Class Disruption Parallels April Wheeler Hall Protest

Chrissy Anderson, Michelle Borok and Lauren Chamberlin are PACS 10 student facilitators. Lara Lebherz is a PACS 10 student. Respond at [email protected].

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We are writing as concerned UC Berkeley students who wish to alert you to the events of Nov. 25, 2002 and their parallel to the April 9, 2001 protest in Wheeler Hall by the Students for Justice in Palestine.

Last Tuesday, in our 150-student Peace and Conflict Studies 10 lecture, 30 minutes into our two-hour lecture, two men from the UC Rally Committee entered our class, approached the podium and interrupted Professor Jerry Sanders mid-sentence. Sanders completed his sentence and politely asked them who they were. The men proceeded to explain to our class that they "had the Axe" from the Big Game, that they were going to many other classes in the building and wanted to "show it" to our class.

Sanders invited them to return at 2 p.m. after our class was over (it is important to note that Sanders allows the first 10 to 15 minutes of each class for any and all announcements and presentations). The Rally Committee members declined the offer and didn't leave the front of the room. One student raised her hand and explained to the men that it was rude to interrupt a class and that we were focusing on a very serious issue, and their intrusion was inappropriate. The men left. Sanders resumed his lecture.

Thirty seconds later, another Rally Committee member entered from the back door of the classroom and proceeded to the front of the class. She asked Sanders again if our class wanted to see the axe. This time Sanders declined. She left and the professor attempted to regain the focus of the class saying, "That is funny but this (our subject matter, human rights violations) is not." A few minutes later, the door at the front of the classroom opened to reveal a group of individuals clad in Rally Committee shirts and holding the Axe who began to enter for the third time. Two students calmly walked over to the door and asked the intruders to leave and reiterated the class' disinterest for the presentation. The Rally Committee group left and did not return, but their chants could still be heard until we began our film at 12:45 p.m.

We could not help but remember Chancellor Robert Berdahl's concern that "the interruption of academic activities (is) a serious problem" that "seriously compromised" our university's "core mission" and "the right of other students to an education." Nor can we forget the administration's consequent (and continuing) actions against the Students for Justice in Palestine protesters.

What we feel the administration is saying, in their irresponsiveness to this most recent disruption, is that the Rally Committee's sentiments regarding a football game are acceptable whereas Students for Justice in Palestine's opposition to human rights atrocities are severely punished.

We do not condemn school spirit; this is an issue of free speech and equitable treatment of all students regardless of motivation or message.

While we were disturbed by the disruption last Tuesday, we would oppose disciplinary measures against the Rally Committee as we oppose the measures being taken against Students for Justice in Palestine.

We speak out of our solidarity with many students in our call for a drop of the charges against the pro-Palestinian protesters.


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