Saying he is “appalled” by heavy-handed police tactics against student protestors at the University of California’s Berkeley and Davis campuses, UC President Mark Yudof yesterday called for an immediate review of campus policies and procedures involving the use of force by law enforcement officials on campus and off.
“I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses,” said Yudof in a sternly-worded statement released Sunday. “I intend to do everything in my power as President of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.”
Videos taken last Friday, which have since gone viral, show UC Davis police using pepper spray on non-violent students who had locked arms as officers moved in to clear away their tents and other items from the Occupy demonstration on campus.
A week earlier, in a confrontation also caught on video, police at UC Berkeley are seen moving against non-violent Occupy protestors with their batons.
Although both campuses have already begun their own internal reviews, Yudof said “the incidents in recent days cry out for a system-wide response.” He said he’s reaching out to experts and stakeholders to conduct the review of police policies.
Meanwhile, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said this weekend that she has placed the two officers seen using pepper spray on administrative leave. On Sunday, during an interview on the campus student television station, Katehi identified one of the officers as UC Davis police Lt. John Pike. [UPDATE: This morning, Katehi announced that UC Davis’ police chief Annette Spicuzza has also been placed on administrative leave].
Katehi acknowledged that she has received many calls for her resignation, including one from Davis’ Faculty Association, which published an open letter to the chancellor on its website accusing her of “a gross failure of leadership” for calling in the police to shut down the Occupy encampment.
However, in Sunday’s interview on Aggie TV, when student journalist Ani Ucar asked the chancellor about resigning, Katehi said while she’s “thought very carefully about the messages,” she’s committed to staying at Davis to “make this university a better place from what it is right now, a great place as a matter of fact in terms of providing a learning environment for our students.”
She said she will be meeting with students tomorrow afternoon and has convened a task force, which includes students, staff, and faculty, and has given them 30 days to investigate the incident and report back. Katehi said her main concern is the safety of students.
Yudof is focusing his investigation on protecting the constitutional rights of students. “As I have said before, free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”