Another protest erupts into violence, and we find ourselves once again asking who’s to blame. We analyze the situation blow by blow and wonder who threw the first punch, as if finding out will solve all our problems.
What happened on Science Hill Wednesday, Nov. 7 between police and students was inevitable.
It was inevitable before the first punch was thrown; when police officers equipped with pepper spray and batons stepped into their patrol cars for the day and headed up to campus; and when dozens of students left their homes in the morning equipped with facemasks and bottles of solutions to counteract the effects of pepper spray.
But bundles of bodies do not crash against one another because one person, or a few rogue instigators, have their own violent agenda. This violence is the result of deep-seeded issues, manifest simply in the fact that there is a stunning degree of distrust between administrators and students.
The administration has expressed a desire to increase dialogue with students, and has continually put forth efforts to work with protesters to effectively and safely get their message across, but not much has come of this.
Protesters ignored all channels of communication, prior to the Wednesday rally, that would go through the administration.
But students are not entirely to blame. At the Academic Senate meeting Friday, Nov. 9 Chancellor Blumenthal firmly promised that plans to build the biomedical facility on Science Hill—where protesters are currently camped—would continue: “We will take whatever actions necessary to move forward,” he said.
Of course students are angry. They are paying $20,000 a year to go to a school that’s already seen increased class sizes, decreased housing options and annual tuition hikes; a school whose Long Range Development Plan proposes increasing the student population by 4,500.
And yet nixing the Plan is not so simple. There are politics behind expansion and development that are tightly bound to the increasing population of the state of California, and the university’s promise to cover admission for the top 12.5 percent of high school graduates.
Furthermore, the administration claims that adding a biomedical facility will generate more money for the campus by increasing graduate studies and attracting more high-profile professors. This seems like an obvious plus considering that the state of California is facing a major budget crisis, which is causing cuts to education that severely limit the public school system more and more each year, to the point that the University of California now receives only about 30 percent of its operating budget from the state.
It’s not just the students who are unhappy; our administration’s hurting, too.
We’re all hurting, and no amount of pepper spray or tear gas will change that.
It’s time for the violence to end. It’s time for someone to take responsibility for building relationships before it even gets to bandanas and batons.