Debra J. Saunders

For nearly two years, UC delivered energy bars and water to trespassing tree sitters lest activists get hungry or thirsty and fall from a tree. Do not tell me that the university is supposed to take every precaution coddling activists breaking the law, then risk the safety of men and women dispatched to ensure the peace in dangerous hot spots.

Which leads to the other issue -- that student protest is practically a major at Berkeley. UC police arrested a professor for cutting the crime scene tape outside Wheeler Hall. Some students told the review board that they ended up at the Nov. 20 protest simply because they wanted to be part of "the Berkeley experience."

Unfortunately, this means, the review notes, "many students reportedly do not understand that disobedience of campus rules (even quite 'civil' disobedience) can affect their academic standing, that it can jeopardize their ability to continue their education here, permanently mar their record, perhaps even prevent them from receiving a degree whose other requirements have been satisfied.

"Moreover, the rules as written are not enforced consistently."

Not enforced consistently? Hey, it's news to learn that the rules are enforced at all. University spokesman Dan Mogulof told me that the Center for Student Conduct adjudicates these cases, but the majority of Nov. 20 "cases are still unresolved."

Please observe: The academic year is over.

What is the penalty for occupying a building? Associated Students President Noah Stern told me, "It is not clear what the penalties are for a violation." He added that due-process options slow down the system.

Student advocate Kelly Fabian explained in an e-mail that punishment for student violations could range from a "warning with community service to suspensions of varying lengths." Alas, that doesn't tell students much. If there is punishment, it is veiled.

I want to make this clear: I support all students' rights to protest and exercise their First Amendment rights. But students and activists do not have the right to take over an institution that is supposed to be dedicated not to protest, but to higher learning.

If students want to engage in civil disobedience that trespasses on the university's vital education function, they should be ready to pay a penalty -- like cleaning bathrooms for an afternoon. They're adults. They should know this. Yet the occupiers of Wheeler Hall included a general amnesty for civil disobedience as one of their "demands." They must think they have a right to dodge consequences.

Mogulof noted that the school wants to "communicate early and often with students about the time, place and manner rules that govern protest demonstrations and expression, to explain the consequences of violating those rules."

He's right, but there is a rub: If there are no consequences or no consequences within a meaningful timeframe, there's not much to explain, is there?


Debra J. Saunders


 
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