April 17, 2014
Santa Cruz, California
We recognize that violence is not always a meeting between bullet and body — or baton and body — a bruising of the flesh, a scarring of skin. Criminalization is a form of violence. It is an expulsion from society, a removal of the protection of “us.” When Chancellor George Blumenthal wrote, in his email to the UCSC campus, that the administration’s decisions to arrest 22 students “were reasoned, balanced, and in support of the entire campus,” he was consciously excluding those students from the campus community, and thereby marking all of the students who struck in solidarity with them as outsiders: people somehow lesser than the rest of “us,” less worthy, less valuable.
We reject the administration’s characterization of the strike as a “public safety threat.” It is imperative that the militarized police response be understood for what it is: a form of structural and political violence that manifests along lines of race, gender, class, documentation status and sexual orientation. One UCSC student of color who was detained, speaking at a noontime rally on April 3rd noted that getting arrested should not be romanticized—this student has an older sibling incarcerated and is not sure how this latest event will affect their family. This was an important reminder of the ways in which police violence moves through our schools, communities, and families, especially in the case of low income students, students of color, transgender students, and undocumented students. In the past five years throughout the UC system, students, staff, and faculty of color have been increasingly under surveillance as post-9/11 processes of criminalization and securitization have intensified. This hypervigilance toward particular student bodies is part of broader historical patterns of producing suspect subjects through racial and neoliberal discourses and structures.
By framing the strikes as a movement antagonistic to the University rather than a movement within and of it, and by anticipating and inciting conflict through the importation of riot police, the UCSC administration trafficked in historical forms of surveillance and imprisonment to pathologize and preemptively “criminalize” its students and workers, even before arresting them. We write to say that WE, as students of this University, are the ones who decide who is among “us,” and we stand together with our criminalized friends, teachers, and colleagues in the shadows of an administration that, through the consistent privileging of profit over education, has come to stand for nothing but itself, its own gain and its own perpetuation. If it is criminal to demand a say in class sizes and to organize as laborers free from intimidation and retribution from UC administrators and police, then we are all criminals. We reject this way of thinking; we, as actual practitioners and beneficiaries of pedagogy, must be granted the right to say what are and are not acceptable conditions for learning and teaching, and to decide those conditions. We write here to say that we have read your emails, Chancellor Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor Galloway, and we have witnessed the police actions. We live daily on this campus too, and we do not accept your exclusionary and divisive politics or your pointing fingers. If the students you proscribe are political “agitators,” as you seem desperate to paint them, we support their agitation, because it is in the service of the university we want, while your actions are violently disrupting it.
Moreover, the connection between neoliberal economic policies and state violence on and off campuses is not lost on us. The day after the strike at UCSC, 23 activists who called for an end to deportations and the reunification of families were themselves detained in San Francisco. Many similar deportations were overseen by the very ex-Secretary of Homeland Security who is now in charge of administering our public education at the UCs, Janet Napolitano. While the use of violence to silence dissent and manage labor is hardly a new phenomenon, Napolitano’s appointment as UC president is a clear sign that both the University and the state re-affirm its use in our schools and within our communities.
We stand against this trend and the structures and practices that support it and call others including our faculty and community members to publicly reject this violence too. We affirm that the students arrested and otherwise harassed and intimidated were not only peacefully, honorably, and justly standing up for their own rights, but acting in support of ours as well. We are in solidarity with the TA’s efforts to transform the university by increasing access to its most marginalized constituents. These include undocumented students (whose employment rights the university continues to deny), trans* and gender-non-conforming people (who need safe, wheelchair accessible gender-neutral bathrooms), black, latin@, Native, and other historically under-served students (who are especially negatively impacted by rising class sizes), student parents, and poor and working-class students (who are particularly badly hit by the university’s refusal to pay a living wage). We decry the neglect by the UC administration of its own mission and purpose — namely, public education — and we demand that they take it as seriously as we do, by acknowledging their wrongdoings and meeting the stipulations made by the teaching assistants union. We call for a campus free from the presence of police officers and the administration’s commitment to never again call for riot police in the event of a worker strike or student protest. We further demand that the UCSC administration pressure the DA to drop all charges against the 22, that it not pursue any university-level disciplinary actions related to strike and protest activity, and that it cease acts of intimidation and harassment of student-worker activists.
The Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Student Working Group
Steven Araujo, Politics, PhD
Neda Atanasoski, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies
Giulia Centineo, Lecturer, Language Program (Italian)
Adlemy Garcia, Undergraduate
Erik Green, Education, PhD
Trio Harris, Undergraduate
Lesley-Reid Harrison, Undergraduate
Sandra Harvey, Politics, PhD
Christine Hong, Assistant Professor, Literature
Alexis Kargl, Sociology, PhD
Ben Mabie, Undergraduate
Magally Miranda, Undergraduate
Omid Mohamadi, Politics, PhD
Jessica Neasbitt, History of Consciousness, PhD
Sheeva Sabati, Education, PhD
Bern Samko, Linguistics, PhD
Jeff Sanceri, History, PhD
Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies
SA Smythe, History of Consciousness, PhD
Max Tabatchnik, Politics, PhD
Megan Thomas, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Politics
Erin Toolis, Psychology, PhD
Delio Vasquez, History of Consciousness, PhD
Jessica Whatcott, Politics, PhD
Graduate Student Association, UCSC
African American Resource Center, UCSC