By Claire Walla
Thousands of students, over 100 faculty members and at least 20 campus organizations stand in solidarity with one student, Alette Kendrick, and on May 24, hundreds of them came out to demonstrate just that.
Kendrick, a third-year history major, has been making headlines since the Oct. 18 Regents protest last year where she was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts.
At a rally in front of Kerr Hall, just below Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal’s office window, people from all levels of university affiliation collected in support of Kendrick who on Apr. 25 received a three-year UC suspension.
The rally climaxed when the crowd turned to face the doors of Kerr Hall.
With thunderous chants, like “Where you at, Blumenthal?” and “King George come on down, no more playing around!” they beckoned Acting Chancellor Blumenthal to step outside and address the crowd.
Blumenthal made an appearance — sustaining sharp sporadic jeers and unmitigated verbal attacks with Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger by his side — but refused to elaborate on Kendrick’s case.
According to Josh Sonnenfeld, a member of the UC Activist Defense Group, Blumenthal’s appearance was very telling because it shows that activists’ efforts have been effective; but it was nowhere near satisfying.
“[Blumenthal] doesn’t seem to feel that 700 people from the community are important to listen to,” Sonnenfeld said after the rally. The administration is bogged down by legal processes, he continued, and is operating under a cloud of paranoia and repression.
Most ralliers hoped to hear him drop Kendrick’s UC suspension.
Kendrick was one of them.
“I can’t believe I let myself get my hopes up,” she said after Blumenthal and Kliger returned to their offices. Kendrick now faces an appeal trial on June 6: “I’m going to have to figure out how to do that.”
But Academic Senate Chair Faye Crosby, an attendee at the Regents protest last fall, voiced her opinion at last week’s rally as a member of the UC Santa Cruz Demonstration Response Team, saying she does not believe Kendrick’s sentence was unprecedented. “In what way did procedures operate differently for Alette? How has she availed herself of these procedures?”
Crosby went on to say that although protestors may think the situation is clear, it has to be read from many different angles.
Many at the rally attributed the severity of Kendrick’s suspension to a blatant act of racism. Many students and faculty, including civil rights activist and UCSC Professor Angela Davis, think it’s no coincidence that Kendrick — who is African American — received such a harsh sentence, while the two others arrested — both white — escaped minimally by comparison.
“How is it that a black woman is the target of the most severe punishment in the history of this university? How can we say race is not an issue here?” Davis said as she gazed out over the crowd of attentive faces.
Paul Ortiz, associate professor of community studies, agreed, which is why he and so many other faculty members stand in solidarity with Alette.
“I’m encouraging people to support Alette because she’s supported so many of us in the past, from the work she’s done with workers’ wages to her work against the war,” Ortiz told City on a Hill Press.
Sonnenfeld, who also helped organize the rally, continued, “What it comes down to for me is, what does suspending a student for three years do?
“Kicking her out of school won’t do a thing.”
Elizabeth Limbach, Will Norton-Mosher and Jose San Mateo contributed to this report.
Look to next week’s edition of City on a Hill Press for in-depth coverage of this issue.