By Will Norton-Mosher
The second formal attempt to bridge a communication gap between students and administrators drew such an audience that attendees filled the seats and lined the wings of Kresge College’s Town Hall, and the conversation ran an hour over schedule.
The Town Hall dialogue, organized by the Student Union Assembly, was meant to let students and administrators discuss funding, school policy, enrollment, expansion and other pertinent topics. Discussion between the two groups began after campus administrators postponed the winter quarter job fair, citing worries about safety in the event of a protest.
Though a series of topics were covered at the Town Hall meeting including funding for the humanities programs, a lack of ethnic studies programs, minority enrollment, the demand for teaching assistants and increased workers’ wages, the largest number of speakers chose to focus on the recent violence at protests and demanded that the administration help Alette Kendrick—one of three student protesters who were arrested during an October demonstration directed against the UC Regents. Kendrick was charged with three felony accounts of battering a police officer and resisting arrest and is set to be arraigned this Friday, March 9.
One student displayed photographs taken at the October Regents visit to UC Santa Cruz featuring police spraying students with pepper spray, a student with a bloody scalp, a student with a rash covering half his torso, and Kendrick being pulled into the Humanities building by a police officer.
Kendrick was among the speakers.
“What I’m here to talk about is something really personal to me. It’s shaped my reality for the last five months, and I just want to end this process,” she said addressing the crowd.
Kendrick questioned the sentiments expressed in an e-mail sent out by Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal the day after the protest in which he condoned the police’s actions.
“We believe that UC police behaved appropriately and professionally in the face of threats to the safety of campus visitors,” wrote Blumenthal and Campus Provost David Kliger in the e-mail forwarded to the entire campus community.
Kendrick pointed out that the chancellor had only seen a police video of the events, and had not directly witnessed the police confrontation that lead to her arrest.
Kenrick, who is African-American, feels that the police targeted her because she is a woman of color. In her speech, she urged Chancellor Blumenthal to write a letter to the district attorney requesting her charges be dropped, and asserting that failing to do so, would be to “condone violence” and “condone racism.”
Blumenthal said that though he did attend the rally, he had to stay inside the Humanities building, where the Regents were listening to presentations from administrators and community members. He added that he convinced several Regents to come outside with him to speak with students on the condition that there would be a nonviolent response. No such agreement could be made, he said, so they remained inside the building.
One student asked Blumenthal if he would write a letter to the district attorney.
“The district attorney does not report to me, so I am not inclined to write a letter,” Blumenthal responded.
Another student wanted to know whether or not the administrators who were present at the meeting would write a letter. The chancellor and vice chancellor declined to comment.
Faye Crosby, chair of the Academic Senate, said that the way the question was worded put her in a box. She said that jailing Kendrick wouldn’t solve anything.
Bill Ladusaw, dean of undergraduate education, also said that he did not want to see Kendrick go to prison.
Afterward the Town Hall meeting, Kendrick pointed to the actions of UC Santa Barbara’s chancellor, Henry T. Yang, who she said had helped four students avoid jail time after they had been arrested during a Feb. 15 protest at UCSB. Kendrick said that the UCSB situation provided a clear precedent for the administration’s ability to intervene in judicial matters.
“Based on how [the administration] responded, the message is that they aren’t really concerned with fair process and with justice coming out of the situation,” Kendrick said.
Afterwards Crosby commented on the event in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press.
She said that there wasn’t enough information at the event. She expressed a wish to know more about the judicial process and was suspicious of requests to change the rules without more evidence.
“They did articulate their wishes but failed to present a cogent justification. That is a shame, but perhaps they will still find a way forward.“ she wrote.
The committee in charge of organizing the event has not yet decided whether or not there will be another Town Hall meeting in the future. Students interested in learning more can contact the Student Union Assembly.