Archive for November, 2011

“We cannot teach and you cannot learn in these conditions.”

It’s a sign of the times. A good friend of mine goes to Berkeley and received this email from one of his professors. He said it was sent out to the entire English department. He also mentioned that “they” (the student and teachers) have demanded the resignation of the chancellor and are planning an even larger protest this coming week (perhaps November 15th?!)

Dear students,

You will by now have seen many video clips of police violence against our peaceful protesters.  But I want to make sure you see this one:  a fuller
version of this video was originally posted on YouTube ( but later, after growing awareness that it documented the mistreatment of UCB faculty, was mysteriously taken down so that it is no longer accessible, as you will see if you click on the original link.  However, a secure copy of a portion of it–documenting the arrest of English professor Celeste Langan who is yanked to the ground by her hair after presenting her wrists for arrest–was fortunately preserved in a Baycitizen article.  This is the link:

This video also shows, though not as clearly as the original, English professor and poet, Geoffrey O’Brien, at the top left perimeter of the student crowd interposing himself, arms extended, between police and students.  This is, as I mentioned in class, the protective stance many faculty took two years ago.  The results were different this time. Professor O’Brien was later hit with batons–his injuries may take two months to heal–when he put his body between a young woman and the police who were beating her.

The physical and psychological abuse of students and faculty is inimical to the educational mission of our university and has no place in our community.  We cannot teach and you cannot learn in these conditions.  All of this is quite apart from our legal rights to assemble and speak.  The
violence exercised against us was no accident.  It was calculated and planned, as the following YouTube video shows.  This was taken in October
by an alert student who had the foresight to comprehend how it might prove relevant; let it remind us that in the current climate we must, sadly,
remain vigilant:

What happened last week may have surprised many of us (many of us can no longer be surprised), but it was no surprise to those who have been
planning on it for some time.

Many faculty and students are mobilizing to ensure the safety of our campus against those who should be protecting, not hurting us.  I want thank
those of you who have already begun to make your voices heard, and to reassure those of you who hesitate in this unconscionable climate of fear,
that there is safety in the growing numbers of people with and behind you. You don’t have to be ‘political’, just a person.

There are many powerfully responsive movements in swing; I myself have articulated strong support for a resolution of the Academic Senate (UCB
faculty) along these lines:  no weapons, no exterior forces on campus unless explicitly called for by the Chancellor.  Such a resolution would clarify responsibility for future violence against our students and faculty and lay the ground for future censure of those responsible (i.e. a vote of no-confidence).  A great many faculty have already signed a powerfully-worded protest petition.  Legal experts around the country are getting involved, and as are other national organizations.

Check out these links:

Berkeley City Council is behind us  (remember those tents by Berkeley High haven’t seemed to issue in violent beatings of protesters!)

Steven Colbert is behind us (and also funny, whether you are conservative or liberal!)–berkeley?xrs=share_copy

And this one is just, well, sad.

There is so much more to say and do, but I will end by saying that, in honour of my colleagues and my students–to whom I have devoted every day
of the last 17 years–and in honour of the principle and possibility of public education in which I fervently believe, we will not be having class next Tuesday; and by doing:  I will be participating, body and mind, in the strike/day of action (15th November), and invite you to join me and many,
many others who want something different for ourselves and for those who will come after us.

All best wishes (and don’t forget to study *Guy of Warwick* as an act of protest against those who would eradicate the humanities because it’s not,
well, lucrative; without us, it dies),

Jennifer Miller