Debate, Not Vandalism, To Address University Budget

During the late evening hours of Friday, December 11, somewhere between 40 and 70 protestors rallied outside of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s home, leaving such damage in their wake as smashed planters and broken windows and outside lights, and even and threw what UC Berkeley officials described as “incendiary objects at the house, which could have cause a major fire.” The anarchists also were reportedly shouting “No justice, no peace,” likely trying to rouse the chancellor, as they macabre attack took place around midnight as he and his wife were believed to be sleeping.

By the time police came, only about eight of the protesters were rounded up, while the rest of the activists scattered. Those taken into police custody are currently being held on a bail set at $132,000 per head. As Chancellor Birgeneau said, the attack was “frightening and violent,” even for Berkeley, a city well-known as a hotbed of activism.

Some explained the attack as a response to the University of California fee increases. In November, the Regents of the University of California voted to increase student fees by about 32 percent in order to address massive budget shortfalls and a sudden lack of reliability in state funding. Attacking a university official is not only unlikely to enact change, but if anything, such an action will blow up in the faces of other peaceful protestors, and encourage university officials to take a harder line when dealing with rowdy students who pull fire alarms to disrupt classes and occupy campus buildings past hours to prove a point.

UC President Mark Yudof called the late night attack “appalling,” and went “far beyond the boundaries of public dissent, and such lawlessness cannot be tolerated.”

Governor Schwarzenegger echoed a more hard line and less sympathetic attitude in his response to the incident, stating that “California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders including educators.” Schwarzenegger called the attack a “criminal act,” the participants of which “will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.”

Both Yudof and Schwarzenegger have enlisted law enforcement authorities to take legal action.  As both the governor and the UC honcho expressed, a university is the last place where physical violence and intimidation should supplant reasoned debate. Anyone who truly cares about the future of the University of California system would not jeopardize student funding by being a part of such a heinous act. Students who truly care about the excellent (and reasonably low cost) education afforded them in this state, should be wary indeed of such extremists: as this horrible attack shows, university and state leaders will only tolerate so much from activist students. Anyone who cares about the UC system will study feasible funding alternatives and hit the books, not the chancellors.