The campus community at the University of California at Davis is still reeling from the events of last Friday, when university police aggressively cracked down on a largely peaceful student protest.
The Occupy Davis movement comprised students and faculty members of the university who were protesting against precipitous tuition hikes and budget cuts. In a video that went viral on Friday evening, a police officer casually used pepper spray at close range at a group of students sitting motionless on the ground. Meanwhile, Occupy supporters who witnessed the incident began chanting loudly, “Shame on you, shame on you.”
Since video of Friday’s incident at UC Davis sparked international media attention, two police officers as well as Spicuzza have been placed on administrative leave. Katehi called the incident “horrific” and “unacceptable,” but the larger question on campus has been what role her leadership has played in allowing the incident to occur. A petition calling for her immediate resignation has received more than 64,000 signatures since Friday, but Katehi has said that she will not step down. On Saturday afternoon, Davis students staged a silent protest outside the building where Katehi was holding a press conference about Friday’s events.
“The police were called for nothing more than a very peaceful dismantling of the equipment,” Katehi said on Forum, a program on local public radio station KQED Monday morning. “They were not supposed to use force.”
Katehi stressed on KQED’s Forum that while she would take appropriate action against members of the Davis police force, the community “needs to move forward.”
Friday’s police action at UC Davis is the second high-profile incident of police aggression against students on university campuses. Just two weeks ago, members of the Occupy Cal movement at UC Berkeley clashed with university police wielding batons, resulting in several injuries. On Sunday, UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement with strong criticisms against police action against students in both Davis and Berkeley, saying he was “appalled” and would call for a meeting for all the University of California chancellors to discuss police protocols on individual campuses.
For colleges within the University of California system, these recent protests over tuition hikes are largely a continuation of mass protests that began in 2009, when UC tuition rose by 32 percent and has continued to rise ever since. At the Huffington Post, UC Davis faculty member Bob Ostertag writes that annual UC tuition was $5,357 in 2005, but currently stands at $12,192 and is projected to be $22,068 by 2015.