Police Review Board: An Opportunity to Learn

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Now that the long-awaited report of the campus Police Review Board which was due on May 31st has been received and there has been a flurry of initial reactions to its message and recommendations, we must focus on how to learn from it and move forward. We accept the report's findings that there were shortcomings in how the administration and police planned for and responded to the events that unfolded on November 20, and that lapses in communication added to the confusion of a difficult day.

As we have already stated in our initial response, the report's finding should be sobering for us all.

We have already implemented many of the changes recommended by the report. We are committed to fashioning policies and procedures that honor the University's commitments to freedom of inquiry and expression and to maintaining a secure and safe environment to support free speech and peaceful protests. At the same time, we also have an equally important obligation to ensure and protect the rights and interests of all members of our community, a responsibility that must be shared by us all.

Although the report, as per our request, focuses on the actions of the police and administration, we hope that it will lead everyone to reflect on the consequences of their own actions, including the initial, illegal occupation of the building, and on how the day unfolded.

With the support of our Academic Senate, we have begun educating our students on how to protest safely and about the university's Time, Place and Manner rules regarding public expression. We are also preparing to conduct a review of the Code of Student Conduct and the process by which it is administered and students will be involved in this task force.

One of the salient themes that emerge from the report is that we all face significant challenges when it comes to effective communication. While the number and variety of new communications media have grown exponentially, and there is more information at our disposal, there also seems to be less mutual understanding.

As we study the recommendations of the report, we need the engagement of the campus community, and particularly our students, to ensure that we continue to learn from its observations.

We will work to reach out to the ASUC, Graduate Assembly, Academic Senate and staff organizations as we review our response to its recommendations and plan for the coming academic year.

As the police review report pointed out, the demonstrators on November 20th were for the most part essentially leaderless, making it difficult for the administration and police to communicate with participants and respond to their demands. There are many avenues for concerns to be raised outside the realm of protest.

Both of us meet monthly with our ASUC and GA leadership to discuss issues raised by our students and to look for ways to meet their concerns. Other members of the senior administration, particularly our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri, have regular opportunities for students to engage with their portfolios.

The Academic Senate invites our student leadership to report at its divisional council meetings. We would encourage students to engage with us through the many avenues available so that we can move forward together in constructive ways, as we did very successfully, for example, on the initiative for revitalizing Lower Sproul. Together with the ASUC, we are planning a student forum for early in the fall semester.

The campus police review report concluded by encouraging us to continue to develop deeper understandings of the dynamics between us and to enrich and strengthen our connections. That is the learning that we hope we all take away from this report.


Robert Birgeneau is the Chancellor of UC Berkeley. George Breslauer is Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost.Reply to [email protected]

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