The Wheeler Hall protest ended peacefully this evening when 40 protesters who had occupied the second floor of the building were cited for trespassing by UC Berkeley police and released. Thanks to the efforts of ASUC student leaders and faculty who worked with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande, Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost George Breslauer, and me, our police were able to defuse the situation and end the protest.
Throughout the day, the large crowds that gathered around Wheeler Hall necessitated significant police presence to maintain safety. It is truly regrettable, however, that a few members of our campus community may have found themselves in conflict with law enforcement officers. Overall, the officers who managed the day’s events did very well under difficult circumstances.
I understand that our students are justifiably angry over the fee increases and reductions in staff necessitated by the egregious disinvestment by Sacramento in the University of California. They are not alone in this. Clearly, we cannot allow illegal occupations of our buildings and disruption of our academic programs. Today 3,800 students were unable to attend class in Wheeler Hall.
We have a strong tradition of free speech on campus. Let us not forget that we are all fighting for the same cause: to maintain the public character of our university by sustaining Berkeley’s excellence and accessibility. Taking over our classroom buildings is not a productive way in which to advance our shared interests in gaining support for public higher education. Let us work together, not in opposition, to move forward our cause.
Robert J. Birgeneau