Pity a University of California peace officer, especially those assigned to double-standard campuses such as Berkeley and Davis where unrestrained free speech is reserved for those who pursue liberal causes.
The actions — or non-actions depending upon your viewpoint — of the UC Berkeley police are now being second guessed by many of the same people that neutered them in the first place.
Earlier this month a violent riot broke out among protestors offended that someone was expressing views that did not like at a ticket-only indoor gathering at the campus that’s the self-proclaimed cradle of the campus free speech movement.
The target of the protestors was Milo Yiannopoulos who some describe as harboring more than a few unorthodox ultraconservative views. Authorities say the crowd included 150 or so folks employing “Black Bloc” tactics wearing masks and dark clothing while armed with crude weapons to vandalize property. What they really meant to say was there were 150 anarchists who riot at the drop of a hat using relatively peaceful protests as a cover as the City of Oakland knows all too well.
The campus police are being slammed for not doing more to stop the riot that ensued that injured six and caused $100,000 worth of property damage. But what if they had engaged the rioters in a more aggressive manner? Even if the anarchists and others didn’t do any more damage than they did while being left to run wild through the campus and the streets of Berkeley had the police stepped up their response, the police would have been blamed for starting or fueling the riot.
They can’t win.
The roots of the current UC police riot policy goes back to 2011 during Occupy demonstrations at the Davis and Berkeley campuses. At Berkeley when 20 Occupiers refused to stop erecting tents on campus and pushed back against officers, campus police used batons to arrest 20 students. That was followed by a UC police officer at Davis pepper spraying non-violent Occupiers that refused to disperse during a sit-in.
Here’s the real challenge for UC system President Janet Napolitano. Given that tuition costs $13,500 a year and there are 250,000 plus students the University of California must first and foremost honor its commitment to educating all of those students. A free exchange of ideas is vital but who is kidding who when it comes to protests and activism. It is not OK to shut down a UC campus or any of its sanctioned activities just because people don’t like ideas being expressed whether they are from the Left or the Right. But more important it is never OK to destroy public property or conduct acts of violence against others. And while trying to find a balance with how campus police do their job is a no win situation, there is one thing that Napolitano can do that will help the situation. The UC system needs to make sure actions have consequences.
In a day and age where big government and big universities have the technology to collect reams of data on everyone whether it is through video or written words, it doesn’t seem that improbable that the UC system can’t determine who starts violent acts or sets the stage for them by repeatedly ignoring lawful orders to disperse once authorities believe a situation is about to spiral out of control. Those individuals, once they are identified, need to be barred for life from being a student or associated with a UC campus. Higher education should be a haven for free speech and not a haven for violence or those who will resort to other means to silence others’ speech.
Californians would not tolerate such violence and intimidation on public K-12 school campuses. Until such time the UC system ceases to collect a penny of state funds and repays the investment — with interest — that generations of California taxpayers have made in the universities the UC system need to be held to the same security, safety, and free speech standards as public schools.
And if those that create the problems aren’t UC students, the system needs to work with the California Legislature to significantly up the stakes for being arrested and convicted of charges of forcefully shutting down free speech and rioting.
The culture in place now at some UC campuses inspires mob rule and pack mentality. Hate speech, political correctness, and free speech are not the issue. One doesn’t have their rights put on hold by stepping on campus or enrolling as a student. But the reason there is a UC system is to educate first and foremost.
What needs to be investigated is not as much as how UC deploys its campus police as much as how UC has created a sub-culture supported by tax dollars that treats constitutional rights as situational based on political views and grading criminal acts as lesser evils when done within the context of a protest.
A garden variety arsonist on a UC campus would be dealt with much more harshly than an arsonist plying their trade during a protest that morphs into a riot.
Someone camping on a chancellor’s front yard illegally because they have no place to go would be treated differently than someone pitching a tent on a campus quad to protest the slight du jour.