19th 2011
Campus “police:” opportunistic thugs

Posted under: American history, jobs, local news, students, unhappy endings, wankers

Check it out:  UC Davis campus “police” pepper spray a cowering line of about a dozen students and drag them away.  Check out their SWAT-team gear.  I bet they’ve been waiting all year to play dressup and have some fun.

This video only confirms my already very low opinion of college and university campus “police.”  My personal experience on two different campuses is that they are thugs who hassle only people who are sure to pose no threat to them whatsoever, and that they leave the real miscreants alone.  I was working alone in my campus office one late Sunday afternoon at a former university when an amped up campus police officer with a billy club burst into my office without knocking and threatened me.  (He assumed that only a thief would have the light on on a Sunday night.  I assured him it was my own office and that I was working there legally, showing him my keys.)  At another former university, I was pulled over and ordered out of my car for mistakenly driving the wrong way an exit-only parking lot egress.  (There was no danger to anyone else–there were no other cars trolling around that parking lot anyway.)

But these are far from the worst stories I’ve heard.  A former student of mine–a truly gentle and inquiring spirit of small- to medium build who spent several years after graduation riding his bike through Mexico, Central, and South America–told me a truly horrifying story about being stopped and arrested for drunk walking across the Baa Ram U. campus.  He had gone to the bars with some friends, and being responsible young men, they walked downtown.  On their way back to campus, his friends went one direction and as he continued walking quietly by himself he was stopped by campus police who accused him (rightly) of being drunk.  He explained that he was 21 and just walking home, as he understood he should do when inebriated, and showed them his I.D.  These campus “police” officers illegally detained him and transported him to an off-campus drunk tank. 

Meanwhile, of course, I’m assuming that there were rowdy parties and all kinds of underage drinking going on, large parties where people were probably being sexually assaulted, but busting up those parties would be difficult and potentially dangerous.  It was much easier to harass and detain the solo drunk guy who wasn’t doing anything illegal or any threat to anyone.  I encouraged him to lawyer up and sue, but being a gentle soul I don’t think he did anything.

I saw a former colleague last night who left Baa Ram U. for the University of Chicago.  He informs me reliably that the UC campus police now patrol much of Hyde Park, not just the campus within its own boundaries.  This is what the modern police state looks like:  private police forces, accountable to no one, not looking for trouble but rather just looking for low-risk opportunities to remind the non-criminal majority who’s really in charge.


59 Responses to “Campus “police:” opportunistic thugs”

  1. Anonymous on 19 Nov 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Everybody talks about Berkeley. No one seems to notice that there are massive protests & abuses of police power going on at the Cal States as well. Here’s what happened this week, when students were (unsuccessfully) protesting yet another tuition hike that will leave them with a bill that is TRIPLE

  2. Anonymous on 19 Nov 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Sorry… hit “return” accidentally. To finish that thought:

    …a bill that is triple what they paid last year:,0,5046125.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

  3. Profane on 19 Nov 2011 at 10:39 am #

    We have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our offices, so long as they are not shared, so the police officer violated your fourth amendment rights in the first instance. You could have filed a section 1983 lawsuit for violation of your civil rights.

  4. Jennifer Goodland on 19 Nov 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I am thankful that the Auraria Campus where I work (in Denver; we have three colleges) took a much different approach to campus security. We have a fully licensed and bonded police force. There have been situations in which I do not agree with their judgment, but I think they have a better batting average than most other urban police departments. They take the time to get to know campus employees and build trust.

    This is especially impressive since our campus is host to a large soup kitchen for the homeless – and overall, the response towards the numerous homeless has not been to kick them out on sight, but to open our library doors and even provide public computer terminals. As a result, they are an asset to campus and not a “problem” to be managed, though every once in a while some administer who doesn’t understand this tries to change policy. And gets corrected.

    I feel much safer on campus with this approach than I would a few blocks away in downtown Denver – or safer than I did at the University of Denver, with its security.

  5. Anonymous on 19 Nov 2011 at 11:05 am #

    (And again, correcting: “Triple what they paid ten years ago.” Sorry for messing up your comments thread, Historiann. I guess I wasn’t destined to be coherent this morning. )

  6. Brian Ogilvie on 19 Nov 2011 at 11:21 am #

    To be fair, the University of Chicago police force has been patrolling Hyde Park, not just the contiguous Chicago campus, since I was a student there in the 1980s. It’s not a new development.

  7. Historiann on 19 Nov 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Interesting, Brian. My former colleague has only been there 4 years, so he probably doesn’t know the institutional history. He said that they expanded their patrol area due to the murder of a grad student recently, but it bothers him & he wants to move out of Hyde Park.

  8. Matt_L on 19 Nov 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Hey Historiann,

    My understanding is that the University of California police are similar to the highway patrol in that they have a state-wide mandate. I think this has been true since Reagan was governor and the Berkley student movement of the 1960s. Like ‘real cops’ the UC police exist to serve and protect the rich and powerful.

    In spite of Clark Kerr’s idealist vision, the UC system has always had an authoritarian streak. UC Santa Cruz was set up as a form of internal exile for the supposed “bad elements” (both students and faculty) at Berkley. The campus as originally planned and built was massively decentralized. Some critical infrastructure like the registrar’s office and the computing center were actually housed in bunkers. Now-a-days its like Singapore in the Red Woods with a business school, students who respect the dean, and the other accoutrements of soft authoritarianism.

  9. Canuck Down South on 19 Nov 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    I’ve always thought problems like this can be partially attributed to the hierarchy of second-tier police forces. Ie., if you’re an individual who wants to become a police officer, you probably first try to get into your highest-ranked local force, like maybe the state force, (if not the FBI), then you’d try the city force, suburban offices, then small exurban towns, etc…and how far down the list does the campus police come? Pretty low, I should imagine.

    I would hope that campus police are former municipal officers looking for a lower-stress environment (as I know the chief of the campus police at my current university is), or young officers trying to get experience to break into the bigger leagues, but sadly, I don’t think it usually works that way. At my undergrad institution, we called them the “campus cowboys,” for good reason…

  10. koshembos on 19 Nov 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Two students of mine suffered the heavy mental hand of the university policing; there was no violence except handcuffs that are an obnoxious American tradition.

    By its very nature, i.e. they deal with violence, criminal, the police is violent. The pepper spray was probably an execution of a command that came from up the chain. In other words, once the police is involved, violence will happen.

    OWS and other student protest are non-violent, not aggressive and even somewhat spiritual. Bloomberg, Quan, Berkeley’s president, UC Davis president are the real culprits. We all have the right to protest and we have the right to be treated decently without attempts to stop us. Sadly, we lost many of our rights and even our standing as part of a legitimate community.

  11. Chancellor Katehi’s Silver Tongued Bullshit « The Academy's Bench Warmer on 19 Nov 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    [...] equation in today’s post-procedural liberalism America.  And while I agree with ZZ and Historiann that the power-hungry UC Davis guard dogs were way out-of-control, I put most of the blame on the [...]

  12. Tony Grafton on 19 Nov 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    When I was a student at UC in the 1970s, campus police services were already starting to be extended, though it sounds as if they’re more aggressive and wider-ranging now. At that point there was a fair amount of random city police violence directed against students (a very orderly and law-abiding student, I was stopped at sawed-off shotgun point by tactical police while walking to the local Chinese restaurant). Even the law-abiding cops (this was Chicago in the age of 6 warning shots through the head) didn’t give the impression that they cared a lot about keeping Hyde Parkers safe. On the whole, to the best of my recollection, students were happy to see campus police (many of whom we knew by name in those older times) pretty much anywhere.

    But I’m sure much has changed.

  13. truffula on 19 Nov 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Campus security is one thing I think my university doesn’t screw up (apart from the labor side of it). Our officers’ pay is abysmal and they are spread too thin but those officers we have are thoughtful and in my observation, take the full measure of the situation before acting. They appear to treat everybody, even during violent confrontations, like a human beings. This tone, of course, is set by the chief. If ze believes in this kind of policing, that’s what ze will cultivate. I’ve seen this first hand in city police forces as well.

    I used to live in Hyde Park and your friend is right, Historiann, it can be a violent place, but so can anywhere. It’s just a matter of where the violence goes down, isn’t it? Out on the street in plain sight or up in the penthouse, hidden from view and from prosecution? Hyde Park is the only place I have lived where people–strangers–actually greeted each other while passing on the street. I had a lot of good people as neighbors while I was living there and I thought that shutting my eyes to the sea of trouble would have been morally dubious. After Chicago I moved to an east coast suburb where nobody knew anybody else and as far as I could tell, nobody particularly wanted to either.

  14. Z on 19 Nov 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Well – when a faculty member stalked me, campus and city police took it seriously and knew what to do, while the administration dithered. When one of my students exposed himself in his work group (this is the kind of reason I hate having to put people in groups the way we do now) a campus police person who was also taking the class, escorted said student out.

    This isn’t to defend UC police, it’s to rag on my administration.

  15. Katherine on 19 Nov 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    I didn’t have much experiance with the police at my undergrad, but a fair bit of contact with the Rutgers Police in part because I was at Rutgers Newark and the nature of an urban campus means that they are a lot more visible. They were always professional and I actually felt very safe on that campus, where as I never felt safe on the NJIT campus and had a much lower opinion of the NJIT police.

    I have no knowledge of where the NJIT police were recruited from, but I was told the Rutgers Police were recruited from the State Police academy so perhaps that is the difference. That said, the police chief for reasons that I always thought were technicalities, took almost a month to inform the campus of a rape in the undergraduate library last year. He claimed that because neither the victim nor the prep were affiliated with the school, and because he was identified and quickly in custody there was no reason to inform the community. I’m reasonably sure it’s still a Clery violation, and even if it is not, as a woman I would have loved to know where in the library not to be if I didn’t want to be raped.

    That said… my current institution (Princeton)’s cops are public safety rather than bonded police officers and my impression thus far is that they are around to make sure “people who don’t belong here” don’t disturb the peace of the future masters of the universe. The library is a fortress, and the only time I’ve ever seen them outside of their cars was to order people to stop skate boarding in front of the Woodrow Wilson school. Must be hard duty.

    As much as there are tentions between town and gown here I would absolutely go to the Borough of Princeton Police in a minute rather than Princeton Public Safety.

    Thinking about my dwelling on the library in those above examples (and the fact that I’ve always felt the libraries at UNC and NC State were veritable rape traps), I wonder if my assessment of the campus cops is more gendered than I have first thought.

  16. anon on 19 Nov 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I had pleasant experiences with the campus police in my undergrad days. They were city cops who seemed to like dealing with college students rather than more violent folks in other parts of the city. When I had repeated troubles starting my car and often needed a jumpstart (I had to have it worked on multiple times before the problem was solved), the cops would come help me even after the help desk told me to stop calling. The cop who always started my car told me that he had heard the call and came anyway.

    That being said, the reason they had city police on campus–I know because my advisor loved to tell this story–is because the private contractors previously employed there were reactionary, incompetent jerks. On one occasion, they confronted a man trying to steal from a cigarette machine in an office building. Drawing a gun, the campus security officer shot himself in the foot and then placed an “officer down” call which suggested that the (probably unarmed) robber had shot him. This caused a lockdown of campus. After a few such incidents, they turned to the real police.

    That being said, we have real problems with violence and the police these days. I don’t know that the friendly cops would have been so friendly if we had not just been fun-loving students. And there is something strange about having armed people patrolling on a university campus and putting down nonviolent student protest. I don’t know that they know of another way of dealing with this. Thanks for highlighting this Historiann.

  17. Nikki on 19 Nov 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    The UC Irvine campus was also apparently constructed to deter student demonstrations. The buildings ring a park which is hilly and rises towards the center–so that our annoy see the other side. Rumor had it that tunnels existed under the park–so that police could move freely underground should they need to.

  18. J. Otto Pohl on 19 Nov 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Security here at the University of Ghana are very nice. I have never had any trouble with any of them. But, California for a variety of reasons always seems to lead the Union in having various forms of trouble. So maybe this trend will become popular and spread?

  19. Historiann on 19 Nov 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks, everyone. There’s an interesting theme here of people trained & drawn from municipal police forces versus the less reliable & more thuggish private security companies. Canuck Down South explains the reason I’ve assumed there are differences between the two.

    TalkLeft notes that the Chancellor of UC Davis is calling for a “task force” to study the pepper-spraying & arrest of 10 students. That’s a move in the right direction–but a “task force” is a little too value-neutral about who’s to blame for my taste.

  20. Z on 19 Nov 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    UC system is very authoritarian.

    But jumpstarting car, yes, that is something university police have done for me quite a lot over the years – once again, outside California.

    I was a UC student for 13 years total, mostly on although there were years off between each degree, more or less. Never, ever dealt with a campus cop, never wanted to, even though I organized a union and walked on picket lines, somehow avoided them entirely, glad I did.

  21. Historiann on 19 Nov 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    UC Davis faculty association calls for the removal of the Chancellor.

  22. ej on 19 Nov 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I’m not able to follow recent news as much as I would like, so I admit that I’m not tuned in 24/7. But I find it astonishing that these protests on campuses and the occupy folks seem to be getting such little coverage on mainstream T.V. I do remember the Tea Party protests days, and they made it seem like those people where everywhere, all the time. If it weren’t for the abuse of power charges, I would never have known that students at UC Davis were even protesting tuition hikes.

  23. That's Grantastic! on 19 Nov 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Campus police don’t need the “police” quotes. First, because when they’re real cops, they’re real cops. Second, because their actions aren’t any more ridiculous or depraved than city cops. Faculty, staff, and students just aren’t used to being policed, that’s all. They tend to come from neighborhoods where you don’t see much policing.

  24. John S. on 19 Nov 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I’m too horrified and shocked right now to offer real commentary on the event (as some of you can imagine), but will be marching in solidarity with my students on Monday. But in one moment of levity…J. Otto, I thought your campus was constructed to prevent our future ape overlords from conquering the planet:

  25. Indyanna on 19 Nov 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    The officers at our place run the same gamut as any other category of individuals. But I have real issues with armed campus police with arrest powers at private universities, especially, whether they’re trained, “sworn,” deputized, bonded, or whatever. Their chain of command runs right up to an over-compensated private CEO, with none of the traditional constitutional or political mechanisms designed to keep the use of the police power in check in free societies. If the prez’ is tired of speeding on, say, Walnut Street (a concern I fully share, by the way), the guys on the three shifts by definition start doing more “stops.” Each of which is fraught with implications that run straight up to the usual battery of snarky questions by Anton Scalia. The Mandarin-speaking Pulitzer prize-decorated humanist who said yes to a dean’s post years ago and stayed on in administration is the weak link in the constitutional chain here, as I see it. If it’s a graft-taking moron of a mayor in the equivalent policy chain, ze can at least be voted out of office. This also–in the case of private institutions–constitutes part of the process of claiming ownership or control of “campus” spaces that are and should be really public by their very nature.

    On the “drunk walking” case cited above, I fully agree with Historiann’s critical analysis of it, although I think that in many if not most jurisdictions, “public intoxication” is indeed a detainable misdemeanor offense. It results in a lot of students who, yes, SHOULD indeed have pushed away that third pitcher, but who at least have the consideration for the safety of others to weave home on foot getting a probably needless record that may do them all sorts of harm. In this context, that tailgating tragedy before “The Game” in New Haven today is looking very interesting. It’s really past time to reel that functionless custom in.

  26. Historiann on 19 Nov 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I’m completely unsympathetic to undergraduate drunken asshattery, but I really don’t see how “drunk walking” can possibly be construed as criminal public intoxication. I knew that kid–kind of a ding-dong (he wore flip-flops all winter long–I never saw him with his toes covered) but responsible and entirely harmless (to anyone but his own toes, I suppose.)

  27. Indyanna on 19 Nov 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    I was visiting my old u-grad SLAC a year ago and the student newspaper–which claims to be the oldest such in the U.S.–was running a story about a new and Hispanic faculty member who was confronted at gunpoint in his office late at night by the campus police, made to spread-eagle on the floor, and then cuffed and stuffed. He was released on the way out of the building when the night-watchman/custodian told the cops oh yeah that’s a prof., he works late every night. I think the cops couldn’t quite believe anybody putting in unclocked overtime, but they deferred to the guy who knew the building. When I was a student there, I think night watchman was about as high as the law enforcement ranks ran on campus, and I don’t think we could have imagined any of the faculty actually “working” in the sense that I do now, after hours or otherwise. “Working” was what they did when they were teaching us. We sort of assumed they just knew all this stuff. Talk about clueless.

  28. Z on 19 Nov 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Observe salary of a UCD police lieutenant:

  29. J. Otto Pohl on 20 Nov 2011 at 4:48 am #

    John S.

    That photograph is from University of California Irvine, one of the ugliest campuses in the world. While I have visited the UCI library many times I have never been an employee there. My campus is the University of Ghana in Legon which is built in a beautiful colonial style of 1948. You can go explore the campus more thoroughly at the website below.

  30. Tenured Radical on 20 Nov 2011 at 6:49 am #

    Nice work here: in Shoreline, we have the Oligarch campus police, who are empowered to give tickets for moving violations on public streets, but seem unable to stop Oligarch students from swarming across Elm Street and stopping traffic for 5-10 minutes at a time as they change classes.

    One connection I would make is to the emergence of Business Improvements Districts, or BIDs, in the 1970s. Cities turn over the maintenance and policing of multiple city blocks to the corporations that own them. Indeed, Zucotti Park, site of OWS, was created in a deal between the city and Pittsburgh Steel back in 1968.

    Universities have a stake in policing their own space that is not dissimilar to Walmart’s stake: one feature of that is selective application of the law. Yesterday’s death at the Yale-Harvard game is one good example of such a balance, in which massive amounts of public and underage drinking are “regulated” on university property that the city has more or less agreed not to police.

  31. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Indyanna: I wish I could say I were surprised. I have often thought about how I, a relatively petite white woman, would have been treated by the thugs at my former unis were I a darker-skinned person, especially a darker-skinned man. That’s Grantastic makes a good point: for class reasons, most people affiliated with universities (at least those of us who work for them) aren’t used to being so heavily policed.

    (To be clear: I used the quotation marks around “police” because I was around in the 1980s when campus “police” were beginning to insist on being called “police” and not “campus security.” However, the linguistic switch seemed fraudulent to me, as the campus “police” I knew had never been to a police academy nor had they had any particular law enforcement training. But some of the comments above report different experiences.)

    Thanks, TR, for the information about BIDs. Appalling.

  32. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 8:30 am #

    And p.s. to TR: the moving violations versus mass moving violations is a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about in this post. It’s so much easier and lower-risk to stop an individual driver than to attempt mass crowd control. That would take planning and coordination and it would subject the “police” officer to the ire of the crowd, whereas a driver of a vehicle is contained.

  33. Perpetua on 20 Nov 2011 at 9:33 am #

    What happened at UC Davis is appalling, but I’m not sure it’s any different from what unfolded at Zuccati park in NYC. I’ve been hearing horrific reports circulating around – horrific both from the standpoint of police brutality against peaceable citizens, and the mayor’s attempts to keep the photos/story out of the press (including some arrests [?] of channel 9 reporters who didn’t obey his orders). Apparently, we have the Patriot Act to thank for Bloomburg’s ability to silence the press in this case. I don’t know much about the details, because I’m not on the ground.

  34. The Ron Swanson Scholarship in Women’s Studies : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 20 Nov 2011 at 9:37 am #

    [...] serious conversation about campus “police” brutality will continue below, but for those of you looking for a little Sunday morning light entertainment, see Amanda Krass, [...]

  35. Z on 20 Nov 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Our UPs detained and questioned my Mexican colleague for Mexicanness.

  36. Indyanna on 20 Nov 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    TR has it right, I think. Cities want to off-load jurisdiction over space, at least at the policing level, and are glad to do so to powerful institutions that are the proverbial “[third] largest employer in [XYZ city].” If campus police are, in fact, sworn to the law, the underlying code they enforce is uniform with that of surrounding polities, but the discretion they can exercise, either at the policy level or the patrol car level, shapes it to the particular interest of the institution. And, in the “Walnut” Street example I cited previously, there was definitely an “improvement district” component to the process. Even in cases where the overall goal (or result) of the process is agreeable, the structure of the system has disagreeable if not scary implications. [In the case of public universities, I guess you could compare their policing entities to things like transit police, housing police, or state and Park Service law enforcement rangers, and acknowledge that mechanisms of public control of their operations are at least theoretically in place].

  37. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Two UC Davis “police” put on administrative leave. The Chancellor refuses to resign.

  38. Anonymous on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    It’s nice to see such strong evidence that women in positions of institutional power behaved in a way morally superior than what men in similar positions would have done. Well done, Chancellor Katehi and Chief Spicuzza on your excellent handling of the situation. Oh wait.

  39. Digger on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    From the article H’Ann posted above: “UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza has said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene. “The students had encircled the officers,” she said Saturday. “They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.””

    Uh… if they needed to “get out” why did they pepper spray the students sitting quietly in the center, and not the ones at the edges? I’m guessing an “excuse us, we’d like to leave” would probably have sufficed.

    In Egypt, they turned off the internet so that the public couldn’t be their own media. It backfired, but they tried…

    The Chancellor is watched to her car:

  40. Elizabeth on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    No doubt that all of this is important, and we should think critically about the role and actions of campus police. But I’d also like to say that I was grateful to the campus officer to stopped when I sprained my ankle walking down a campus path. He made sure I was okay while many an undergrad kept right on walking.

  41. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Anonymous 1:05, don’t be a dickhead. I never made claims for women’s innate moral superiority. I merely claimed in my Penn State comments that segregated all-male hierarchies are clearly prone to tolerate and cover up abuse, a claim that I think is pretty irrefutable. (But please: show me the all-female hierarchy that systematically covers for rapists and child abusers.)

  42. Anonymous on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Ann, athletic departments are not all male. Several of the staff of Penn State’s athletic department are, in fact, female.

    And, as was commented upon in the Penn State post, the Magdalene Asylums of Ireland would be an excellent example of an all-female hierarchy that systematically covered for rapists and child abusers.

  43. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    So women are now equally responsible for rape? That’s what these arguments boil down to, and I think that’s an absurd exercise in moral equivalency.

  44. Anonymous on 20 Nov 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    No, women are not equally responsible for rape. Women are equally responsible for cover-ups and potential abuses of authority when they are in positions of institutional power, however. I believe the actions at UCD, and other recent instances (e.g., the crackdown of Occupy Oakland) are evidence that women, when in an institutional hierarchy can be just as abusive and self-serving as men.

    Perhaps part of our disagreement comes from the difference in talking about this as about sex instead of gender. No institutional hierarchy is entirely made up of men or women–universities, churches, militaries, etc. are all a combination of men and women working together to ensure the continuation of their institution. However, the concept of an “institution” may, indeed, be gendered male. In which case, the women who are a part of them may conform more to a stereotypically “male” ethos in their decision-making and actions than women who are not a part of such an institution. Women may need to be even more “male” in this way to get ahead in such an institution and would thus be equally as inclined to participate in abuses and cover-ups as men in the same institution.

  45. Historiann on 20 Nov 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I think you strongly overestimate the number of women in real positions of authority in the vast majority of powerful institutions. UC Davis may have a female chancellor and chief of “police,” but the vast, vast, vast number of universities, not to mention the military, the Church, the Taliban, etc.

    I agree that individual women are corrupted by these institutions. I also don’t think that *all* individual men are corrupted by them. But to suggest that there’s anything like equal responsibility is, as I said above, an absurd exercise in equivalence.

    (And by the way: Catholic women’s religious orders are hardly all-female. After all, there are male confessors in convents every day to say the Mass, and all convent elections and other exercises of government are supervised by a Bishop, and all women’s communities exist under the supervision of the Bishop generally. Superiors have authority only by virtue of submitting to the authority of the Bishop.)

    I think a better example of a corrupt all-women’s institution is American college sororities, which can be very positive experiences but which, like their male counterparts, can also be abusive and hurtful. But the abuse in sororities doesn’t revolve as much around the rape or sexual abuse of outsiders the way that fraternal masculinity functions.

  46. Susan on 20 Nov 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    I notice that the UC Davis Chancellor has become more upset by what happened Friday as the weekend has progressed. I guess something got through to her that her initial reaction “saddened” was a little feeble? She now “shares the outrage” she has heard from students.
    Um, yes.
    Back in the day, when it was called security, I do remember security coming to a friends room when we were having a dinner party — said friend having cooked in the dorm, which was illegal. There were also some illegal substances around, which were stuck outside the window. Security focused only on the cooking, and reminded us we were not allowed to have a toaster oven. It was very old fashioned: we were clearly basically good, and they knew what was going on, but it wasn’t really causing a problem so they didn’t enforce the rules.

  47. Perpetua on 21 Nov 2011 at 5:21 am #

    @H’ann – I mean, exactly. Women’s religious orders (while they do have the potential to be safe havens for female leadership and learning, an escape from patriarchal oversight) are in fact embedded within the power structures of the Catholic Church; thus nuns at the Magdalene house and elsewhere were acting out a specific kind of rigid authoritarian (women-hating and sex-hating) behavior they were taught by the structures of the Church. Moreover, it strikes me as potentially problematic to think in terms of what men do and what women do – I mean, I think you’re right, but the problem here isn’t men per se, but patriarchal (or kyriarchal) power structures and the ways in which they lead to oppression. Individual women can easily be complicit in these structures, because we all live within them. (Thus picking out individual oppressive women like some kind of gotcha moment is reductive and a little bit silly.) And it makes perfect sense that hyper masculine iterations of patriarchal power structures would be doubly or triply oppressive (especially to anybody who doesn’t fit in to a rigidly defined “man” category). This includes sports teams, frats, the Church, etc.

  48. Historiann on 21 Nov 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Thanks Perpetua. You articulate more clearly than I did in my brief post my instincts about the sex-segregated power structure that was clearly in play at Penn State, as in the Church.

    Susan: your story tracks with my experience of college, minus the contraband. Living in dorms that were on the National Register was all very nice, but because they were insulated with newspaper and horse hair, they were potential fire traps. I remember a lot of dorm rules organized around the principle of not setting the dorm on fire.

  49. That's Grantastic! on 21 Nov 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Yeah, there’s been a big shift over time. Lots of places used to have security and now have police. It’s more than just a terminology change many places. At the R1 I used to work for, campus cops applied for, and got, all kinds of shiny trucks and creepy surveillance devices from the great Homeland Security Cash Giveaway. Because they’re actually law enforcement. As you can find out rather quickly when they take you to jail and testify in court.

    I don’t think it’s just the passage of time that makes the difference, though. My SLAC had laughable campus security types and to my knowledge still does. Smaller, more private institutions tend to have less-police-like security; large public Us tend to have actual police. In my opinion, for exactly those class-based reasons re: comfort with policing.

    Policing in America is an unpleasant, violent, and unjust business. Policing is, by its nature, full of judgement calls that often amount to letting privileged people off easy with warnings while beating the everloving crap out of vulnerable people in order to express that they have crossed some boundary and do not “belong” where they are standing.

    One thing that makes UC Davis shocking is the expectation that students sitting on a campus sidewalk might expect to be treated differently than the Occupy Wall Street folks. But they weren’t, because these days a cop is a cop. Furthermore, I’m not sure why they should be. It’s not okay to beat or spray students or bust them for small drugs or drunk walking. But I’m not sure why the rest of us are supposed to put up with that, either.

    No doubt that all of this is important, and we should think critically about the role and actions of campus police. But I’d also like to say that I was grateful to the campus officer to stopped when I sprained my ankle walking down a campus path. He made sure I was okay while many an undergrad kept right on walking.

    Right, well, yay I guess for the person paid to protect and serve actually doing his job.
    My office receives death threats every month or so and we (as required) report them to the campus cops. I guess I’m also “grateful” they show up and file police reports. Or something.

  50. That's Grantastic! on 21 Nov 2011 at 8:29 am #

    “It’s easy to be outraged by this incident as though it’s some sort of shocking aberration, but that is exactly what it is not.”

    Greenwald’s is a fairly cogent explanation of how UC Davis came to be: it’s not unrelated to our wars, and it’s no worse than what’s happening on the street.

    He gives a special shoutout to an untenured prof, whose courage your readers may admire.

  51. Historiann on 21 Nov 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Great points, That’s Grantastic.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of campus space versus non-campus space, and the ways in which those of us on campuses as well as off-campus see campus space as different from non-campus public space. On the one hand, I take your point that “It’s not okay to beat or spray students or bust them for small drugs or drunk walking. But I’m not sure why the rest of us are supposed to put up with that, either.” On the other, it’s clear that campus space *is* different, in part because it’s dedicated non-commercial space.

    For example, at my university on sunny afternoons (which is pretty much every afternoon), we have at least one if not 2 or 3 of the local religious crazies and storefront church pastors standing on boulders in the central plaza preaching to the students, attracting onlookers, and engaging in debates with the passers-by. Because we’re a university, we believe in an open exchange of ideas, so we let them scream and harangue us. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that attempting to preach in a mall or in a public space surrounded by commercial development, shops, and businesses would get shut down pretty quickly.

    Another argument that people see campus space is different: students regularly use sidewalk chalk to advertise student events. Now off campus, that would be considered vandalism, I’m pretty sure, and the offending chalk would be washed away and the offending chalkers at least ticketed if not arrested.

    So, I guess I’m arguing here that people both on- and off-campus recognize that campus space *is* different. These nutty “pastors” come to Baa Ram U. because they recognize that they can preach without incident, and the students chalk the walks because they can. So I understand why most people–students and non-students–have different expectations for sitting on a campus sidewalk (as in the UCD pepper spray incident) versus sitting on a public sidewalk off-campus. Whether or not it’s an appropriate difference is another question, I guess, but I can understand quite well why UCD students felt a proprietary interest in their own campus, and I think the reason that video went viral is that most people recognize that campus-space is just different from non-campus public space.

  52. Tom Merrigold on 21 Nov 2011 at 10:30 am #

    This all seems rather bizarre to me. Here at York (the British, not the Canadian university) campus security keep a rather low profile – I’ve never seen them on patrol even at night, and they’re largely staffed by affable older gentlemen who are more likely to greet you good morning than pepper-spray you.

    Then again, we are one of the quieter provincial institutions. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a much greater security presence at, say, Nottingham or the London universities.

    Also, Historiann’s anecdote about the student arrested for ‘drunk walking’ is frankly disturbing. Unless someone is committing acts of violence, vandalism or serious public disorder, I can’t see how simply being inebriated on campus qualifies as a criminal offence. If such a policy was enforced here, I imagine there’d be at least a hundred arrests every night.

  53. That's Grantastic! on 21 Nov 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I’m all for maintaining our (rapidly-disappearing) dedicated non-commercial space, with its greater freedoms – but public parks used to be such things, too. Are pastors arrested for yelling there? Is sidewalk blockage likely to be more tolerated there than in a commercial district thoroughfare?

    FYI, sidewalk chalk is expressly permitted (and regulated) on most college campuses, making them like city streets – you can deface in the time, place, and manner the authorities permit, such as to impermanently announce a community festival.

    I do want to protect university property as a space with free speech and without policing. It’s simply vital.

    I just can’t help but marvel that only the people who are of university social status have any access to this. Meanwhile, an entire generation of public K-12 students has been raised with the expectation that having armed cops inside their schools is normal and desirable and even safe.

    And seemingly nobody else, anywhere else, has a meaningful right to assembly or speech.

  54. That's Grantastic! on 21 Nov 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Speaking of administrative bloat:

    (sorry, this opens a word doc and I can’t change that)

    Other universities have this sort of sketch-your-design application, too, I just thought you’d like this one since it’s from the libertarian West.

  55. That's Grantastic! on 21 Nov 2011 at 10:54 am #

    These are the types of rules with which I’m familiar (in which only officially “recognized” student groups may participate):

  56. truffula on 21 Nov 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    These nutty “pastors” come to Baa Ram U. because they recognize that they can preach without incident

    Genuine conviction calls people to do all manner of things without regard to consequence.

    Street preachers go where there is an audience and where the likelihood of being run off is low. The sidewalk is public space regulated by regional government and I suppose whether or not the mayor sends the police after the skinny guy yelling “blessed are the peacemakers” depends on who is complaining. I used to engage in amplified free expression on the public right-of-way and was quite ready to go to court to defend my right to do so (though it never came to that). The time may come when I feel the need to do so again and central to my thinking will certainly be where I can find an audience.

    Exercising your first amendment rights in the public square is an important component of retaining those rights. This is, imho, part of what is essential in the Occupy movement. All the grumpy old people telling the occupiers that they need to stop camping and get a message seem to be missing this point. And those street preachers, whether we like their particular message or not, are by claiming them, defending those same rights.

  57. Historiann on 21 Nov 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I think that’s the right way to look at it, truffula, and I agree that the nutty “pastors” should have the right to speak. But, for me it gets tricky when they start demonizing the gays. (Clearly, they should be more concerned with heterosexual fornication!) I wonder if (for example) a street preacher who was openly anti-Semitic or racist or a Holocaust-denier would be permitted to speak for very long. I always wonder what the young gay & lesbian students who are fearful of coming out must be thinking to hear that kind of stuff hollered at them.

    The great thing about my campus is that these guys are rarely permitted to go unchallenged, especially when they start preaching against homosexuality. Baa Ram U. students of all political stripes are just not into hatin’ on the gays, which I think speaks well of their generation.

  58. Western Dave on 21 Nov 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    “Living in dorms that were on the National Register was all very nice, but because they were insulated with newspaper and horse hair, they were potential fire traps. I remember a lot of dorm rules organized around the principle of not setting the dorm on fire.”

    Oh man. The one thing could get your ass kicked off campus for sure and quick was lighting candles in your room in Parrish Hall. The place had already burned down twice. Deal drugs? No problem until the state police picked you up in West Philly. Be a drunk townie h.s. kid who snuck into a party and drank wayyyyy too much? Get escorted to the phone to call your folks and pay the cleaning bill when you threw up all over the cruiser (I swear I threw that kid out of the party three times before I finally called security to haul his sorry drunk ass away), need a ride to the hospital for emergency appendectomy? Got it covered. But light one fucking candle in the flammable dorm and poof… your ass was gone.

  59. truffula on 21 Nov 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    I take the point about free speech haters. Part of public action has to be willingness to be held accountable for what you say or do. That’s what I find offensive about many of the extreme haters–they deny their role in whatever comes next.

    I used to walk by a storefront preacher who also had a sidewalk routine. He certainly thought I was going to hell in a handbasket but I can’t say I found his message any more offensive than the hundred other ways I was put in my sex-class place every day. In the public square I have the opportunity to dissent. On billboards, not so much.

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