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Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

James Rowe*

The past three weeks have been very eventful at UCSC: counter-recruitment efforts, an amazing strike (we won that shit – when is the party?), April 18th at Tent University, The state-wide student walk-out… Something is in the air. It is important for us to keep up the momentum, but also to reflect and learn from our own successes and mishaps. In this contribution to the ongoing conversations, I’d like to focus on the controversies and questions surrounding Tent University. I want to unpack the crucial criticisms that have been raised around this initiative, while also acknowledging the hard work and perseverance of Tent U’s organizers. Most importantly, I want to emphasize how this undoubtedly problematic event has still managed to open a space of possibility for student orgs and ‘the movement’ these orgs may potentially become and power. In sum I think student activists need to simultaneously engage in critical conversations about Tent U, while capitalizing on the moment it has provided – however awkwardly so.
What was problematic about Tent U? The best criticisms I’ve heard thus far are these: 1) The event was put together too quickly. Ideally TU organizers would have had more time to meet with all relevant student orgs and discern not only how the initiative could best serve their interests, but actually become their initiative. Tent U was not given enough time to become a truly campus-wide initiative. Instead it was driven by a group of committed organizers hoping the campus would come along for the ride. Lots did. But many did not. This leads into the second criticism: 2) Tent U lacked the diverse student body an alternative university should have. Many students of color participated in Tent U throughout the week, but it is fair to say that most participants were white. The most circulated story communicating student of color discomfort and frustration with the space of Tent U was the scheduled MEChA meeting being displaced by a stubborn drum circle. This story clearly captures some of the more subtle ways Tent U frustrated interest and involvement from students of color. This frustration could have been partially abetted with the aforementioned longer-term organizing and relationship building.

But one problem that made Tent U’s cultural parochialism especially difficult to overcome was how this initiative – conceived at Rutgers in New Jersey – translated in Santa Cruz. At Rutgers, the whole point of a TENT university is to dramatize the displacement of higher education – the ephemerality and make-shift quality of tents signify how poorly prioritized education is for the state of New Jersey. This messaging got rewired in irie Santa Cruz. Instead of signifying skewed budget priorities, tents came to represent a better educational environment: more folksy, natural, grass roots, breezy, etc… ‘Tents’ have a different cultural meaning in Northern California than in New Jersey. Tents have been important resources and symbols for the dropout and back-to-the-land subcultures that have historically thrived here. While these subcultures have had multicultural inspirations – various First Peoples, Rastafarianism… -- they have been predominantly white. Thus Tent University Santa Cruz was laden with particular cultural codes even before getting pitched -- codes that attracted some, and repelled others. I have no idea how this dynamic could have been interrupted, but the Santa Cruz translation of ‘Tent U’ made it likely this event would become associated with a particular milieu more than the campus at large.

Thus Monday’s day of direct democracy was democratic for its participants, but did not adequately represent the students and orgs impacted by the decisions reached. The decision to hold the base of campus and potentially face the police had ramifications for all campus organizing – if Tent U organizers lost the ensuing media battle, organizing momentum would be stalled -- and yet was decided upon by activists from a particular milieu. Even if this was not the intention of Tent U organizers, what went down on Monday was understood in the media and on campus as a manifestation of THE student organizing community. Many folks were unwillingly spoken for on April 18th and are rightfully angry.

An understandable response to this frustration is to say: “Well, why didn’t you come down and speak for yourself, the space was open for all?? But again, without more sustained organizing and relationship building, and without some diversification of Tent U’s cultural coding, the space was not equally welcoming; it was overdetermined by the mores and manners of a particular subcultural milieu.

All these criticisms have been raised before. I have learned a tremendous amount from them – many of them only becoming clear to me in recent days! The spirit of solidarity behind these criticisms have impressed me – they have been guided by a pedagogic more than punitive sensibility. The productive conversations these criticisms spark will and should continue. But I also think Tent University has provided a modest opening that even righteously frustrated student groups can benefit from.

To grasp this opening, I think we need a clearer picture of what happened on April 18th. The two crucial questions raised by Monday night are: Why did the administration sick riot cops on a peaceful gathering of students, AND why were the students present SO determined to stand their ground for their right to camp at the base of campus – a right that was apparently peripheral to the rationales driving Tent U?

The first question has already been nicely addressed. The best analysis I’ve heard is this: The police were released to send a message to student activists who have been feeling increasingly empowered by a string of successful actions, mainly counter-recruitment efforts, and the strike. The administration’s authority was undermined by these events. Forcibly removing students from the base of campus provided the opportunity to reassert administrative authority AND replace felt power with felt fear among student activists.

The important point here is that for the administration, the students at the base of campus on Monday night were ALL student activists. Any divisions or nuances we know or feel were absent in the minds of administrators. As particular the participating milieu may have been, they took a painful hit for the student body Monday night. This point was grasped immediately, evinced in the impressive solidarity expressed for the arrested, and disgust for the arrestees. In other words, the administration’s purposeful desire to have a particular group of student activists stand-in for ALL student activists helped soften real divisions and frustrations – even if just for a moment -- among various student groups that Tent U was aggravating. Thanks Liz Irwin!

More importantly – and this is the crucial point – the events of April 18th and the amazing postering and video campaign that followed, have created impressive conditions for student organizing. Many people who have not been involved in any student activism this year are now right pissed! The disturbing/brilliant images generated on Monday night have communicated one of Tent University’s primary points – that the administration is not listening to students -- on a scale previously unimaginable. If the administration was suffering from a legitimacy crisis prior to Monday, things have only since gotten worse. Thus while internal debates must continue, Tent U has created good external conditions for organizing, even for groups ambivalent about this initiative. I think it would be a shame to let this opportunity for reaching out to previously uninvolved students slip by because of frustration and anger over how Tent U went down. That anger and frustration is real and righteous, but it would be politically unwise to let it foreclose the organizing space Tent U -- through its organizer’s work, the administration’s foolishness, and good luck – has provided.

To facilitate the use of this moment I want to retell the story of Monday night, complicating an interpretation that has real currency in current discussions, mainly that: “Monday night was about a bunch of rich white kids facing off with the police for no clearly articulated reason beyond the romanticization of a rarefied radicalism.? Firstly, while Monday’s crowd was predominantly white, there were student of color participants – the above narrative elides their experience. Secondly, I am quite sure a number of Monday’s participants grew up poor, and/or are experiencing economic precarity today. I don’t think ‘rich’ is a sound adjective for Monday’s crowd. These points made, elements of the above interpretation were undoubtedly in play on the 18th. The participants were largely unrepresentative of all the folks affected by their actions, particularly students of color whose communities are hurt most by the budget mal-distribution Tent U was meant to protest. On this point, the fact Tent U participants could choose to sit down, link arms, and risk arrest highlights a racialised division between the mostly white kids who have that kind of choice, and the mostly kids of color whose communities are subjected to police violence daily, and are not given the choice to walk away. This racialised division helps explain the ambivalence some student of color activists felt about the arrests and ensuing spectacle.

Staying on the critical tip, long or short-term strategy was not a significant part of Monday’s discussions. The following questions were not seriously deliberated: What is our messaging for the media, how might the possible police confrontation affect other student organizing on campus, how does fighting for the right to camp at Bay and High fit into longer term student goals?

The decision to maintain a 24-hour presence at the base of campus was not grounded in a clearly articulated rationale or strategic analysis. This is all very problematic. But I still want to suggest there was a deep core of intelligibility to the decision reached -- one worth unpacking. So why? Why the refusal to leave? Organizers had won a concession from the administration: daytime activities could run at the base and students could sleep at the quarry -- not a bad deal. And yet the consensus reached on Monday was that students would hold their ground. I was admittedly ambivalent about the decision. What did the right to sleep at the base of campus have to do with bursting student fees, exploited workers, and even free speech? The messaging was unclear, leaving the participating students susceptible to easy dismissal in the media and on campus: protest for protest’s sake, knee-jerk radicalism, infantile leftism, you pick the dismissive. A discredited Tent U would not only weaken the potential of that initiative, it would also complicate other organizing efforts afoot on campus. The stakes felt high.

And yet I still found it easy to go along with what I considered an unwise political move. Even the college provosts in my Monday discussion group who shared similar concerns were not too worried about the emerging consensus to stick with the base. Something was in the air. I don’t claim to be narrating everybody’s experience, but I think I finally get what it was.

A primary reason the consensus to stick with the base was reached and then carried out is precisely because the administration told students to move. Students held their ground because they have no faith in the authorities that were telling them to do otherwise. The core of intelligibility to the decision – one that was not carefully thought out at the time -- is that the participating students were tired of feeling disempowered, of not being listened to. Not moving was a way to perform that anger, to express it, to say fuck you, we stay. Why? Because YOU want us to move. You have not proven yourselves as advocates for us, power sharers, true educators. This event was meant to dramatize how low our regard for you has sunk. While camping here is not integral to the vision of the event, our refusal to move is a manifestation of how thoroughly you lack our trust. The refusal punctuates our felt knowledge that you are not genuinely interested in our education, our empowerment. We stay.

There are real objective reasons for these sentiments – the fact administrators have done little to halt the nearly 70% recent rise in student fees for instance! While these statistics were not being hurled at administrators on Monday evening, the feelings these realities create for students were manifest in the resolute refusal to move. The police violence that ensued only proved how intelligible Monday’s refusal was; it clarified what a low priority the student body is for the UC administration, a body to abuse and punish more than protect and nurture.

As intelligible as the student refusal was, its rationales were not clearly articulated. Nor were they balanced with strategic considerations. This left participating students – AND the larger organizing community – extremely vulnerable to a well run smear campaign. Imagine this alternative scenario: the administration sends cops in to give out expensive citations. Many folks leave, some remain. The administration relents and says the remaining folks can stay. That night they blitz the media and the campus community with the following message: “We’ve bent over backwards to accommodate campus activists with NO clear goals. If they had goals, then maybe we could help them, but we’re still not sure what they are. People were allowed to stay the night at Bay and High under police surveillance. We got multiple noise complaints from the neighbors, received reports of drug and alcohol abuse, are currently investigating an alleged sexual assault, and some hippy shat in the road etc etc…. We would have dispersed the crowd, but were worried students might provoke the police into violent confrontation. Higher fines will be given to people who try sleeping again at the base. We wish these students could explain their insistence on disrupting the neighborhood, jeopardizing the safety of their peers, and breaking the law. This is a perfect example of what we’ve been increasingly seeing on our campus: protest for protest’s sake.?

Thanks to the brilliance of whoever is calling the shots, this scenario never played out. We got ‘lucky.’ Our ‘fortune’ came in the form of the administration’s wildly unstrategic desire to corporally punish the student body. Our administration does not advocate for us, they readily sick riot cops on us, and are too incompetent to truly punish us when we leave ourselves vulnerable! Who are these assholes?

While Monday’s ill-considered refusal was only enacted by a particular group of students, the administration’s desire to make their pain universal has worked. Thanks to Monday’s batons, surgical gloves, courage, and flashing cameras, the refusal of a few has begun sparking latent frustrations within the entire student body. It is up to those interested in the emergence of a genuine ‘student movement’ to nurture and channel this frustration respectfully and responsibly. We have an opening. Let’s use it.

*Thanks to Sean Burns, Chris Dixon, Chanda Rosalyn Sojourner Prescod-Weinstein and Alexis Shotwell for helpful comments and criticism. Any analytic mishaps are, however, completely my responsibility.

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Re: Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

First off, thank you for taking the time to analyze and critique efforts. Growth rarely occurs without reflection and willingness to observe and correct if necessary. I'd like to add a couple thoughts to yours as well.

As for the event being planned too quickly. Maybe so. Maybe longer planning would have been better. But sometimes events get overly planned. Trust me, I've been to many events and conferences where all the passion has been ridden out and over process has happened so that it feels like just another university lecture. In some ways I'm glad the event happened as it did, and there is NOTHING to say that tent U II can't simply start to organize now!

Tent U was mainly white. Not to be rude, but as a student of mixed ethnicity (and yes I still consider myself a person of color), I offer the observation that UCSC IS mainly white. And before we become overly critical of the white organizers, Ican say that trying to organize amongst the various organizations on campus, is hard even amongst students of color. The problem as I see it, being here for 5 years and comparing to some of the colleges my friends go to is that this campus is VERY compartmentalized. You have spread out colleges, and you have off campus people and you have student organizations, but it's really hard to try and communicate to all. So what I'd like to see in the efforts to critique this event is to raise the general question...IN BUILDING A TRUE STUDENT MOVEMENT AT UCSC, HOW MECHANICALLY DO WE DIALOG AND COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER


Re: Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?


Mixed cultural messages: what tents mean to us. What I hear you saying is that to students of color, tents mean displacement, to white kids it means groovy nature. So in some ways this is right and some ways wrong. Yes some of my friends (students of color) tents would mean displacement. The might remind them of some of their early life, living in flimsy temporary housing. Some of my friends that are students of color, the wealthy ones (yeah there is such a thing) tents are cool, cause it represents vacation. I know some white students from working class and poor backrounds, tents mean living out of a car, being homeless, and to some tents are cool (the wealthy ones). So part of what I'm saying is that things don't just easily line up along ethnicity. One side of my family is native american. There is nothing wrong with a tent as a symbol there and there is nothing wrong with the back to nature folksy message in it. Part of my critique of some liberal groups (all ethnicities) is that they have their certain agendas but who fail to see the common ground. Your example of mixed tent messages offers such an opportunity....a teach in about commonalities in a movement and to come up with symbols that can have a universal meaning. The tent IS a good message for symbolizing displacement, and I know a few white students who ARE living on couches or in the forest because they CAN't afford housing at UCSC. AND I think that tents can represent the issue of educational environment, and the environment in general at UCSC and santa cruz. It's not wrong to ask what impact our educational opportunities have. THat's part of the bigger question I think some of us are asking WHOSE UNIVERSITY IS THIS? WHO IS PAYING FOR THE RESEARCH and WHO IS BENEFITTING? WHO is THIS UNIVERSITY SERVING IN the big picture, and not just us with our degrees? I understand how some people might not like the tent as symbol but I want all of us to get away from either or thinking. You still should try and help build a movement because it's in the interest of all students to fight for a STUDENTPOWER movement in whatever final form/symbols (tent U, Students first, justice first===whatever) it takes.

The criticism that the action on Monday night "spoke for all students" and now some groups are rightfully angry makes no sense to me. I've heard this from a friend of mine and we even debated it for 5 hours before we finally decided to end the fight. I don't get this criticism at all. My point from above is that there is NO STUDENT organizing group at UCSC. At least not a single one that speaks for all students. Student government doesn't, the queer student groups don't, the student of color groups don't, the religious groups don't. So since up to now there is not a single group that speaks for "all" students, there shouldn't be direct actions on campus? Is that why someone is angry? I understand that the media reported the protest from a certain angle, a very simplistic angle that gave the wrong impression, the media always does that. But you can't NOT PROTEST just because you're afraid the media is going to get it wrong. Corporate media ALWAYS gets it wrong, that's their job! And what's more, I'd like to say the same thing I said to my friend, that her righteous anger might be better directed to 2 other places. One, to the corporate media who will ALWAYS maginalize any movement seeking a voice and more importantly to the UCSC administration who sent a clear message that if you students don't stay where we tell you to go (i.e. the quarry, the back of the bus, your classes) then we're going to beat or choke the crap out of you. What happened monday night was a clear power play. Get angry that you are old enough to die in Iraq (and lots of people of color and working class Americans are) but unempowered enough that some old administrator can have you beaten if you don't stay in your student place.

To the criticism that : without more sustained organizing and relationship building, and without some diversification of Tent U’s cultural coding, the space was not equally welcoming; it was overdetermined by the mores and manners of a parTo ticular subcultural milieu. I say stop with the crap. Seriously. Most of my friends, at least those of us with good grades (and I'm talking people of color) are on our way to grad school, law school, med school, etc. We are often examples of first educational success in our families. For some of us, we've spent our whole lives fighting the greater predominant culture and society. If you come from a working class backround (white or person of color) there isn't tons of help out there for you. Most of us went to bad schools, we've had to work lots of jobs prior to and during UCSC, we've been often told overtly or not that we're not likely to become a doctor or lawyer etc. You can't not fight simply because there's no welcome mat out from white people. I'm tired of hearing from certain people of color that they won't participate otherwise. How pussy is that? You need an invitation to participate? I don't care if rasta white boy doesn't send me a culturally appropriate message, or that trustafarian white girl thinks she's native american because she dropped acid and went to the moutains and had a visionquest. My whole life has been about being in the minority and if I spent it waiting for culturally appropriate symbols and good vibes from white folks I'd still be working at Burger King. If you think Tent U or any comprehensive student movement or agenda is a stupid idea, fine. But if you see the merits in a student movement and the beginnings are there, then you HAVE to participate and DEMAND your voice be heard.

Why did the cops choke students? I don't care if you NEVER want to participate in Tent U or find its name offensive. There WAS a clear message in what happened on Monday night and if you cant see it you have no right to call yourself a political activist. What happened was territorial pissing. It was the administrators showing us who runs the show. It was a not-to-subtle message to students to stay behind the ropes. If you have had to deal with the University before (and if you read some of the other threads) you know that NOTHING happens without having to deal with a bunch of red tape. UCSC administrators obviously had many meetings over what to do with Tent U and the various scenarios that might play out. The fact that cops were brought in from UCB (and they were the same cops used to quell UCB student protests) should show that this was a clear exercise in showing who was boss. I'm sure that there must have been discussions about at what point might police be called in to arrest and what level of force might be needed. WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THESE MEETINGS? T WHO DECIDED that students in tents needed to be choked? That should be the question every student demands an answer to!

In regards to this point.. ...Monday night was about a bunch of rich white kids facing off with the police for no clearly articulated reason beyond the romanticization of a rarefied radicalism.? Firstly, while Monday’s crowd was predominantly white, there were student of color participants ...particularly students of color whose communities are hurt most by the budget mal-distribution Tent U was meant to protest. On this point, the fact Tent U participants could choose to sit down, link arms, and risk arrest highlights a racialised division between the mostly white kids who have that kind of choice, and the mostly kids of color whose communities are subjected to police violence daily, and are not given the choice to walk away. This racialised division helps explain the ambivalence some student of color activists felt about the arrests and ensuing spectacle. I really really really want to get UN-PC here. But it pisses me off when things get too simplistic. First off, not all students of color are poor. There are a number of students of color in the UC system who come from well-off families. Many of my Asian friends at 17 had nicer cars then my parents did at 45. I'm not saying all Asian students are rich, I'm just saying that simple ethnic or racial profiling of economic success isn't accurate. Secondly, just because someone comes from a community of color doesn't mean that they are used to police violence. Who is feeding you this crap? Again, depends which community you're talking about. If you are talking african american, most of my friends have been pulled over "driving while black" whether they come from Hunters Point or seems pretty universal. My Asian friends didn't experience police violence daily or even weekly or monthly or yearly. And if you are Cuban and grew up in Miami upscale you aren't subject to police violence and if you are Chicano it can depend on which community (migrant, working class, middle class, professional class) you are in which determines the level of violence you experienced. To say that white kids had more of a choice to get arrested is a simplistic statement which to me smacks of white guilt. Some of my relatives were involved in AIM and other first peoples movements. They are not wealthy and they have spent much of their lives living with white cultural and governemtal oppression. Once they started organizing a movement which sought power and empowerment, they became full on targets of FBI intimidation. They were not priv. white people and yet they chose to commit themselves to actions that could result in arrest or worse. Please stop reducing things to just people of color vs. white. Class affects alot of decisions, as does socialization.

The failure of tokenism . When talking to my relatives a few years back, in reference to the anti-iraq war protests, they told me about some of their earlier protests. They were telling me about how in one of their actions they were pressing to have more Native Americans on staff at a certain state college system. And they were slightly successful, meaning a 10 years later there was actually some native americans on staff and teaching. The only problem was that other than in a few instances, the Native Americans were conducting themselves the same way as the white administrators. To the extent that my relatives thought that having people of color would change the system, they were wrong. The people simply fit into the old system with a new face. Some wrote in another thread how the higher level UCSC administrators involved in this are white lesbians, a white female, and a Chicano. So on the face of it, you might expect some sort of restraint in the decision to arrest and how the arrests were carried out. But the reality is that no matter how you cut this, all the actors in this drama, acted just how you'd expect administrators to act. So what am I trying to say? I guess that part of my critique to this action is to pose the question as to what are the limits of single action politic and tokenism. Some of what I heard some people say is that tent u was too broad, or that tent U should have just been about one or two things ONLY. Something easily defined, something you could take to the legislature, like, vote yes on more student funding. But part of what I liked about Tent U and more important a larger student movement is to do what Martin Luther King did just before he was killed...which was to pose the larger questions, to connect the movements, to see how the need for civil rights coincides with a movement against a war fought by poor people against poor people. I want to stop looking to tokens as symbols of success (because they aren't) and start asking bigger questions. WHO DOES the University serve? And I'm not just talking about us getting our degrees? I mean, who does the research serve? Where is the student voice in decision making other than token voices on "foci groups." Where are administrators values lying? In perpetuating their jobs salaries positions vs. our needs and rights? What role does militarism and corporate needs play in UC vs. developing technologies that are environmentally sound, offer people empowerment etc? Yes these questions are broad and are not easily made into soundbites, but that will be the challenge in any movement that goes deeper than slogans and tokenism.

Enough courage and conscience calls out to others.

"While Monday’s ill-considered refusal was only enacted by a particular group of students, the administration’s desire to make their pain universal has worked. Thanks to Monday’s batons, surgical gloves, courage, and flashing cameras, the refusal of a few has begun sparking latent frustrations within the entire student body. It is up to those interested in the emergence of a genuine ‘student movement’ to nurture and channel this frustration respectfully and responsibly. We have an opening. Let’s use it."

Ill-considered? Lots of time went into the decision--to resist the administration's attempt to break up the community at night.

Does anyone dispute these facts? They are my understanding of what happened, as a Free Radio Santa Cruz programer on the scene who broadcast events that night and subsequently.

Tent U participants under threat from University administrators held an afternoon-long direct democracy session open to all participants.

After hours of discussion in a facilitated dialogue systematically infiltrated with UC administrators, they made a consensus decision to spend the night in a space accessible to the community.

Around 9:30 PM police from at least three jurisdictions arrived and announced a bogus "unlawful assembly". They vandalized tents, brutalized peaceful people with dangerous pressure holds on the neck in what was clearly an attempt to terrorize them into leaving, and struck some with batons. Those targeted were seated on the ground, determined to assert their First Amendment rights. Up to the present time, administration spokespeople have misrepresented these and other facts and decliend to be transparent or accountable for what happened.

This outrageous and selective behavior (no one else other than those seated were accused of "illegal assembly") provoked outrage, curiousity, and wonder throughout the campus and the city. More and more people began to show up and express their anger (again, non-violently though loudly).

This simple fact of people power and the spreading anger was more responsible than any subsequent negotiation for the decision of the administration to stop the arrests and withdraw the police. The police presence was radicalizing the campus.

At the same time, a small group of negotiators (reportedly from Students Against War) arranged a deal in violation of the previously arrived at consensus. Instead of supporting the participant victory or even taking their decision to the assembly there, the decision was made that Tent U participants would leave for the Quarry (this time with the administration allowing non-students to go as well if escorted).

Concerned about the fate of those arrested, a significant number (40-100) participants and organizers left to go to the jail to be in solidarity with those being held inside downtown.

The leadership generally urged and facilitated the backroom decision to abandon nighttime camping at the base of campus, with the exception of a small number of tent caretakers.

Tent University participants never resumed the proposed 24-hour open community at the base of the campus that had originally been planned and agreed upon. In the following days, there were direct democracy discussions, held under the shadow of the April 18th police action, that decided to move night-time camping to the Quarry.

The victory won on the evening of April 18th was abandoned within minutes, but its ramifications continue to reverberate. The community responded to dedicated peaceful sustained resistance to illegitimate authority with massive support. The administration, exposed as brutal and unreasonable, backed down. That lesson stands. It cannot truly be forgotten or obscured. "The people united will never be defeated"--unless they themselves surrender.

Deeper Questioning

I agree that one of the best things about Tent University was that it questioned the University administration. However, the University system itself hasn't really been questioned. Under an administration of extreme excesses (Bush, UCSC, etc.), people tend only to question the excesses. Universities are meant to the established system, with "human resources" for a future R&D/management middle class, "doing its jobs" as software in the system. Like [compulsory] public schools, higher education also has a hidden agenda to perpetuate the system, only at a higher level of the system. Of course, there is abundant "free," even revolutionary, thought at a university, but the university institution co-opts or trivializes passions with its systematic "education."

Also, discussions of Tent U have been framed entirely within the terms of a "student movement." The reality is that the University is an institution of privelege, and "equal opportunity" is only "equal opportunity" to participate in an unequal system. Students certainly should have "rights" (to be given by those in power) to organize themselves, but does a student movement truly free people? As nearly graduated student mentioned, these movements are really just tokenism, grasping for petty priveleges.

Re: Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

What Tent University established is that the Left is not even a ghost of a threat anymore. And thank God for that.
Sorry kids, but no one cares what spoiled college kids think about social engineering. Go back to class and study, but please stop making ridiculous demands.

Re: Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

"The only problem was that other than in a few instances, the Native Americans were conducting themselves the same way as the white administrators."

This may be the stupidest statement I have ever read.

Re: Tent University Santa Cruz: What Went Right, What Went Wrong?

A few comments,

1) My impression of James' article on the different connotations with tents here in Santa Cruz/West Coast and with tents at Rutgers was that it wasn't primarily an issue of racial differences, rather the West Coast has a long history of various tent establishments, such as the communes in the 60's, etc. that the East Coast did not have as much of. So that here at UCSC, the establishment of tents had a different cultural association. James also mentioned that the historical context for these various cultures involved in previous tent efforts shows us that they were predominately white.

I know that there was also a complaint by a student from the Student Association of Native American Indians (SANAI) on campus, complaining that the tent images used on the flyers were offensive.

2) In response to Robert Norse's comments that "a small group of negotiators (reportedly from Students Against War) arranged a deal in violation of the previously arrived at consensus." There's a few important points that need to be made.

* There were NO Tent U. organizers delegated by the group to talk with the administration. Almost all Tent U people had either been arrested or in lock down. The few Tent U people available for negotiations were visibly traumatized and not given the authority to negotiate anyways.

* A few seasoned Students Against War organizers who were present throughout the day were watching the actions unfold on Monday night. They found 1-2 Tent U. people milling around and spoke with them about talking with the admin. The Tent U. students agreed with the SAW students' suggestion. Following that, the SAW students spoke with UCSC's administration, only representing their personal beliefs, not Tent U., and said that the only way the drama would ever end is if the police left. They made no official deal, rather made a suggestion. Admin took this suggestion, called the police off, freeing some of the Tent U. primary organizers from the lock-down, who then proceeded to negotiate with the admin. The admin claimed they made a deal with the SAW students - there was no deal made - rather it was a suggestion that the admin decided to take. Tent U. organizers stated, at the time, that they appreciated the SAW students' help. They then took things from there and made an agreement to allow individuals to remain at the base of campus. This agreement was a SUCCESS for Tent U. in that they were able to keep some students at the base when the admin were initially fiercly opposed to it.

We need to be realistic here. Yeah - Tent University decided, prior to the police action, that they wanted everyone to stick it out at the base of campus. But once the police had been brutalizing students for hours, there was no opportunity to have a 'direct democracy' session and have everyone make a decision on what they wanted to do. During the action, Tent U. had no democratically appointed reps to speak with the administrators. They had NO WAY to do anything. The actions that the few SAW students took in giving suggestions to the administration, was an act of solidarity that the Tent U. organizers supported both before and after the conversations took place. They helped to give Tent U. a success - having the police called off - a victorious image.

Here's a question - if the cops started teargassin' people and everyone ran away from the site of Tent U. on Monday night - would there be people jabberin' about how this was 'in violation' of the previous decision made by the group? In times of direct action it is very important to have democratically elected negotiators and well-planned forms of structure to make decisions. If this is not done, things can become undemocratic and at times, problemmatic.

Following Up

It's useful to read "anonymous poster"'s clarification. S/he writes taht Students Against War members (though not as SAW reps) encouraged administration people to call off the cops and that released Tent U organizers then made the decision to make the "Success" agreement that involved abandoning the consensus decision to maintain the community space at the base of campus.

It would be more reassuring if we knew who these people were and if they could speak for themselves.

It would also be helpful to know if this "agreement" happened before the police left or after.

Even if the "agreementg" was agreed to in the panic of the moment while police were torturing parcipants, why not put "evacuation" decision to the victorious community for a consensus response after the police had left? And since that wasn't done, why not acknowldge that this was an error?

It's obviously impossible to arrive at a consensus decision in the middle of a beating or a tear-gassing, but once the police were forced to leave (through the courage and commitment of the resisters and their supporters and the sheer number of new protesters arriving), wasn't there ample time to sit down and consider what to do?

I hope the community continues to pressure the UCPD, the City Police, the Administration, and other responsible bodies for (a) restitution for the torture (we're talking money for medical expenses and pain and suffering) (b) a thorough overhaul of the bogus "free speech" rules, (c) clear discipline and/or dismissal of those responsible, and (d) [obviously] amnesty and apologies for the students re: any UCSC sanctions.

One good way to do this is to make a Public Records Act request for the transcript of all police radio dispatches on the night of the 18th--something customarily done in criminal and civil cases.

I've put in a public records act request for e-mails and university records considering UC admin/police discussions around "camping" and have received a pro forma reply that they're "working on it". I will post any info that I get when it arrives, but encourage folks to make their own requests.

Thanks again to the community for standing up to this kind of frightening violence. And that includes the organizers, whose decisions I disagreed with.


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