Libraries Satyagraha

Pulling an All-Nighter to Transform the UC by some students, workers and faculty of UC Berkeley.

On September 24th, called to direct action by university faculty, workers and students, thousands walked out of the classrooms, offices, and labs at the University of California, Berkeley. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Sproul Plaza, in numbers not seen for decades. Our message bears repeating: “Whose university? Our university!”

Now, in defense of our university, in defense of public education, and in defense of our community, we’re opening the doors—and opening the books! As the Daily Cal reported on Monday, many campus libraries are being forced to close on the weekends due to budget cuts. We aren’t only losing our study space; major staff layoffs across the UC system mean that people are also losing their jobs. These libraries are the symbolic heart of the university. And the university will simply not survive if its heart beats only six days a week.

In response to this attack on education we are calling a “study-in” On Friday, October 9, [2009] at 4:30 pm in the anthropology library in Kroeber Hall. On this crucial weekend before midterms, when the doors of many campus libraries are supposed to close, we will say NO! We will stay, we will keep the doors open—and we will study for our midterms.

But we want to be clear that we’re not “taking over” the library. We are actively consulting with staff to ensure that the library and its contents remain safe and our “cleaning commission” will make sure that we leave things are in even better order than we found them. We have considerable support from university faculty, who will be present to offer teach-ins and facilitate dialogue during the study-in. Together, we’ll be reclaiming our libraries as a creative space for learning and teaching the issues we face during this budget crisis.

By taking this action, we are stepping up to our responsibility not only as members of this university and this campus, but also as Californians—as the owners of the university—to have an earnest discussion coupled with strategic planning on what we want public education to look like.  And we already know what public education doesn’t look like: the UC administration.

So let us be very clear that the “real problem” isn’t just the elected legislature in Sacramento, but the unelected UC administration. The Board of Regents is an undemocratic body, directly appointed by the governor and not subject to university oversight. UC President Mark Yudof has invoked “emergency powers” to systematically ignore the input, demands and alternative proposals of faculty, students, and staff. At Berkeley, Chancellor Birgeneau hired consulting firm Bain & Company for the hefty sum of $3 million, to “streamline” the “business” of public education and concentrate even more power in the hands of the UC senior administration.

And let us not forget that privatizing our university has been on the UC administration’s agenda for years. Student fees have increased by over 300 percent in the last decade. In 1993 the faculty/senior manager ratio was 2.5:1, this year it is 1:1. This increase in senior management has added an estimated $791,981,440 to overall UC expenses. In 2004 a different (also overcompensated) UC President signed a compact promising to seek private funding to enable the state to continue defunding the University. While overall University funding is slashed, the UC administration continues to be richly rewarded for its oversight of these cuts.

The purpose of our walkout was to take power back from the UC administration, by shutting down the university and waking us up to a common cause. On Friday, we’ll be pulling an all-nighter to reopen a part of the university that has been closed to us. So we ask all students to join us—study for your midterms and transform the UC at the same time!

SHARED INTENTIONS for the Study-in

  • We are gathering together in a manner that reflects the world we choose to create.
  • We will keep the library clean and leave it in a better state than when we found it.
  • We will devote space to studying as well as teach-ins and discussions, and respect the needs for silence and moderation in these spaces.
  • We will not destroy or damage or remove property.
  • We will deescalate conflict by practicing nonviolence.
  • We will maintain a safe space for people from many different communities by remaining conscious that we come from different histories and perspectives. Respect the experiences of others and own your story (use I statements, do not assume that you can speak for others).
  • We will support one another through this action and afterwards as well.

MORE GUIDELINES

  • We will use no violence, verbal, or physical, towards any person.
  • We will carry no weapons.
  • We will promote an alternative to systems of domination by acting with courage, love, respect, mutuality, compassion, and acceptance for the interdependence of all life.
  • Our attitude will be one of openness and respect towards all those whom we encounter during the course our actions. Our means are ends in the making.
  • We will promote the safety of ourselves and others through our actions and interactions.
  • Additionally, we ask that all individuals considering participation in a nonviolent direct action take appropriate nonviolence training.
  • If participating in a nonviolent direct action, such as civil disobedience, we will not run or resist arrest; we will remain individually accountable for our actions as a means of witness to injustice.

LETTER of a graduate student to the Chair of the Anthropology Department at UC Berkeley

Dear Prof. Joyce,

We haven’t had the chance to meet personally yet, but I’m a first-year Ph.D student in sociocultural anthropology. I’m also one of a number of students from various departments who has been working to organize a “study-in” this Friday through Saturday in the anthropology library. This Friday afternoon, prior to the library’s regular closing time, students, faculty, and staff will gather in the library with the intention of keeping it open from Friday until what used to be the closing time on Saturday.

I want to be clear that we’re not “taking over” the library. We’re in the process of consulting with staff to ensure that the library and its contents remain safe and in the same order we found them. Our decision to take action to keep the library open stems from a recognition of the immense value of this space and of the staff that tends to it, as well as its symbolic status as the heart of a thriving research university.

The university cannot survive if its heart only beats six days a week. This weekend — the crucial weekend leading up to midterms — students have been told that they can’t access their libraries. While the purpose of the walkout was to shut the university down in order to wake the people up, the purpose of this study-in will be to open up a part of the university that has been locked away from the students and the people of California.

We hope to create a space that is both conducive to studying and writing papers, as well as a creative space for learning and teaching about the issues we face during this budget crisis. It is our responsibility not only as members of this university and this campus, but also as Californians — as the owners of the university — to have an earnest discussion coupled with strategic planning on what we want public education to look like.

We have already garnered considerable support for this action. Approximately twenty faculty members have voiced interest in the study-in, and are currently deciding how they may best get involved. That includes members of this department who have offered teach-ins.

It is my personal hope as a new member of the Anthropology Department, that we — students, faculty, and staff — will have a visible presence at this weekend’s study-in. It is, after all, our library. I invite you, Prof. Joyce, along with the whole faculty, to support our efforts, to encourage your GSIs offer midterm study sessions the library, to join us, to offer teach-ins either inside the library or in front of it — to participate however you see fit.

If you are interested in holding a teach-in on the budget or related issues, please let me know of your availability before 10:30 pm tonight, when I will be working out the schedule. We are currently working on arranging childcare outside of the library if it will be helpful.

Thank you very much. I hope to see you this weekend.

Continuation of Satyagraha at UC Berkeley Libraries

From: Francisco “Pancho” Ramos-Stierle <pancho@mettacenter.org>
Date: Sun, Oct 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM
Subject: Successful Starting of Civil Disobedience.
To: thegeneralassembly@lists.berkeley.edu
Cc: Robert Birgeneau -Chancellor- <chancellor@berkeley.edu>, Dan Mogulof -Propaganda- <dmogulof@berkeley.edu>, “Mitchell J. Celaya III, Chief of Police -UCPD-” <mjc@berkeley.edu>, “Margo Bennett, Captain UCPD” <bennettm@berkeley.edu>, “Christina Gonzales, Associate Dean of Students” <cgonzales@berkeley.edu>, “Katheleen Gallagher, Interim head Anthropology Library” <kgallagh@library.berkeley.edu>, BeThePeaceUC <bethepeaceUC@googlegroups.com>

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducated the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the person who is not afraid anymore.” –César Chávez.


Namaste dear beloved brothers and sisters,

May this email find you well and full of courage, understanding and love.

The last nonviolent direct action at the Anthropology library will certainly set the tone for our future acts of civil disobedience: we achieved most of our goals and respected all our agreements.

Our movement is showing solid signs of maturity.

Even in the face of provocation, like when brother Frank Jaques from the police, broke (for a few minutes) our agreement and shared intentions of _no weapons_ inside of the library, our police liaison Be The Peace team remained respectful and active for our movement is about embracing human dignity. For future acts of civil disobedience, I only hope that this incident will serve as a lesson to avoid harming the trust we are building among all parties.

This time the siblings of the administration of the university decided to not enforce the law of men but to follow the law of love. This only encourage us to escalate our movement to open and reclaim more libraries and more public spaces. Even if the administration decides in the future to enforce the law of men, which most of the times is in fragrant disobedience with the law of love, we will be ready to take the consequences of our actions with courage, love, dignity and respect.

Today, I celebrate that, in some degree, the siblings of the administration are inspired, by our actions, to follow the path of harmony with the Universal Love.

But not only them followed the law of love: from the solidarity shown by librarians from all over the campus (including a delicious surprise breakfast on Saturday) to the support of sister Christina of Campus Life and Leadership; from the gentle heartfelt talks with the Anthropology library staff to the respectful communication with sister Margo and brother Marc of the UCPD; from silent non-stop studying, writing articles and papers to poetry slam and intense alive teach-ins; from connecting deeply with our comradely siblings in the movement to compassionate chats many of us had with a few so called homeless people who finally found a warm home, for a few hours, in our hearts and in the pages of a progressive revolutionary book.

This is only the beginning. If we want our nonviolent direct actions of civil disobedience to be successful in the long term, we must practice them again, and again and again. If possible, every single week until the incongruous law disappears from our universities; until the self-reliant people can rule the libraries with the law of love.

I look forward to continuing the transformation of our public education.

May all become courageous, compassionate and wise.

If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.
Planetizing the movement of the Ahimsa (R)evolution from some corner of our round borderless country…
Your always brother,

Pancho

The UC Berkeley Administration’s Response (October 16th, 2009)

The UC Berkeley administration has decided to reopen the libraries and return to the spring 2009 schedule, a shift that will be phased in beginning this weekend and continuing through November. The official announcement goes out of its way to diffuse any connection with the action carried out in the Anthropology library last weekend. But guess which library they decided to reopen first?

Saturday library hours to be restored

Thanks to funding provided by the Chancellor and Provost, Cal’s subject specialty libraries will receive funding to reopen on Saturdays, similar to last Spring semester’s Saturday hours.

This will be phased in, since the libraries need to hire and train new students to work in the libraries on Saturdays.

The first library to reopen on Saturdays will be the Education/Pscyhology Library in Tolman Hall, open Saturday, October 17 from noon – 5pm. As Saturday hours are restored in other libraries, we will announce them here and post them on the Library Hours page.

About Pancho

To live in radical joyous shared servanthood to unify humanity.
This entry was posted in ahimsa, ARTivism, education, fearlessness, noncooperation, satyagraha, soulforce and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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