and plans and talk won’t mean a thing until the campus demonstrates it can effectively handle a major student protest. The kids are feeling cranky again: After registering more than 51,000 UC students systemwide to vote and helping pass Proposition 30 earlier this month, they want to see some relief on the tuition front.
But will it be forthcoming? We’re sure to see students demonstrating on the Quad again very soon.