Berkeley, right now.
The police are exceedingly evasive. They are, I suspect, trained this way — equipped with equivocality along with their batons and pepper spray¹ and tear gas.
“Is he speaking today?”
“I heard Milo was speaking today.”
“I don’t know, who’s Milo?”
“I don’t know, who’s that?”
Who is Milo? The jester who has thrust the campus onto a national stage in the middle of midterm season. Don’t forget the other characters in this ugly play: The Mercers, the Berkeley College Republicans, Berkeley Patriot, Patriot Prayer, BridgeCal, By Any Means Necessary, Antifa — it doesn’t really matter. I can’t keep track of who is protesting whom anymore.
Calling Milo a jester just sugarcoats what he’s doing. He’s already set his pet army on harassing a trans student². She’s a student government senator. She’s an elected representative of the student body and she was targeted and doxxed³. This is not a dialogue over free speech. It is a one-sided assault on the student body. Even BCR is getting played. This is a show being put on for the rest of the nation. It’s not students against students, it’s people coming in from out of town with an agenda and students trying not to get caught in between, some of them trying and failing to assert that this is our campus. It’s the same drill every time: somebody declares a protest, and I get a text from UCPD: avoid this area. It’s easiest to comply.
Today I saw: a S.W.A.T. van; five news vans; a Lenco BearCat “van”⁴; three helicopters; and probably at least a hundred cops. I saw six of them with black body armor on milling underneath the silver lettering for the student union: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. STUDENT UNION. There is an unnamable strangeness and a conspicuous uncomfortability about policemen guarding a building named after Martin Luther King Jr. in anticipation of visits by white supremacists.
Thank God Bannon⁵ didn’t come. If he came there would’ve been a body count.
On Saturday night, when it was still unclear who would show, I walked down Durant Avenue, near one of the construction sites where the school is hurrying to build student housing. Fifteen thousand, five hundred and twenty-eight students were offered freshman admission for this year, 7.6% more than last year, and there are so many students they have to shuttle some of them in from other school’s dorms in the area — if you’re not one of the unlucky ones who miss out on on-campus housing⁶. A yellow mini-crane nearby was unloading dull gray concrete barricades from a line of flatbed trucks. I couldn’t tell if the mini-crane had been borrowed from the construction site, or if they’d rented it for the occasion.
The university says it will spend a million dollars this week on security costs⁷. A million dollars is about sixty-six years of in-state tuition. It would cover four years’ worth of tuition and expenses for eight people. Last weekend the university says it spent $600,000 on security on Ben Shapiro. $1,600,000 is such a large figure I’m not even sure how they calculated it (maybe under Nicholas Dirks it would have been $1,604,990⁸). I read yesterday that eleven percent of Berkeley undergraduates don’t have stable housing, or don’t have housing at all⁹. From an undergraduate student body of 27,126, that’s about 2,084 students who don’t know where they are going to sleep. Berkeley has a Homeless Student Union. Stanford does not. We’re not even “The #1 Public University in the World” anymore. That’s UCLA now¹⁰. I wonder if Carol Christ has noticed.
There are op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and the Washington Post about the great value clash unfolding on campus. A friend from out of town called. She asked me what I thought about the university’s role in ensuring free speech and whether I’d been involved in any of the protests. I told her I have a midterm on Thursday.
³ Being doxxed is having personal information made publicly available. In this case it was done specifically to harass somebody.
⁵ Apparently the whole thing was a set-up. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/23/uc-berkeley-free-speech-week-officially-canceled/
⁶ On-campus housing is no longer guaranteed, even for freshmen. If you do apply for it, you might get placed at Mills College or Holy Names University, not at Berkeley. http://www.dailycal.org/2016/04/28/uc-berkeley-adds-housing-at-mills-college-holy-names-university/
⁸ The last UC Berkeley Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, misused $4,990, leading to a $57,671 investigation. http://www.dailycal.org/2017/05/30/investigation-revealing-chancellor-dirks-4990-misuse-public-funds-cost-university-57671/