Monday, April 16, 2012

Not Quite Right

(Editorial cartoon by Ted Rall and published 4/15/12 by the Sacramento Bee. Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Ted Rall's cartoon accompanied this editorial in the Bee on the pepper spraying incident at UC-Davis. Frankly, I think Rall got it more right than editorialist did. I generally agree with the paper, but not this time.

Protests on college and university campuses – including civil disobedience, disruption and, sometimes, violence – are not uncommon. In the current confluence of student and faculty concerns about the direction of the public higher education – and nationwide protests about inequality and economic change – wise university administrators prepare appropriately.

They reach out to students and faculty. They set clear guidelines for time, manner and place of protests. They prepare for demonstrations – including training and planning for students affairs staff and campus police. They meet with protesters to attempt to defuse situations. They prepare for the unexpected – what if a crowd gets out of control?

The editorial has it right, up to this point. The problem is that there were no "wise administrators," no guidelines to govern both the student protesters and the campus police. UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi did none of these things. And the Bee thinks she needs to change how she runs things. Keep that in mind.

The first action item has to be the Police Department. Police Chief Annette Spicuzza clearly has no authority over her subordinates, does not adequately express police concerns to administrators, does not attend key police operations briefings and has not established standards and protocols Californians should expect in a professional campus police department. The department needs a new chief. Katehi should say so, and get a search going.

Katehi also needs to take a hard look at her leadership team.

OK, so not only should Officer Pike lose his job, so should his boss, Police Chief Annette Spicuzza. But that apparently is as far as the Bee is willing to go, even after it details the failures by the school administrative leaders all the way up to the top. Katehi and her immediate subordinates get a mulligan, a do-over, even though nothing before the incident and nothing since the incident gives any evidence that the most basic issue, the First Amendment, has any meaning to the administrators.

I don't see any incentive for the UC-Davis administration or any other college administration to change under this scenario. In fact, this probably is the best example of what's wrong in this country and why the students sat down in that area of the campus to begin with: if you're rich enough or powerful enough, you can do whatever you want to whomever you want.

And people wonder just what the Occupy movement is all about.

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