Dear Cal Campus Community:
I returned to Berkeley yesterday after a week-long trip to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai where we successfully advanced some important new partnerships that will benefit our campus.
While away, I remained in intermittent contact with Provost George Breslauer and other members of our leadership team and was kept informed, as much as possible, about the Occupy Cal activities on campus. However, it was only yesterday that I was able to look at a number of the videos that were made of the protests on Nov. 9. These videos are very disturbing. The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community. Sadly, they point to the dilemma that we face in trying to prevent encampments and thereby mitigate long-term risks to the health and safety of our entire community.
Most certainly, we cannot condone any excessive use of force against any members of our community. I have asked Professor Jesse Choper, our former Dean of Law, and current Chair of the Police Review Board (PRB) to launch immediately a review of the police actions of last Wednesday and Thursday morning. As is normal process, University Police Chief Mitch Celaya is concurrently undertaking an operational review of last week’s events. He has requested that it be conducted by a senior member of the command staff at one of our sister UC campuses. This report will be provided to the PRB. I am confident that Professor Choper will provide a fair and balanced judgment as speedily as possible.
We believe that we can best move forward by granting amnesty from action under the Student Code of Conduct to all Berkeley students who were arrested and cited solely for attempting to block the police in removing the Occupy Cal encampment on Wednesday, Nov. 9. We will do so immediately.
I believe that as a campus community we can and must join together and focus on our common goals – inducing the state to reinvest in public education, working to repeal Prop. 13, finding a way to reverse Prop. 209, and instituting reforms that will help California regain its status as the door to the American Dream through public higher education. Thanks to the efforts of our students who worked effectively with Assemblyman Cedillo, myself and other members of our campus community, we were able to ensure that the legislature in Sacramento passed AB 130 and AB 131 which Gov. Brown ultimately signed. This example of successful and peaceful activism with students and campus leaders working together can guide us in how we can collaborate to effect real change that will benefit us all. We share the aspirations of the Occupy movement for a better America. I am confident that as a campus community we will find a peaceful and productive way forward.
Robert J. Birgeneau
Chancellor, UC Berkeley