This week’s meeting of the Regents of the University of California, scheduled to begin in less than 48 hours, has been cancelled due to concerns about student protest.
In a joint statement this morning, the board’s chair and vice chair and the president of the UC system declared that they had “credible intelligence” that “rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting.”
A few notes on this extraordinary development.
First, we see again the conflation of “violence” and “confrontation” that I discussed this morning. There has, in the last 26 months of student protest in the UC system, been virtually no violence against persons perpetrated by activists. There has, however, been considerable confrontation. Given the notably mild character of this semester’s UC protests even in the face of startling police aggressiveness, the claim that violence was likely is difficult to credit. (Particularly galling is the statement’s claim that the meeting’s cancellation was undertaken out of concern for the safety of “students lawfully gathered to voice concerns over tuition levels and any other issues,” given the fact that the primary threat to such students’ safety in the last two years has been the UCPD itself.)
Second, the statement says that the meeting will be rescheduled for a later date “and, possibly, an alternate venue.” The cancelled meeting, like four of the last five UC Regents meetings — and like five of the six planned for 2012 — was scheduled to take place at UCSF Mission Bay. If the Regents now believe they can no longer hold meetings in their go-to location, where in the UC system are they likely to feel comfortable going?
Third, the joint statement declares that “a tuition increase was never a part of the agenda” for the cancelled meeting, but this is disingenuous at best. A proposal for annual 8-16% tuition increases was debated at the Regents’ last meeting in September, and that meeting was — according to the LA Times — originally slated for a vote this week. The likelihood of that vote occurring at the now-cancelled meeting dimmed as a result of opposition to the plan in September, but it remains on the Regents’ agenda for the current year.
Finally, there are three more meetings scheduled for this academic year, the next one in mid-January. Does UC really believe that the protest climate is likely to become dramatically more hospitable to the Regents in the next sixty days? Is there any realistic possibility that the student activists of California — and indeed the entire nation — will see this as anything other than a victory, anything other than an encouragement to ramp up their tactics in the future?