After UC Davis police pepper sprayed students peacefully protesting the Occupy movement on Saturday, University of California President Mark Yudof announced plans to take immediate action against yesterday's aggressive, misguided dust-up. If you recall, some students refused to remove their tents from where they had made their camp on the quad, prompting school officials and police to use pepper spray at point-blank range in an effort to disperse a small group of linked-arm protesters. In response, Yudof plans on convening all 10 chancellors of the UC schools to review their protocols and policies.
Yudof also wants to "assemble experts and stakeholders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force."
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who received a moving yet hard-to-watch walk-of-shame last night from angry students, took ownership of the unfortunate mess at her campus, saying, "I take full responsibility for the incident."
Two UC Davis police officers involved have since been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Saturday's pepper spraying melee comes on the heels of another incidence of police behaving poorly (that's putting it lightly) at UC Berkeley wherein young students and faculty members were beaten by police during yet another Occupy protest.
President Yudof's entire statement is as follows:
University of California President Mark G. Yudof today (Nov. 20) announced the actions he is taking in response to recent campus protest issues:
I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.
I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.
Chancellors at the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses already have initiated reviews of incidents that occurred on their campuses. I applaud this rapid response and eagerly await the results.
The University of California, however, is a single university with 10 campuses, and the incidents in recent days cry out for a systemwide response.
Therefore I will be taking immediate steps to set that response in motion.
I intend to convene all 10 chancellors, either in person or by telephone, to engage in a full and unfettered discussion about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.
To that end, I will be asking the chancellors to forward to me at once all relevant protocols and policies already in place on their individual campuses, as well as those that apply to the engagement of non-campus police agencies through mutual aid agreements.
Further, I already have taken steps to assemble experts and stakeholders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes.
My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces. The sworn officers who serve on our campuses are professionals dedicated to the protection of the UC community.
Nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors. They are the leaders of our campuses and they have my full trust and confidence.
Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest.
As I have said before, free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.
In the end, though, the UC system might have to take out its checkbook if this goes to court.