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Tenants' Rights Week
by Jason Overman
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Thursday, April 25, 2002
Here's the Sample Column I'm submitting to the Daily Cal. I was supposed to do three, but since I'm busy with Cal-FACTS this week, I only had time for 1. Send comments, if you like.
Where Now, Berdahl?
I'm as surprised as any that the University Administration grew such big brass balls over the past year. You think you've got a Chancellor pegged, and then he goes out and kicks some ass. Who knew?
What else to call Berdahl's willingness to take on Students for Justice in Palestine after their recent protest on Sproul Hall? 41 students will be receiving Disciplinary Review, SJP is suspended from organizing at Cal pending Review, and the Progressive community is saying to themselves 'Whoa. Berdahl? Really?' As I write, SJP is holding an emergency meeting to plan a response. Chances are flyers and more arrests will be involved.
Granted, the University didn't have much choice in the matter. They thought that SJP understood the Deal: 'Nazi Flags, fine. Mass Protests, great. Don't touch classes.' Certainly the Deal was a pretty sweet one for SJP. Short of chopping off Yamulkes, they had free run of the campus for the day. But given 95% of what they wanted, SJP figured the University wouldn't mind them taking 100% after all. And why not? Talk is cheap; Berdahl had had plenty of chances to lower the boom before, including last year's invasion of Wheeler, and had backed down. This year, the boom lowered. Finally.
I'm amazed that the Administration took so long to comprehend the depth that their Credibility was broken. It took a forest of TV broadcasts, a pounding stream of newspapers, and an embarassing news conference before Berdahl realized: 'A group of cop-biters are going to shut down classes, and I'm going to go along with it. That's not gonna fly.'
Here's an excerpt from the pre-protest News Conference
REPORTER: What steps has the University done to defuse the situation?
BERDAHL: The role of the University is to try and understand, to educate people of the history, of the issues... to understand the suffering that has been experienced on both sides.. of conflicted issues like this. It is our hope that in the process that an achievement of understanding will develop a sense of compassion for people on sides with whom they disagree. At the same time, we recognize that this is a very very emotional issue, and it is not always one that is amenable to reasoned discussion
WHAT BERDAHL WAS THINKING: My God, I just went 88 words without saying a noun. Chances are even-odd someone will get beaten up tomorrow, and I just admitted I haven't put a toe in the water. I can't just take out another Daily Cal ad asking for 'reasoned discussion,' can I? Either I show my Administration can ensure the safety of students and freedom to go to class, or the next time I'll be asked that question will be before the State Legislature. It's time for Berdahl-ass-kicking. BOOYAH!
So now we're on notice: rules are lenient, but they will be enforced. The little plaques on the sidewalks that say 'this is the property of the University of California. Obey the law or leave,' are being dusted off and shinied up. We're gonna get a little law and order around here.
The rules are these: separation of Academic and Activist. Strictly. That means no Occupations, no blocking Sather Gate, no stealing California Patriots. Shouting is fine, protests are great, but they will be licensed and monitored. You may hold the key to World Revolution, but we have the key to the file cabinet containing your student registration. To signal this isn't a one-off thing, the Dean of Students summarily wasted 2500+ of Acacia Fraternity's money when Piedmont Broke the Rules. The message there: Don't break the Rules.
And oh my, are they going to be fought over it. The Administration has gone a long time without confronting Activists, through active policy and careful regulations. Now the full fury of the gale will be turned upon them. But it's for nothing; Berdahl knew exactly the perils of exercising his Droit de Seigneur over this campus, and he still went forward. Backing out means complete loss of credibility. The Line, once drawn, cannot be erased.
That guy you see welcoming students on Cal Day in a full suit is still Chancellor Berdahl. But underneath the Armani he has his ass-kicking boots on. We'll see if they fit.