Occupy the Library

Aaron Bady reports on yesterday’s UC Berkeley Anthropology library actions.


I spent the early evening yesterday at the Berkeley anthropology library, which was officially to close at 5 p.m. It did not, because Occupy Cal occupied it — after a resolution taken three days ago — and because a healthy squad of Anthropology professors organized themselves to be present in shifts, all night, and negotiated with the Administration to obviate the “necessity” of sending police to kick the students out. At 4:45, a work-study student announced that the library would be closing in fifteen minutes — to general approval — and then, at 5, he declared the “The Library is Now Closed!” A hearty round of applause and finger-snapping greeted this bit of cognitive dissonance from the 80 or so students still in the (small) library, and he smiled broadly.

The library did not close, and the students are still there this morning. Occupy Cal held a general assembly on one side of the space to discuss what to do next — which eventually reached the decision to vote on whether to take a decision now or later, and produced a perfect tie — and that eventually evolved into an interesting discussion between students and Anthropology faculty on what the role of faculty should be. I assume they’re still there. At some point last night Continue reading

Discussion 19 Comments Category Occupy Cal

writings of campus occupy & anti-privatization movements, installment four

This is the fourth installment of Reclamations’ compilation post, which brings together writings from Fall 2011.  Links to the other installments can be found below:

Installment One: August, September, October

Installment Two: November 1-15

Installment Three: November 16-30



Aaron Bady, “The Regency” (Dec 1)

In this post, published shortly after the UC Board of Regents took their meeting via teleconference at four UC campuses and voted for administrative salary raises amidst across-the-board cutbacks, Bady asks, “Who are these people who are entrusted with total power over the UC system?”  Drawing from Peter Byrne’s “Investor’s Club,” Bady presents here a succint exposé of the 26 individuals who constitute the UC’s highest governing body. A kind of introductory primer on the Regents, Bady brings together details of their profile to give a biography of the Regency that reveals how it is a group of financiers who have no or less than qualifiable background in education and higher learning.  It ends with a brief discussion of the Regency’s privatization schemes, arguing that UC’s funding shortfalls are more about investment losses than state cutbacks.

Asad Haider, “‘A New Aggressive Movement’: The Founding and Defense of the Santa Cruz Social Center” (Dec 1)

Haider presents a detailed account of the events and actions surrounding the establishment of the Santa Cruz Social Center.  Haider takes us on the ground, recounting how organizers of Occupy Santa Cruz appropriated a vacated, Wells Fargo-owned building at 75 River Street and declared it as a space of organizing, community, and shelter. He recounts the confrontation with and resistance to the Santa Cruz riot police, and the subsequent decision of the organizers to voluntarily leave. Haider ends by reflecting on what this decision means and the achievement of the Santa Cruz Social Center event as a form of direct action and protest.

Sensus Communist, “Interview” (Dec 5)

Interview with an activist and organizer at Occupy UC Davis. The interviewee responds candidly to questions regarding why he/she is involved, what the movement hopes to accomplish, their demands, and forms of protest.  Reflections on leaderless organizing, new forms of sociality grounded on “communal type society,” and an argument about the Occupy Movement as a generalized and generalizing struggle and social movement are particularly insightful.

Rei Terada, “Deligitimate UC” (Dec 7)

Delivered at UC Berkeley’s December 7 “Debt, Democracy, and the Public University” panel discussion, Terada reflects on the changing terrain of protest and action, and instructively identifies new areas of struggle and thus sites of possible interventions. In particular, Terada emphasizes the continued importance of the media; of finding ways to loosen and to usurp the administrator’s control over university functions and bureaucracy; and the need to galvanize cross-UC faculty participation.  Throughout her piece, Terada is sensitive to unequal distributions of control and power and the unevenness of value – both economic and social – across different bodies in the universities.  In doing so, Terada grasps the present moment in its dynamic complexity and renders concrete sites for urgent, critical action.

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writings of campus occupy & anti-privatization movements, installment three

This is the third installment of Reclamations’ compilation post, which brings together writings from Fall 2011.  Links to the other installments can be found below:

Installment One: August, September, November

Installment Two: November 1-15

Installment Four: December, January



Aaron Bady, “This is a Microcosm of All Sorts of Things” (Nov 17)

Posted in the wake of the UCPD’s second raid on the Occupy Cal encampment (which coincided with the annual ‘big game’-related festivities at UC Berkeley) Bady’s blog post juxtaposes the sanctioned activities of Cal fans with the unsanctioned activities of protesters.  The unheralded expressions of solidarity — in opposition to police violence — by students of color at Stanford are contrasted with the administration-sanctioned torching of a tower of wood meant to stand-in for Stanford University.

Bob Ostertag, “Militarization of Campus Police” (Nov 19)

An account of the now-infamous November 18 pepper spraying of seated protesters at UC Davis, as well as an attempt at contextualizing the violence of the 18th in relation to recent transformations in policing.  Ostertag oscillates between a reading of the Davis pepper spray incident as extreme relative to recent forms and protocols of policing, and a reading that sees this event as consistent with a broader militarization of policing in recent decades.

Nathan Brown, “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi” (Nov 19)

A call for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation in the wake of Lt. Pike’s pepper spraying of seated Davis students.  Brown’s letter contains a chilling account of the police violence on the 18th — detailing how they forced pepper spray down the throats of students, and how one of those attacked was coughing up blood hours later.  The letter presents the repression of the 18th as consistent with recent UC administrative responses to student protest (even if more shocking in some ways), and argues that resignations are the only adequate remedy to the chancellors’ cynical and callous disregard for the well being of students.

Robert Haas, “Poet-Bashing Police” (Nov 19)

An account, published in the New York Times, of Poet Laureate Robert Haas’ experiences on November 9, when he and his wife Brenda Hillman witnessed, and were injured in, the evening police raid on the Occupy Cal encampment.  The editorial contextualizes the struggle of November 9 in relation to a broader history of university privatization and of student-worker resistance to the undoing of public education in California.

UC Davis Bicycle Barricade, “No Cops, No Bosses” (Nov 20)

An attempt to expand and radicalize discourse in the wake of the police attack on November 18th.  The anonymous authors insist that the pepper spraying of seated students was an unexceptional act of police violence that reveals the need for sanctuary campuses and the disbanding of police forces, and that the violence was part of a concerted effort, on the part of UC administrators, to make the campus safe for the interests of transnational capital and thus to mediate, in structurally violent ways, relations between the world ‘inside’ the university with its various ‘outsides.’  The essay attempts to sketch out a course of struggle that would lead from current antagonisms to the realization of a self-managing, open university.

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writings of campus occupy & anti-privatization movements, installment two

This is the second installment of Reclamations’ compilation post, which brings together writings from Fall 2011.  Links to the other installments can be found below:

Installment One: August, September, October

Installment Three: November 16-30

Installment Four: December, January



Michelle Ty, “The Day Before the Day of Action” (Nov 1)

Following a sequence of sharp confrontations with OPD in late October, the Occupy Oakland general assembly called for a city-wide general strike, to be held on November 2.  Students and workers at a number of east bay schools and universities responded to this call by organizing solidarity marches, walkouts, and contingents to join the strike.  Ty’s essay emerged in this context, and circulated through UC Berkeley graduate student lists on the days before the strike.  Through an engagement with Benjamin and Luxemburg’s writings on mass and general strikes, the essay presents the general strike as an action that exceeds means-ends calculation and opens onto unexpected sequences of collective struggle.  Ty also details, with striking vividness, the subjective qualities of late-October confrontations with state forces.

Ben Webster, “The General Strike: An Incomplete Bibliography for Ambivalent Occupiers” (Nov 1)

Another post on the eve of the Oakland general strike.  Webster attends to Luxemburg’s distinction between the mass and the general strike (the former a bit more temporally variegated than the latter), while also discussing early twentieth century mass strikes in the US, particularly those enabled by IWW organizing.  The essay shows how the relative geographic mobility of the early twentieth century immigrant workforce in the US enabled rolling, spatially dispersed strike actions — a reflection that opens onto a series of provocative questions about how contemporary dynamics of class composition might shape in unexpected ways the form of upcoming mass strikes.

Emily Brisette, “For The Fracture of Good Order” (Nov 4)

An intervention in debates around property destruction and violence that reemerged in the aftermath of Occupy Oakland’s general strike, at which a series of bank windows were broken.  Brisette introduces the essay with a discussion of draft resistance in 1960s US, which periodically involved the burning of draft files by avowed pacifists, in order to insist upon the conceptual delineation of violence and property destruction.  The essay goes on to argue that visceral responses to property destruction are structured by capitalist social relations, and that working through and overcoming these responses is part of the work of being politically engaged at this moment.

Anonymous, “Why Occupy Cal?,” Occupied Cal Journal 1 (Nov 7)

Published a few days before the establishment of the Occupy Cal encampment, this anonymous essay shows how the tactics and concerns of the occupy movement easily translate to the university context, where unelected finance capitalists rule over indebted students and precarious workers, and where local administrators can call upon a university police force to repress encampments and building occupations.  This essay highlights the investment practices of those UC Regents most committed to university privatization, and suggests that students radicalized by the  Oakland general strike should initiate a university strike in order to reverse the relations of power structuring campus life.

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Writings of campus occupy & anti-privatization movements, installment one

This is the first installment of Reclamations’ compilation post, which brings together writings from Fall 2011.  Links to the other installments can be found below:

Installment Two: November 1-15

Installment Three: November 16-30

Installment Four: December, January



Zachary Chance Gill Williams, “UC Tuition-Backed Debt: A Logic of Governance, Not a Practice of Payment” (Aug 5)

One of a series of investigative posts on UC finance and governance that can be found at Williams’ blog, Good-in-theory.  University privatization is revealed here as a process that tends to de-link the sphere of instruction from other spheres of the University: student fees are now being made to cover the costs of instruction, while other university income is being diverted to debt repayment.  Countering the University’s claim that student fees aren’t being raised to offset construction costs or to reassure bond rating agencies, Williams offers a thorough defense of the 2009 slogan — “They pledged your tuition to finance construction” — while also detailing emergent logics of UC governance.

UAW 2865, “Privatization: A Very Short Introduction” (Aug 29)

In the spring of 2011, a pro-democracy caucus successfully contested the leadership elections of UAW local 2865, the union representing UC academic workers.  In the following months, newly-elected union activists began organizing for another round of anti-privatization protests.  As part of their early efforts, they released this educational and agitational pamphlet, which makes the case that privatization is not simply an inevitable response to acute state defunding, but rather is a longstanding agenda embraced by key UC Regents and Administrators.  The pamphlet also gives a brief history of recent anti-privatization protests, arguing that such protests were responsible for the partial and temporary refunding of the UCs, and for a number of other victories, including the maintenance of weekend library hours at UC Berkeley.

Daniel Marcus, “Six Pictures of Our Insolvency, Photo Essay,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)

Published as part of Reclamations Journal‘s pamphlet on student debt, Marcus’s photo essay depicts various aspects of loan-mediated student life. In one image, a glass prison is superimposed on UC Berkeley’s Memorial Glade, indicating the subtle constraints imposed upon students’ lives by deferred debt burdens. The essay draws out of everyday cultural objects (lego sculptures, film posters, and the flotsam washed up by google searches) histories of economic immiseration, while also re-imagining objects of high culture (Manfredi’s Apollo and Marsyas) in relation to contemporary struggles against mass indebtedness.

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A Few Unexpected Subjects of Class Struggle: Notes on Recent University Strikes

An entirely new word is being put forward by an entirely new subject. It only has to be uttered to be heard.
— Rivolta Femminile

Our universities are fraying at the seams. At schools throughout California, across the UK and in New York, we’ve seen waves of protest this November, including student walkouts and class cancellations unimaginable a month ago. As I write, another UC strike approaches, with others likely to follow over the coming weeks and months.

Our unsettled present is extraordinary, and unexpected. That much is clear to all. But there are different kinds of surprise, different reasons for shock. Some, particularly those speaking on national television, seem surprised above all at the severity of police attacks on our bodies and our encampments. They’re shocked at images of seated students casually being pepper-sprayed, or at the unrelenting baton blows endured by those of us who linked arms around a small circle of tents. How, they ask, could such violence be visited upon students, especially when they acted non-violently, only wanted to set up a few tents, and issued little more than anodyne calls for universal public education? Continue reading

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Letter to Yudof and Regents from California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Released: November 23, 2011.

President: Mark Yudof, President; Regents; Academic Senate Chair: Robert Anderson,
Ch: Robert J. Birgeneau
Academic Senate Divisional Chair: Robert Jacobsen
Ch: Linda P.B. Katehi; Academic Senate Divisional Chair: Linda Bisson
Ch: Michael V. Drake; ASDC: Craig Martens
Los Angeles
Ch: Gene D. Block; ASDC: Andrew Leuchter Continue reading

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Occupy Cal: Call for Open University Strike and Solidarity Actions on November 15th

Adopted by the Occupy Cal General Assembly

After a mass rally and march of over 3,000 people, and repeated police assaults on the Occupy Cal encampment, the general assembly at UC Berkeley decided on the night of November 9th — with over 500 votes, 95% of the assembly — to organize and call for a strike and day of action on Tuesday, November 15.  We ask that all classes be cancelled or held at Sproul Plaza.

The Open University strike is both a response to the University’s violent raid on the encampment, and an action against the defunding and privatization of public education in California. Continue reading

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Open Letter Regarding the Coming Nov 2 General Strike

Michelle Ty

October 30, 2011

The Coming General Strike

Dear Fellow Graduate Students: Continue reading

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