Please Sign This Petition for the Resignation of Chancellor Katehi and Show People That Student Rights Matter!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I mentioned in my last post the incident at University of California, at Davis, in which non-violent student protestors were maliciously pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police, who were called into by Chancellor Linda Katehi to remove the students.  If you don’t know about the incident, I recommend these two articles as a starting point: First, from Reader Supported News, an overview with several videos: “UC Davis Police Violence Adds Fuel to Fire.”  And next, an “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi” who is the Chancellor of UC Davis, written by a UC Davis faculty member.  Or just googling it should give you plenty of info to work with.

UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters blocking a walkway in the quad on Friday, 11/18/11. (photo: Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)

On Change.org there is a now a petition calling for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi.  I have signed it, adding the following comment:

I am deeply disturbed by what has happened at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and other college campuses around the country. I am a PhD student in the English Department of my university. I am also a Teaching Fellow and I teach Freshman writing classes, in which I try to support all voices and opinions while also encouraging civic duty and pride. I and some of my students have shown open support for the Occupy movements. I am horrified to think that this or something similar could happen to me or my students because we are demonstrating our basic rights to free speech and assembly. Perhaps you did not realize the police would be quite so cavalier and violent in their methods of dispersing the protestors at UC Davis (though I doubt that, as the police have demonstrated open willingness to use violent measures on nonviolent protestors), but that does not lessen your responsibility for calling the police to remove the students in the first place, and calling for a “task force” after the fact does nothing to change this. College administrations in this country need to be made aware that you (and they) CANNOT get away with this blatant disregard for student rights and safety, or things like this will continue to happen. You have proven that you do not have the students’ best interests at heart, and are therefore no longer qualified to be chancellor of any university. If you have any sense of what is right, you should issue a formal and heartfelt apology and resign.

I would ask that you sign it as well.  It takes only a moment.  You don’t even need to add a comment unless you want to.  I strongly believe that we need to show this chancellor, and all college administrators, that we will not stand for this.  Colleges are meant to be places for free thought and open discussion.  This kind of thing cannot be allowed to continue.

Once more, here is the link to the petition: “Police Pepper Spray Peaceful UC Davis Students: Ask Chancellor Katehi to Resign.”

Edit 1: I have just been sent another link on Twitter for another petition.  This one is a national call to “Condemn the use of tear gas and pepper spray (and other chemical weapons) on peaceful protesters in the United States” posted on whitehouse.gov.  This one only has a few signatures so far, so PLEASE sign!  I didn’t even know this platform existed, but I’ve checked and it does seem to be a legitimate page run by White House staff to allow the public to send petitions directly to the federal government.  This is a valuable piece of information to have, and I’m glad I’ve now learned of its existence.

Edit 2: Here is a fantastic explanation of the Authoritarian mentality in the U.S. that is at the root of the UC Davis incident by Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com: “The Roots of the UC-Davis Pepper-Spraying.”

Also, an absolutely WONDERFUL video showing the perfectly orchestrated, perfectly SILENT demonstration of protestors after Chancellor Katehi made an press conference.  At least 1000 students (perhaps more) surrounded the building and then cleared a path for Katehi to exit and walk to her car, the entire time surrounded on all sides by silent, shaming student protestors.

Thank you!  And please feel free to share your thoughts below!

A Schizophrenic Link Mash-Up

(Late) Free-For-All Friday: A Schizophrenic Link Mash-Up

Okay, so it’s saturday, but here’s my “friday” post.  Because I haven’t done one of these in a while, and because I don’t have time for much else, here’s a new blog/article mash-up of some of the things I’ve read over the week.  Just to warn you, this is a really scattered schizophrenic list of posts because… well, just because it’s the way I am.

First up, a couple science-related posts that couldn’t wait until Monday: “The World’s Lightest Solid”(which is less dense than AIR); and “Is the New Physics Here: Atom Smashers Get An Antimatter Surprise” which discusses new evidence provided by the Large Hadron Collider, which might explain the unequal amounts of matter and antimatter in the universe.

Next, two different explanations of yesterday’s police brutality incident at University of California at Davis, which is completely APPALLING.  First, from Reader Supported News, an overview with several videos: “UC Davis Police Violence Adds Fuel to Fire.”  And next, an “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi” who is the Chancellor of UC Davis, written by a UC Davis faculty member.

For writers in the audience, another open letter.  This one is from Sebastien Marshall, and it’s “An Open Letter to Simon and Schuester CEO Carolyn Reidy.”  I don’t agree with everything this blogger/author says, though I think many writers (both traditional and indie) would agree with at least the general sentiment.  It definitely offers some food for thought though.

Also for writers: yet another brilliant post from Chuck Wendig entitled “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law,” in which you will find Tribalism, writer mentalities, and Lord of the Flies analogies.  And which made me literally stand up and shout: AMEN, BROTHER! AMEN!”

This one is fun but a little long: a creative non-fiction piece called “Finally, an Asian Who Packs a Punch” which discusses boxer Manny Pacquiao and his cultural impact, written by Thea Lim (one of the nonfiction editors of Gulf Coast, the prestigious literary journal at University of Houston), and published on Salon.com.

Also published on Salon.com: “The Coming Out Story I Never Though I’d Write” from Steve Kornacki, one of Salon.com’s editors.

Then, an article about Catholicism and sexuality written by the friend of a friend named John Falcone, and published by Huffington Post: “The Catholic Church and Sexuality: If Only the Hierarchs Would Listen and Learn.”

Next, here’s one for women and men to both pay attention to (for somewhat different reasons): “‘I Need More Evidence,’ and Other Things That Probably Make You a Mansplainer” — ie, the ways men make women feel emotional and/or irrational.

For an example of the immense and never-ending stupidity of Congress: “US Congress Rules that Pizza is a Vegetable” — and if that doesn’t completely piss you off, I worry about you.

And finally, because we all need a good laugh after that, take a look at the “Mortal Kombat Tesla Coil WIN”!

So there you have it, folks. The very diverse (and somewhat insane) list of things I’ve read over the week (minus a few of the Occupy Wall Street-related articles, because I doubt you care to read ALL of the ones I read in a week).  Enjoy!  And I’ll see you on Monday.  Hopefully…

The Voices of the 99

Free-For-All Friday: The Voices of the 99

from occupywallst.org

Three weeks ago, on Sept 16th, something big happened.  It didn’t look big.  At first, it didn’t even sound big.  But the few dozen students in New York City who had decided to make their displeasure with corporate America known had started something they probably didn’t even fully appreciate themselves.  So no wonder few people realized at first what was happening.

from occupywallst.org

I am, of course, talking about the Occupy Wall Street Protests.  And now people are beginning to realize how big this has really become.

posted by @alexgoldmark on Twitter

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of New York City to protest corporate corruption, federal bailouts of banks, corporate personhood, and a variety of other problems related to the economy, corporations, taxes, and the job market.  And over the last couple weeks, to show their support and make similar protests, people in cities across the country have begun their own Occupy protests.  Just a few of these cities are Los Angeles, Boston, Minneapolis, and, starting yesterday, right here in Houston (which I’d love to go join, even for awhile, but school has prevented me from doing so).

For those interested in learning more about the movement(s), there are any number of websites you can go to, including:

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Together

Occupy Wall Street Adbusters Page

The NYC General Assembly

Occupy Houston (for Houston residents, obviously)

There are also quite a few news articles and blogs that look at the protests for a variety of angles.  Here are just a few:

“First Official Statement from the Occupy Wall Street Movement” (with some interesting and occasionally inflammatory comments at the bottom)

“There’s Something Happening Here, Mr. Jones”

“Top 5 Reasons Why The Occupy Wall Street Protests Embody Values of the Real Boston Tea Party”

The CNN “Seriously, Protesters” video segment by Erin Burnett (which takes a negative stance on the movement – I’m trying to show all sides here)

To say I’ve become a tad obsessed with this situation would be a tad bit of an understatement.  I am fascinated by the protests, the way the movement has spread across the country, and the variety of positive and negative reactions it has garnered.  I have collected almost every bit of news and social media coverage I can get my hands on.  I am archiving the #occupywallstreet, #generalassembly, #occupytogether, and #occupyhouston Twitter Feeds (and I watch them obsessively late at night when I’m done with my homework and should be going to sleep).  I’m collecting pictures of the various posters and signs people have made and posted on their websites and flickr and such.  And I am currently researching discourse analysis, activist rhetoric, and the history of protest movements in preparation for my plan to write a large Sociolinguistics paper on the discourse and language-usage as it pertains to the movement, and how people represent and index the protesters on Twitter and in the media.

I think a few of the critiques and insults against the protesters might be one of the more fascinating (and frustrating) parts of the whole situation.  Here are the three that seem to be the most common:

posted by @MWJ1231 on Twitter

1)     The Occupy Wall Street Protesters Stance/Demands/Ideology (ie, all that stuff they’re protesting), is so diffuse, so varied, so numerous (because they are trying to include everyone’s pet-complaint), that the whole thing becomes too messy, unfocused, and unorganized to be particularly effective or to be taken seriously.

Now, this critique is true in a lot of ways.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is attempting to work without real leaders, relying instead of group dynamics, the General Assembly, and consensus to make decisions.  This means that everyone involved gets a say in what happens, and many of the people involved, while focused on the economic/corporate corruption issue, also bring to the table many other issues that are sometimes obviously related, occasionally sort-of-tangentially related, and often not really related at all.  Thus, if you read the concerns listed in “First Official Statement,” you’ll notice plenty of things about corporate personhood, bank bailouts, CEOs giving themselves bonuses while laying off thousands of workers, etc; and then you’ll also notice things about animal cruelty, corporate farming, and other such things that I can certainly see as being sort-of-kind-of related (in the sense that everything is connected to some extent or another), but which are not (or should not) be the main focus.  This gives some observers and detractors the perception that the movement lacks coherence and focus and a real point.  I do not believe, in the long run, that these additions detract from the overall power of the movement, but it is a legitimate critique. (In contrast, I think this blogger’s much simpler version is probably more useful: “Submitted to #OccupyWallStreet for Consideration”.)

2)   The second big critique/insult against the protesters is the general claim that they are all “unwashed, lazy, hippies who don’t work, and live off the welfare of others and don’t pay taxes.”

posted by @sherrytalksback on Twitter

A) While there are, no doubt, hippy-types involved in these protests, the general stereotypes about hippies is just plain silly, RIDICULOUS, and insulting.  B) If you look at the pictures of those involved, or listen/read to much of the commentary from or about those involved, you may begin to notice (if you are open-minded and willing to listen to ANYONE), that a very large number of the people involved DO have jobs: they’re teachers, union-workers, small-business owners, service-industry employees, etc. and most (if not all) of them DO pay their taxes.  C) Quite of the few of the people involved are not working because they were laid-off, their companies went under, they are 20 and 30-somethings fresh out of college and unable to find a job ANYWHERE, etc. and most of them STILL pay taxes.

3)   The third major critique/insult is that the protesters are all communist and/or anarchist, who want to completely dismantle every corporation and business that is the foundation of the U.S. economy and essentially destroy capitalism as a whole.

First, of all, that’s just plain silly, and I want to know if anyone who says this has actually listened/read to a WORD the protesters have said.  Yes, whenever you have ANY sort of social movement you are going to have that tiny minority of people on the fringe who go to the absolute extreme and call for the total destruction of capitalism, blah blah blah.  Just as the Tea Party asks that the whole group not be judged based on the extreme racist comments of some of their members, so too should the OWS protesters not be judged based on the opinions of a very VERY small element within the movement.  The vast majority of the OWS protesters have been very clear: they want an end to corporate corruption, they want the CEOs of those companies responsible for the recession to be punished, they want their (legitimate tax-paying) jobs to be protected, they want proper oversight of corporate America, and they want to stop corporate America from running some very large parts of the government from behind the scenes.  This is not about destroying capitalism or becoming a communist country.  It is about real democracy, and it is about strengthening the economy through free capitalism instead of monopoly.

I have ranted enough about this for today.  I’d love to hear what you think about the situation.  You can, no doubt, tell that I have sympathetic to the cause, but I have no problem if you want to tell me why you disagree with the movement as long as you are civilized about it.  What do you think?  Any stories to tell?  Links to share?  Please, chime in!