"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said Santayana. Seems that might be true of the chancellors of UC Berkeley and UC Davis, both of whom invited the cops on campus with horrendous results. Did they forget Kent State and Jackson State? Have they heard of the Strawberry Statement? Were they around for the campus protests of the 1960's and 1970's?
Berkeley students and faculty cannot understand his recent actions. This man actually said that linking arms and forming a human chain is not non-violent. That grammatically inelegant and absurd statement seems destined to be remembered by those who, unlike Birgeneau, make a practice of remembering history. Birgeneau's remark dishonors the history of non-violent protest. It is a slap in the face of history.
Then I looked up the biography of Linda Katehi, Chancellor of UC Davis, and found out she is Greek, and graduated from the National Technical University of Athens in 1977, with degrees in electrical engineering. So maybe she also missed some lessons from US campus protests of earlier decades. After looking at the footage in the video below, Katehi herself seems appalled by the forces she set in motion. She should be. Now the Davis faculty is calling for her head.
Is the moral of the story that scientists and technocrats might not make the best university chancellors in these troubled times? Perhaps. But we really ought to concern ourselves more with how to handle these kinds of confrontations in a smarter and more positive way. These students were engaged in a peaceful, if somewhat messy demonstrations. Their causes--protesting tuition hikes and solidarity with the occupy movement--are not threatening to the university community; those causes are supportive of that community. Why was there such urgency to remove them? Why did their removal have to be so violent? That kind of response can only cause the sense of confrontation to escalate, and public opinion to polarize. None of that should have been necessary.