Law students assess policies, progress since pepper spraying

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a student group at the UC Davis School of Law, held a meeting Monday at King Hall to update students on the progress of actions following the Nov. 18 pepper spray incident.

“We’re working with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] to ensure that students have a voice in the ongoing reforms of freedom of expression policy and we wanted to provide an update to the Law School student body,” said Abenicio Cisneros, co-chair of the NLG and level-two UC Davis Law School student.

Cisneros said that the administration is improving, but could do more to allow students to have free expression on UC campuses.

The meeting included five speakers who discussed the findings in the reports that came out of the pepper spray incident.

Austin Cho, a level-one law student, discussed the Kroll report, which includes interviews with students, administrators, faculty and police who were involved in the incident. The report examined the judgment and competency of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and the UC Davis police following the event.

Dixit presented the findings of the Reynoso task force report, which was built on the Kroll report.

“[The Reynoso report] concluded that the pepper spray incident certainly could have been prevented,” said Naveen Dixit, a level-one law student.

Dixit said he believed that because the University did not implement emergency protocols, an uncertain chain of command and a disorganized police force came about.

The Reynoso report consists of recommendations for improving a disorganized police system, including standard procedures and protocols on the occasion of a large-scale incident, an updated Davis Campus Emergency Operation to comply with the National Incident Management System and a publicized review of the UC Davis Police Department protocols.

The Reynoso report also proposed to form a Campus Community Council with broad student, academic and staff contribution to resolve the lack of communication with students in regards to matters of freedom of expression.

Sean Piers, a level-one law student, spoke about the UC Davis Academic Senate Review, which is comprised of tenured and tenured-track faculty at UC Davis. The Executive Council and the Academic Senate created a committee to offer recommendations on the issues regarding the pepper spray incident.

Piers said that the UC Davis Academic Senate Review report resulted in an official censure of Katehi for a failure of leadership in the pepper spray incident. The report did not call for the resignation of the chancellor.

It also proposed the establishment of two committees: the Freedom of Expression Committee, which would review campus policies regarding freedom of expression on campus, and the Administrative Oversight Committee, which would supervise the advancement of the administration in implementing the suggestions from the Reynoso and Kroll reports. Both of these committees have since been formed.

“Unlike the Reynoso report, the Academic Senate found that the poor decision-making was not an isolated incident from a confluence of events from the student protests and the Occupy Movement,” Piers said. “They found that it was a more systemic leadership failure and that the administration should have been more responsive to previous incidents.”

Cisneros presented the findings from the Robinson-Edley report, a UC system-wide review focused on free expression policies on all UC campuses.

The report is concerned mostly with civil disobedience rather than protests and includes a section discussing protests that violate university regulations and are considered civil disobedience.

“Fifty years after the Free Speech Movement, students continue to struggle with violence as a response to lawful protest on UC campuses,” Cisneros said.

He mentioned that Robinson-Edley report contains a section on why it is not proposing the elimination of the UC Police Departments, stating that 90 percent of crimes committed on UC campuses involve property rather than violence.

Trial is set for June for the Davis Dozen, who were charged with the blockade and subsequent closure of the on-campus branch of U.S. Bank, a protest that stemmed from the Occupy UC Davis movement.

Alexis Briggs, an attorney-at-law working on the Davis Dozen case, was also present and said that cases involving the pepper spray incident are ongoing.

Reports on the pepper spray incident can be viewed at demonstrationreviews.ucdavis.edu.

KELLEY DRECHSLER can reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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