U. of California Outlines Ways to Improve Handling of Campus Protests

May 04, 2012

The University of California on Friday released a draft report about the system's police protocols and policies related to campus protests. It offers 50 recommendations on how the university should respond to future campus demonstrations, saying that some administrators and police officers need to shift away from a primary focus on maintaining order and that some protesters need to take more responsibility for the ramifications of their actions.

Mark G. Yudof, president of the 10-campus system, asked for the review after the police and students clashed last fall on the university's Berkeley and Davis campuses. The incidents included the pepper-spraying of student protesters at Davis in November, an episode that became a viral video phenomenon and a rallying point for the Occupy movement that spread from Wall Street to college campuses. A separate report released last month about the Davis incident highlighted a series of missteps by police officers and campus administrators that culminated in what the report called a "critically flawed" and unauthorized police action.

The report released on Friday is intended to be a look forward, identifying best practices to use in the future, rather than a look back at any of the specific incidents of last fall. Mr. Yudof asked Charles F. Robinson, the system's vice president and general counsel, and Christopher F. Edley Jr., dean of Berkeley's law school, to review the system's policies and practices related to demonstrations and civil disobedience. The goal, the report says, was to identify practices that facilitate free expression, robust discourse, and vigorous debate while protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, police, and the public.

"For some campus administrators and police, this will require a substantial shift away from a mind-set that has been focused primarily on the maintenance of order and adherence to rule and regulations," the report states. "For some protesters, this will require taking more responsibility for their activities as well, including by educating themselves about protest-related rules and considering the impact acts of civil disobedience can have on others in the campus community."

The university is collecting public comments about the draft document through May 25 and plans to issue a final report by late June.

The report makes recommendations in nine areas: civil-disobedience challenges; relationship building; role definition and coordination; hiring and training; communications with protesters; response during events; documenting activity during demonstrations; post-event review; and how campus leaders should work to put the report's recommendations in place. Many recommendations suggest ways to communicate more clearly, improve coordination among different groups of people on a campus, build trust and understanding, and amend policies to make them more explicit and provide a better framework to guide responses.