AAUP Statement in Support of Free Expression in the University of California

On November 20, the national Council of the AAUP passed the following resolution:

Statement in Support of Free Expression in the University of California

On November 9, police officers dispatched by the administration of the University of California, Berkeley violently assaulted students and faculty who were peacefully protesting. The assaults are clearly documented in video recordings circulating widely on the Internet. Some students and a faculty member were arrested and several faculty members were injured. One faculty member was thrown to the ground by her hair, even as, in the great American tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, she was extending her hands and crying “arrest me.” It is sadly ironic that this assault on free expression took place on the Mario Savio Steps, dedicated by the University to the memory of the leader of the Free Speech Movement, which in 1964 established the fundamental principle that University students have the right to speak freely and demonstrate at the University so long as their actions are not violent and do not inordinately disrupt the University’s functions.

This assault has prompted broad outrage throughout the University of California’s ten campuses. On November 16, as many as 10,000 students, faculty, staff and members of the public gathered in Sproul Plaza as part of a University-wide strike. At the University of California, Davis on November 18 another peaceful demonstration of students and faculty was assaulted with pepper gas. Several students were hospitalized and others injured.

The AAUP joins our colleagues in California, including members of those University of California Faculty Associations affiliated with AAUP, in condemning these attacks and expresses its solidarity with those who have been unjustly attacked and arrested. All universities must make space for political dissent. Students and faculty must be free to decide on the form of their dissent and, if they so decide, to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience without fear of bodily harm arising from a violent administration response. We call upon the Board of Regents of the University of California and the University administrations to refrain immediately from further use of police against nonviolent protesters and, instead, to defend the rights of students, faculty, and staff to peacefully demonstrate.

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