On the Limits of Legitimate Protest: An Open Letter from UCMeP to the UC Community

We here at the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) were appalled by the actions taken on December 2, 2009 by an errant group of demonstrators who sought to disrupt the “non-political” commemoration of the 45th Anniversary of Mario Savio’s famous speech by pushing their own selfish political agenda. As hundreds gathered on Sproul Plaza for the free pizza and giveaways promised by the ASUC, this swarm of hooligans stormed the event bearing banners and signs that had nothing at all to do with the legacy and museumification of the Free Speech Movement. “Democratize the Regents”? “Reclaim Cal”?  What do those demands have to do with selling stale coffee and over-priced salads to undergraduates?

While none of us here at UCMeP actually attended the event (most of us were too busy gleefully re-watching YouTube clips of riot-gear-clad police pummeling students during the November 20th Wheeler “burglary”), we read all about how these lawless criminals failed to respect what the Academic Council has recently described as the “limits of protest.” Once again, a violent minority of trust fund anarchists turned to inappropriate and illegitimate tactics, which threatened everyone’s civil right to enjoy free samples of Naked Juice (which were generously provided at the event by Naked Juice’s PepsiCo distributor).

Faced with such formidable threats, it is no wonder that Homeland Security felt it necessary to close both Sproul and California Hall yesterday, fearing that a bunch of unwashed hippies might invade the administration’s hallowed halls to hold a drugged-out techno-rave and transform the Chancellor’s office into the prized site of a 24-hour drum circle.

Don’t these so-called “activists” understand that like the Free Speech Movement, the moment for taking action has passed and the time for opportunistic revisionism is at hand? You all have had your fun. Now just sit back and look forward to the opening of “The Movement Against Privatization Bubble Tea Stand,” which the next round of student fee hikes will be used as bond collateral to build. Take pride in what you have accomplished. Maybe in 45 years you too can come back to Cal for a celebration of your own on Sproul Plaza, which by then will have been renamed British Petrolium’s Sony BMG Square for Advanced Weaponry Research.

In the meantime, for those of you who feel you must persist in your misguided adventurism, UCMeP would like to offer two pieces of sage advice, both of which echo remarks made recently by Chancellor Birgeneau, the Academic Council, and others:

1. Remember who the true enemy is: democracy. Autocratic and undemocratically elected leaders like the Board of Regents and President Mark Yudof did not make this crisis (although they are trying to make the most out of it, if you know what we mean). Instead, as Chancellor Birgeneau has repeatedly affirmed in his letters to the UC Berkeley community, fault for the problems (or opportunities?) the University of California now faces rests with your state representatives. The fact that officials who were democratically elected have failed you so miserably just goes to show the limits of democracy and, more crucially, the danger of calls for the democratization of the Regents. This is why we here at UCMeP continue to commend the UC Regents and the rest of the UC administration for courageously making decisions that blatantly dismiss the interests and concerns of everyone else.

2. Make sure the protest tactics you use DO NOT threaten the daily operations of the university. After all, if business is not allowed to go on as usual, then the business of education will have a hard time going on at all. Is that what you are really striving for? Do you actually want to, as someone whose name really isn’t worth mentioning twice in the same letter once said, “put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and […] make it stop”?  Do you have any idea how much money that would cost?

So, as this somewhat uneventful semester draws to a close, we hope all activists at the University of California will head into 2010 heeding our modest advice. Not only will doing so help your movement’s marketability in the long-run, but it will also ensure the smooth and efficient privatization of the world’s premiere public university.

Faithfully yours,

The UC Movement for Efficient Privatization

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