Showing posts with label UC Davis pepper spray incident. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UC Davis pepper spray incident. Show all posts

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Abolishing the Campus Police: Is That a Good Idea?

 Davarian Baldwin, a professor at Trinity College, published an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, arguing that colleges should abolish their campus police forces. This is a terrible idea.

Baldwin began his article by mentioning two examples of alleged police brutality by campus police officers. One of these incidents took place in 2019, and the other in 2015.  There are approximately 4,000 colleges and universities in this country. Are we going to close down campus police forces because of a few atypical events?

If I understand Professor Baldwin's argument aright, he believes campus police officers often target nonwhite community residents and that their primary function is to protect the university's institutional interests. "The campus police function as the most visible form of urban renewal to clear city blocks and signal to investors, students, researchers, and their families that the area is open for business," Baldwin wrote.

But what about campus crime? This is Baldwin's response to a hypothetical skeptic who asks, "What if someone gets raped?"

[D]espite the widespread existence of campus police departments across the country, sexual violence and substance abuse among students remain prevalent. This policing failure could be, as some have argued, a matter not of capacity but priorities. Even with jurisdiction far beyond the main quads, the primary function of campus-police officers is to serve the university's interest. Bringing greater attention to white-on-white student crime would undervalue the institution's brand. In contrast, images of highly armed security forces storming city blocks reassures branding and business interests.

I find that argument difficult to follow. Is Professor Baldwin saying that campus police forces subordinate campus safety to universities' commercial interests? If so, I think he is wrong.

I don't disagree with everything Professor Baldwin wrote. He criticized universities that participate in a Department of Defense program that distributes military equipment to police departments, and I agree. The campus police do not need armored personnel carriers. 

But that is a minor issue. Only about 100 of the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities obtained military equipment from the Department of Defense.

I also agree with Professor Davis that campus police officers sometimes behave abusively.  The UC Davis police famously pepper-sprayed passive students in 2013, and very little was done to punish the offenders.  (If you want to see that incident, you can go to Youtube).

But university campuses have become virtual cities.  Some of them have 50,000 students or more on their campuses plus thousands of employees--professors, administrators, and staff people.  These people deserve on-site police protection.

Campus crime is an ongoing problem--something Congress recognized when it passed the Cleary Act more than 20 years ago.  That law requires colleges and universities to keep records of campus crime events and make those records available to the public.

Colleges and universities also provide campus housing for their students, and they are legally obligated to protect dorm residents from crime. In Mullins v. Pine Manor College, decided in 1983, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a verdict against a small, private college after a first-year student was abducted from her dorm room and raped.

More recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that a university has a duty to protect students in the classroom from other students that the university knows to be dangerous. In that case, a mentally ill student stabbed and nearly killed an undergraduate woman in a chemistry lab.

In my view, these incidents and hundreds of other criminal acts that have taken place on college campuses over the years argue in favor of a campus police force.

If Professor Baldwin's argument is that some police are poorly trained and mistreat community residents, let's talk about that. 

If the argument is that campus police sometimes behave abusively, as they did during the UC Davis pepper spray incident, let's talk about that. 

But to argue that the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities should abolish their campus police forces makes no sense to me at all.  And I bet it makes no sense to Mom and Pop, who send their sons and daughters to college in the expectation that the people in charge are committed to keeping their children safe.

We need better police officers, not fewer.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nicholas Dirks, UC Berkeley Chancellor, under investigation for "alleged misuse of public funds, personal use of campus fitness trainer"

The University of California rolls through scandals like a great battleship being assaulted by BB guns. Nothing seems to scathe it.

The University of California: The Teflon University System

Or--to switch my metaphor--the University of California might be called the ultimate teflon university system. Scandal slides right off it like a burned fried egg in a teflon-coated pan. Remember the UC Davis pepper-spray incident when campus police officers assaulted passive students with pepper spray--a weapon the officers weren't even authorized to use?

No big deal. UC simply got out its checkbook as if it were a middle-class householder paying the monthly bills. Around 20 or so assaulted students sued, but UC settled with them for a million bucks-mere pocket change. It even paid off one of the assaulting police officers who filed a disability claim, based on the stress he said he experienced from pepper spraying students.

Hey, that's only fair. If UC is going to pay off the victims of violence, it should compensate the perpetrators as well.

Then the Sacramento Bee reported that no fewer than nine UC campus chancellors were getting outside money from sitting on various corporate boards. Did anyone get fired for that embarrassment? Naah.

And then Sujit Choudhry, the Dean of the Berkeley Law School, was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate.  He stepped down from his deanship but retained his tenured professor's salary--more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Space doesn't permit a review of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi's various scandals. She is apparently on paid leave as the University sorts out nepotism allegations. But she's still getting paid, God bless her.

Allegations Against UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: A Nonstarter

And now Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor of UC's flagship Berkeley campus, is being investigated for allegedly misusing public funds. As the Los Angeles Times reported it, a whistleblower accused Chancellor Dirks of getting free services from a campus fitness trainer. In addition, Dirks's wife, a tenured history professor, took the trainer with her on a trip to India. There are also questions about a $700,000 fence constructed around Dirks's residence--installed to protect him from student protesters.

In my view, the allegations against Dirks are a tempest in a teapot. Getting free use of a campus fitness trainer is no big deal. The director of the UC Berkeley recreational center approved the arrangement, which the director compared to getting free tickets to a varsity football game.

The same trainer accompanied Dirks's wife on a trip to India, but apparently the Berkeley Alumni Association paid for this perk, so no public funds were involved.

As for spending 700 grand to build a fence around Chancellor Dirks's house, I say what the hell. If the project complied with University spending regulations--and it probably did--no wrongdoing occurred. I doubt any of the allegations against Chancellor Dirks are serious enough to get him fired.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: University President as Potentate

On the other hand, Chancellor Dirks is very well paid. He makes a half million a year, gets free housing and a generous car allowance. Can't the guy pay the cost of a personal fitness trainer?

Likewise, why is someone picking up the tab for Janaki Bakhle, Dirks's wife, to take Dirks's personal trainer with her on a trip to India? After all, Bakhle is a humble history professor. Where does she get off traveling the globe with a personal trainer paid for by the alumni association?

And let's face it; $700,000 is a lot of money to put a security fence around Dirks's personal residence. Berkeley's campus police defended the expense as a money saver. According to the UC cops, having a fence around the chancellor's house saves the university $360,000 a year in security costs.

But that defense is laughable. Was UC Berkeley really spending more than a third of a million dollars a year to protect Dirks's house?

The allegations against Dirks are a window into the world of a mega university president. These people no longer serve primarily as academic leaders. In their new role, they are more like a viceroy overseeing a British colony.  They get paid extravagant salaries, which are often padded with outside income and special perks like life insurance, car allowances, and palatial housing. They travel the world in private jets, hobnobbing with the global elites.

Meanwhile, if recent news reports are to be believed, a large number of college students aren't getting enough to eat.  Students borrow more and more every year to attend college and then graduate into a job market that puts nearly half of new graduates into jobs that do not even require a college degree. No wonder a large percentage of them regret ever going to college.

But Chancellor Dirks and his tenured wife are doing fine, thank you very much. And if the students get restless and protest escalating college costs, Dirks knows he can rest secure behind his $700,000 security fence.

Image result for "nicholas dirks images
Nicholas Dirks: Potentate of UC Berkeley

Nanette Aimov. UC Berkely law dean Choudhry resigns amid harassment scandal. San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2016. Accessible at

Jessica Dickler. College costs are out of control. CNBC, July 13, 2016. Accessible at

Conor Friedersdorf. A costly suspension for UC Dav's embatled chancellor. Atlantic, April 28, 2016.

Larry Gordon (2012, September 13). UC to pay settlement in Davis pepper spray caseLos Angeles Times (online edition).

Steve Gorman. University of California cop who pepper sprayed student protesters awarded $38,000. Reuters, October 23. Accessible at:

Diana Lambert and Alexei Koseff. UC Davis chancellor apologizes, will donate textbook stock to student scholarshipsSacramento Bee, March 4, 2016. Accessible at

Teresa Watanabe. UC Berkeley chancellor under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds, personal use of campus fitness trainer. Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2016. Accessible at

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Mess With the Man: Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan Gets Three Months In Jail

I lived in Alaska for nine years, a state that takes its wildlife very seriously.  If you were accused of bank robbery or murder, you could expect justice.  But heaven help you if you shot a moose out of season!

Cecily McMillan
America's elitist colleges have a similar scheme of skewed values. Our elitist institutions encourage students to focus on trivial issues.  When Dartmouth students took over the college president's office to demand gender-neutral bathrooms, Dartmouth treated them with utmost respect. Likewise, our elitist colleges are happy to entertain bizarre student demands to put warning labels on great works of literature.  Warning! The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains racist language!

Why do colleges put up with such mindless student antics? Because they don't want students to start thinking about true injustices: the cost of tuition, the out-of-control student loan program, the economic injustice perpetrated by the corporate banks and our federal financial policies.

No--when students protest about important things, the authorities come down hard. Remember the Occupy Wall Street protesters at UC Davis awhile back?  UC Davis police pepper-sprayed students sitting passively on a sidewalk.  Don't mess with Wall Street!

And Cecily McMillan, a graduate student at the New School, was recently sentenced to three months in jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City.  Ms. McMillan denied the charge, saying that she was only defending herself against a police officer who grabbed her breast. Personally, I think her only crime was to challenge the economic order in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.  She should have barricaded herself in a college president's office demanding an end to "abilityism."  The college president would probably have served her coffee!

Cecily McMillan

Yes, college presidents and professors will talk with students for hours about the rights of transgender students to go to the bathroom, whether the college endowment fund should divest itself of coal-company stocks, or whether warning labels should be placed on The Great Gatsby. But don't ask them about bloated tuition costs, excessive executive-compensation packages, or the ties between academia and the finance industry.  If you ask difficult questions, you are liable to get pepper sprayed.


James C. McKinley Jr. Despite Calls for Release, Activist in Occupy Case Gets Three Months. New York Times, May 20, 2014.

Jennifer Medina. Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm. New York Times, May 18, 2014. p. 1.