Faculty React Differently to Protests

Photo: Campus faculty and students attended a teach-in on Wednesday night at the Eshleman Library, where faculty spoke out about many of the issues surrounding the upcoming protests.
Adam Romero/Staff
Campus faculty and students attended a teach-in on Wednesday night at the Eshleman Library, where faculty spoke out about many of the issues surrounding the upcoming protests.

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People who attended the Teach-In on October 6th talk about their reasons for attending and their expectations for October 7th Day of Action.

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After considering the scope of the Oct. 7 protests, UC Berkeley faculty are taking very different approaches regarding the day of action, from cancelling classes to conducting them as "business as usual."

Faculty have taken various steps on how to approach the day's events, including attending and speaking out at a teach-in Wednesday night. While only Professor of geography Richard Walker addressed the crowd about how the state budget crisis has impacted the university, other professors stood in the crowd, looking on and nodding or snapping in agreement.

"The state of California has lost its ability to serve the public interest. There has been no investment in the future for years," Walker said at Wednesday's teach-in. "We have gone from being neck-to-neck with New York in terms of good education to neck-and-neck with Arkansas. For education, the idea that you have to pay for it is extremely corrupt."

Oct. 7 is the second national day of protest this year in support of public education. Students, faculty and staff across the country will stage walkouts, teach-outs, sit-ins and teach-ins. For California, it is a continuation of protests last academic year that stemmed from state budget cuts, university fee increases and layoffs.

In the days leading up to the protest, many campus faculty addressed their students on how to conduct class. While some professors and graduate student instructors have said class will be cancelled or re-located off-campus, others said class will still be held on-campus at its scheduled time.

Many professors have contacted students, acknowledging their rights to protest either by not setting penalties for missing class or by stating they will allow students to leave class early. Some professors still holding class will tailor their lectures to focus on protests and the university's budget crisis.

Fiona Doyle, chair of the campus division of the Academic Senate, said while faculty members may choose to cancel class, they are expected hold make-up sessions for all students.

"Students are paying extremely hefty fees and certainly deserve every minute of the education for which they are paying," she said. "There is a general consensus where one provides one's students for the education for which they have paid."

Assistant Professor of English Emily Thornbury said in an e-mail that she addressed her upper-division seminar to see how to go about deciding what options her students felt were best in regards to handling the day of protest. In the end, she said, her students democratically voted to hold class.

Other professors have gotten more creative for the day of protest. Students in Professor Brad Erickson's anthropology class have been offered the opportunity to receive extra credit for participating in the day of protest.

Though Erickson could not be reached for comment, sophomore Eboneigh Harris, who is enrolled in the class, said students would receive extra credit by either skipping class and writing a paper on the importance of the walkout or by attending class but writing about why they chose not to participate.

Associate Professor of anthropology Lawrence Cohen said in an e-mail to his students that while he is not cancelling class, he will move to an alternate location and will hold office hours at Caffe Strada. He also said he will attempt to podcast his lecture for students.

"So many of our colleagues on campus have lost their jobs. Faculty are being lured away to far better funded institutions. Programs are being cut. And fees continue to go up," he said in the e-mail. "It is not my place to convince you that this Day of Action is or is not the means to protect and support the university."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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