12/01/2011 11:13 am ET Updated Jan 31, 2012

UC's Crisis: More Than a Police Problem

This piece was co-authored by Rei Terada, Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine

UC President Mark C. Yudof has appointed former police Chief William Bratton to head the investigation into the University of California Police Department's recent use of force against non-violent demonstrators at UC Davis. He has also appointed Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley to head a commission to review police protocols at the University of California in general. President Yudof's proposed appointments not only prevent any truly independent review, but exemplify the unjust and undemocratic privatization of the UC system which students are protesting in the first place. President Yudof's appointments must be withdrawn.

Bratton, a former Boston, L.A. and NYPD Chief and security consultant, is an influential figure in the reshaping of the contemporary metropolitan police force. The appointment of Bratton as lead investigator thus casts the UC incidents as problems of policing technique rather than problems of civil rights. In addition, Bratton's position as head of Kroll Security -- a company with multiple contracts with UC--raises questions about his possible objectivity when examining the role played by University administrators in relation to the recent police violence. President Yudof's appointment of Dean Edley and the UC Regents' own Counsel General, Charles F. Robinson, to the committee studying policing policy across all 10 campuses, is tainted with conflict of interest. The Regents' own Counsel cannot possibly be an "independent" advisor when the students are protesting the decisions of the Regents or their representatives. Dean Edley, similarly, is widely known to be one of President Yudof's closest advisers and faithful supporters. A dogged proponent of expanding online learning, Edley pushed through a "pilot program" of online courses to which the UC has loaned nearly 7 million dollars in the face of substantial opposition to online expansion at various levels of faculty governance. Yudof's suggestion that Dean Edley, who has distinguished himself by his imperviousness to faculty and student arguments, will now go on a "listening tour" of campuses, is both risible and insulting.

Yet the point is not simply that Bratton, Robinson, and Edley are unsuitable as individuals. Instead, their appointments display far deeper problems with the University's governance. By appointing two separate commissions to study police violence and policing policy under the Student Code of Conduct, Yudof divides issues whose intrinsic connection is the heart of the matter. The issue before us is not how UCPD could suppress protest less violently, but whether they should be suppressing non-violent, morally dignified protest at all. In controlling the review from the top and appropriating for the Regents' own interests a process that ought to be democratic, President Yudof displays in action the policy for which he is best known: the privatization of the great public university. Yudof's appointments disguise as reform what is actually its opposite, crisis exploitation and a bid to solidify authority: and this is exactly how Yudof has used the very real California state budget shortfall.

People outside the UC may not completely understand what we in the University mean when we complain of "privatization." We mean not only the policy of shifting toward private funding and out-of-state students who pay more tuition, which year by year gives the California Legislature and middle-income California residents less and less reason to support the UC system. We mean a whole world of interlocking conflicts of interest, administrative greed, and erosion of democratic processes that expropriate spaces and decisions that ought to belong to all, not just the most highly-paid administrators.

Thus, the student protesters' point has never been simply that they don't want to pay more tuition. They want justice and transparency, just like the rest of the 99%. The faculty's point is not just that we don't want Bratton or Edley. It is that we want the people who teach and study at the University of California to govern it themselves. President Yudof and the Board of Regents have cast away their claims to genuine leadership. If anyone is entitled to do the work of Yudof's commissions, it is faculty representatives elected by the Academic Senate and student representatives elected by students. And a similar principle holds across the University: it needs to be returned to those who use it. Police violence may be the most dramatic representation of what is wrong at the University of California. But President Yudof's obstruction of an open and democratic discussion of these issues is even more revealing of the hollowing out of a great University.