University of California Berkeley students protest tuition fee hikes.
BY HARRY LE GRANDE
As the home of the free speech movement, the University of California (UC) Berkeley accepts that student activism and protests are part of the campus culture. Following the civil unrest of the 1960s, the next wave of large-scale protests occurred in the early 1980s in an effort to raise the social consciousness of the university by pressuring the institution to divest interest
in companies conducting business in South Africa under the apartheid government.
Today, UC Berkeley may see as many as 20 minor protests
during a semester. Normally, such protests are planned by
an organized student group whose members work with the
student life staff to make sure that the campus Time, Place,
and Manner (TPM) policy is followed. The TPM asserts that
free expression is encouraged but must not interfere with the
university operation, teaching, and other’s rights to expression and may not damage or impede university property.
The policy further states that university facilities must be in
compliance with law and university policies, and individuals may not: block entrances or impede foot/vehicle traffic;
engage in physical abuse; disrupt teaching or administration;
possess firearms, firebombs, or other weapons; engage in theft
or vandalism; climb on or rappel from university buildings or
trees; or camp or lodge on university property. The policy also
states that individuals must comply with the instructions and
directions of university officials, including university police
and other police agencies.
Contrary to what the media often portray, the numbers of
students that participate in the new movements typically are
small, ranging from 20 to 100 student activists. Many students are frustrated with the economy and cost of education.
They are concerned about the job market and other factors
they will face following graduation.
Their protests address complicated issues, ranging from
repealing Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil
Rights Initiative) to tuition increases and immigration laws,
which often do not have readily apparent and available solutions. They remain idealistic enough to fight for change, and
often the campus community at-large agrees with the issue
but not the tactics employed to attract local, state, or national
Recent protest activities on many UC campuses have been
game-changing experiences in terms of speed of communication and mobilization of students. The addition of social
media and electronic communications has fundamentally
changed the planning and coordination of protest activities
on the UC Berkeley campus. Distributing fliers and holding
small group meetings to communicate protest activities has
been replaced with texting, blogs, real-time and edited
video, Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, and more. Large crowds
receive information, updates, and requests for action instantaneously and mobilize in quick fashion. The use of varied
media also breeds a great deal of misinformation and misinterpretation, often misportraying the response by senior
administration and manipulating what actually occurs during
a large-scale demonstration.