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Berkeley chancellor: We share many principles associated with OWS

Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, sent a campus-wide e-mail yesterday urging students to be respectful of campus property and obey university rules during a rally at noon on Wednesday, November 9. Organizers of the event have called for students to walk out of classes, organize teach-ins, and participate in peaceful demonstrations.

Birgeneau expressed support for the young protesters who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but also urged them not to resort to violence or vandalism:

UC Berkeley as an institution shares many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement.  It is here at Berkeley, and at many other campuses across the country, where so many young people acquire the knowledge and skills that enable them to live fulfilling lives without unreasonable economic stress.  In fact, more than one-third of our undergraduate students come from families who earn less than $45K a year; it is through their Berkeley education that these students and, often, their entire families are able to move into the American mainstream. …

With that said, and as a model of the right to free speech, assembly and activism, we encourage our entire community to act responsibly and show the world what we are known for – a place where the best and brightest youth, staff and faculty from all socioeconomic backgrounds work collectively to solve world problems. …

*Encampments or occupations of buildings are not allowed on our campus.  This means that members of our community are free to meet, discuss, debate, and protest, but will not be allowed to set up tents or encampment structures.

*Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to conduct regular activities – go to class, study, carry out their research etc, — will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct: http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.pdf

*As always, our normal operating hours on this campus will be adhered to; this means that most buildings will be closed by 10 PM.

In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism.   Rather, these funds should be spent on urgent needs such as financial aid for low income students including those who are undocumented, increased numbers of GSI’s, increased library hours etc.

The president and vice president of the Associated Students of the University of California–UC-Berkeley’s student government–also emailed campus yesterday, offering support for the rally:

This coming Wednesday, November 9, students and community members will join together in a Day of Action to draw attention to the current crisis in higher education. As California continues to struggle with its budget, social services across the board have witnessed unprecedented cuts and higher education has not been exempt. These reductions have resulted in higher fees forcing students to bear a heavier burden in funding our own education.

This is part of a larger national conversation about wealth distribution and misguided priorities at all levels of government. The only way to solve this growing disparity is to invest in public education. As student leaders at the premier public university in the world, we stand with students across the nation in raising awareness around these issues and compelling our elected leaders to respond. …

While Wednesday’s events are important, this dialogue cannot end here. We encourage all students to join us in our efforts to lobby our elected officials at the state and federal levels to halt continued reductions in funding and identify new sources of revenue.

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