My post transcribing a speech by “Allie,” a student arrested at Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall on Friday, has generated a lot of response. Many of the early comments, unfortunately, consisted of criticism of the student’s use of the word “fucking,” but as the day has worn on more serious questions have come to the forefront.

One commenter in particular raises objections that I’ve seen a lot around the internet in the last couple of days, and they’re objections that I’d like to take a few minutes to address. The material in italics in this post comes from “David,” and my responses are in regular type.

I don’t see why the girl in this audio clip is so outraged by the arrests. An occupation involves trespassing. That’s part of the point of occupying a building, rather than sitting on the grass.

That’s one point of occupying a building, yes, but it was hardly the only — or even the primary — point of this particular occupation. The Wheeler Hall occupiers didn’t just take over the building. They didn’t barricade themselves in and shut it down. They opened it up. They held concerts and scholarly talks and review sessions and knitting circles. They discussed university reform and the budget crisis and state politics. They turned Wheeler Hall into — as Allie said in her speech — an “alternative model” for the university community. That wouldn’t have been possible if they’d just been sitting on the grass.

Violating the rules wasn’t the point of Wheeler Hall, and in fact some of the Wheeler occupiers were under the impression that they weren’t breaking the rules. On Tuesday evening word went out that the university had given the students permission to use the space through Friday, and students have said that they relied on those assurances when they made the decision to participate in the occupation. Yes, officials say they announced that the occupation wasn’t officially sanctioned, but that announcement was apparently taken as pro forma by some, and missed entirely by others. The doors to Wheeler Hall were open — the fact that someone was sleeping there at five o’clock on Friday morning doesn’t mean they were there to hear any warning that may have been given at another time, on another day.

Occupation as a tactic demonstrates that students are willing to raise the stakes, take personal risks, and interrupt business as usual. That’s why it’s powerful.

Absolutely. The students occupying Wheeler were committed to raising the stakes. They were taking personal risks. They were interrupting business as usual. (To be precise, they were challenging business as usual, not interrupting it — the business of Wheeler Hall continued during the course of their occupation, and was only interrupted after they were expelled. But that’s a quibble.)

Have we, though, reached a point in the American university in which anyone who is raising stakes, taking risks, and interrupting business as usual should assume that she is, by doing so, placing herself at risk of arrest on her own campus? Has the American university become so fragile that there is no room for pushing boundaries, no space for experimentation that hasn’t been formally and explicitly given an administrative stamp of approval?

Is that what we’ve come to? Is that where we want to be?

Of course, police coming in unannounced while students are sleeping is not a classy move, but what do you expect – tea and cake with your handcuffs?

The administration has said that they needed to clear Wheeler Hall to ensure that it would be open on Saturday morning. Students involved in the occupation have said that they were willing to guarantee that the building would be ready by then, but let’s set that aside. Even if we grant that premise, even if we concede that the university needed to clear Wheeler on Friday, we’re still left with very serious questions about the way that they chose to do it. Why were the students in Wheeler not given the chance to leave? Why was there no order to disperse? Why were the arrestees not cited and released? Why were they not allowed to put on their clothes before being taken away? Why were they taken to Santa Rita, thirty miles away and across a county line, and held there for most of a day, on the eve of finals?

The university has provided no answers to these questions. They may be questions that the university has no obligation, as a matter of law, to answer. But they are legitimate questions nonetheless, and it’s not just the students who were arrested who would like to have them answered.

Update: Here are some more good questions.