Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Berkeley Faculty Submit Petition Calling for End of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Student Protesters

To: Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor
George Breslauer, Executive Vice-Chancellor
Jonathan Poullard, Office of Student Conduct

Attached you will find the faculty petition asking for the cessation of all disciplinary proceedings against student protesters at this time. We take no positions on the allegations themselves or on the final guilt or innocence of those against whom allegations have been made, but object to the flawed procedures which cast doubt on whether any just outcomes can emerge from these reviews. I believe you already have both the statement by the Northern California ACLU as well as one from the Campus Rights Project from Boalt Law School that support the points made here. As you will see from the letter and those documents, there are several very strong reasons to object to any procedures carried out under these circumstances.

The letter details five interlocking grounds for this position: the failure to afford due process to students charged, the imposition of sanctions without adjudication, the failure to specify evidence necessary to ground the charges, the inadequate protection of the right to protest, and the failure of the Office of Student Conduct to follow its own procedures.

I hope that it may be possible to set up a meeting with you at your earliest convenience and 2-3 of the 135 signers of this petition. Thank you for considering these serious concerns voiced by a significant cross-section of the faculty. We hope to be part of the process of arriving at a fair solution to this problem.


Judith Butler
Maxine Elliot Professor
Rhetoric and Comparative Literature

UCB Faculty petition posted at:


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alternative Commission on the Future of the University at UCLA

On May 4th from 5-7 at Humanities 135, faculty, workers, and students will meet together to discuss an alternative Commission for the Future of the University. The first hour will consist of presentations outlining specific recommendations, while the second hour will revolve around a democratic selection of the top suggestions. After this meeting, we will present our recommendations to the media and the Office of the President.

The central topics will be enrollment targets, student fees, online education, pension contributions, graduate education, diversity goals, summer instruction, language requirements, budget planning, and funding models. Please come and add your voice to the democratization of the university.

For more information, contact Bob Samuels: bobsamuels_us@yahoo.com

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Faculty Initiative on Reform of UC Governance and Leadership

On the Agenda for the April 22, 2010, meeting of the
Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Booth Auditorium, School of Law

New Business
A. Resolution on the formation of a special committee to develop reform proposals concerning the governance and leadership of the University Emeritus Professor of Physics Charles Schwartz will introduce the following resolution:

Whereas, There is widespread concern about the financial future of the University;

Whereas, The Regents and the President of the University have established a Commission to study alternative future arrangements;

Whereas, It appears that consideration of Major Reforms in the Top Level Governance and Leadership of the University is unlikely to occur within that Commission;

Whereas, Numerous members of the Faculty of the University have thoughtful contributions to offer in that regard; and

Whereas, Such Reforms might be a significant factor in efforts to restore public confidence in and public support for the University; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate asks its Divisional Council to convene a special Committee charged to collect, study and formulate a set of Reform Proposals concerning the Governance and Leadership of the University, which will then be distributed to the membership of the Division for a ballot assessment.

- - - - -
Some Background Materials available at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

UCSD Faculty Coalition Letter To Paul Drake in Defense of Ricardo Dominguez and Academic Freedom (April 5, 2010)

April 5, 2010

Professor Paul Drake, Senior Vice-Chancellor Acadamic Affairs
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla
CA 0065

Dear SVCAA Drake:

The UCSD Faculty Coalition has learned that one of its members, Ricardo Dominguez (Associate Professor, Visual Arts Department), is being investigated for an artistic project ("Virtual Sit-In on University of California Office of the President") he developed on March 4, 2010 in conjunction with the recent student protests on campus. Your office has informed Professor Dominguez that you are attempting to determine the legal grounds necessary to file criminal charges against him. These charges, if successful, could lead to the revocation of his tenure at UCSD or other disciplinary procedures through the Committee on Privilege and Tenure. Two detectives from the UCSD Police Department (Officers Michael Britton and Garrett Williams) have since interviewed Professor Dominguez (on March 30, 2010) and made it clear that they were concerned with whether or not he had violated any city, county, state or federal laws, with the goal of turning their findings over to the San Diego City Attorney's office or the California state Attorney General.

We hereby inform you that the Faculty Coalition views these developments with great alarm and is prepared to oppose them in the strongest possible terms. We are particularly concerned because of the implied attempt to criminalize an artistic practice, "Electronic Civil Disobedience" or ECD, which is central to Professor Dominguez's role as a researcher in Visual Arts at UCSD. This attempt is evident in the initial documentation of the complaint, which erroneously claims that the March 4 project involved the use of "botnet" code and "zombie" computers (see e-mail from Elazar Harel, March 5, 2010, "Denial of Service Attack Against UCOP Website"). This misunderstanding is unfortunate, as the distinction between ECD and a "classic Denial of Service attack" (e-mail from Paul Weiss to David Ernst and Nathan Brostrom, March 4, 2010), is absolutely central to Professor Dominguez's work, and was discussed in some detail in the referee letters for his tenure promotion file (approved by your office in 2009). As you note in your notification letter of March 30, 2009, "Professor Dominguez. . . has been a defining figure in the migration of performance art from physical space to virtual space. Professor Dominguez's work, first with Critical Art Ensemble and then with Electronic Disturbance Theater, has been highly cited, and he has been invited to lecture on the work across a host of important international venues . . . The esteemed status of Professor Dominguez's field-defining work has been duly noted by the external referees, who include major international intellectuals working in performance art, new media and globalization".

The central importance of ECD, and a related practice, "Electronic Disturbance Theater," to Professor Dominguez's research is referenced repeatedly in those same referee letters. Thus, Stephen Duncombe of New York University notes that Professor Dominguez "is one of the seminal figures in the cross-over world of activism and art . . . He continually pushes the boundaries of the field, and in the process redefines it . . . His Electronic Civil Disobedience enthralled practitioners and scholars of contemporary social movements by theorizing that one could move the terrain of an age-old political tactic to the internet." Michael Hardt, of Duke University, argues that Professor Dominguez's work with Electronic Disturbance Theater has been "widely influential in academic fields such as critical theory and performance studies . . . He has essentially invented a form of political activism and civil disobedience that combines art performance and new technologies." Finally, Rita Raley of UC Santa Barbara clearly states that "the bulk of Dominguez's work falls under the category of art-activism . . . it is not for nothing that this art practice is also known as 'Electronic Civil Disobedience' . . . There are important differences between EDT and what we might call basic distributed denial-of-service attacks . . . First, EDT by no means aims simply to halt server traffic. An important component of any EDT performance . . . involves an error message that itself is part of the performance. Specifically, the applet will request files with names such as 'Justice,' 'Freedom,' and 'Human Rights' from targeted websites; the error message then in effect reads, 'Justice Not Found'. As a performative exercise EDT has three parts: Act 1 is the announcement of the action; Act II is the action itself; and Act III is the follow up discussion. The discussion is the site for sophisticated theoretical intervention."

"Classic" denial of service attacks use the computers of unknowing individuals as the conduits or vehicles for increased traffic to a given URL, through a program surreptitiously placed on these computers via the internet. The goal is to mask or obscure the identity of the actual perpetrators. As Professor Raley emphasizes, ECD or EDT are defined precisely by their transparency, and by the open acknowledgement of responsibility. Professor Dominguez's March 4 action was widely publicized ahead of time as a form of conscious, public speech, with the intention of demonstrating the breadth of support for UC-wide protests against the dismantling of public education in the state of California. Professor Brett Stallbaum, one of Professor Dominguez's collaborators and a fellow developer of ECD, further clarifies the distinction:

A botnet runs autonomously and automatically, and operates under remote direction. The owners/users of zombie computers controlled by a botnet are generally not aware that their computer is performing any action that could have an effect on a third party or targeted website. Neither are owners/users typically even aware that their computer's security has been compromised, nor that it is under the direct and ongoing control of a third party. By contrast, in a Virtual Sit-in, there is no botnet controlling anything . . . in a Virtual Sit-in the owners/users are always aware that their computers are having an effect on a third party machine or website. This is a very important difference that goes directly to the issue of legality and free speech . . . as organizers of hundreds of past EDT related protests Ricardo (and I) have always taken full and complete public credit for organizing the protests. Instead of maintaining the anonymity desired by criminals, we maintain the public face of citizens freely expressing ourselves as artists.

This key distinction, and the broad academic recognition of ECD as a form of contemporary artistic practice, is elided in the language of the investigation against Professor Dominguez launched by UCSD. In the absence of any more compelling explanation for this sudden willingness to criminalize a research-based artistic practice that the university, only a year ago, recognized as deserving of tenure, one can only assume that UCSD has been placed under some form of external political pressure. Whether this pressure is coming from the UC Office of the President or some other source it represents a disturbing breach of the university's obligation to maintain a climate of free creative and academic inquiry.

The Faculty Coalition is deeply concerned about the chilling effect that will result from this investigation. We view the attempt to prosecute Professor Dominguez on criminal grounds as a serious assault on the principles of academic freedom and the right to protest. In our view, a major goal of the investigation is to intimidate Professor Dominguez and dissuade him from examining activities for which the university has hitherto routinely rewarded him. All that appears to have changed is that in the course of the student protests, UCSD became the object of Professor Dominguez' acclaimed work. Thus, it is the object of his criticism, and not the nature of his work, that appears to have set off the criminal investigation. In short, Professor Dominguez is being muzzled for purely institutional reasons and his rights as both scholar and citizen are under attack. Therefore, the Faculty Coalition also views the on-going criminal investigation as an attempt to intimidate and silence all other faculty, staff and students who exposed and mobilized against racism on the campus and eventually singled out the administration as a major pillar of the "hostile campus climate" that has taken root at UCSD. The attack on Professor Dominguez is therefore a shot across our collective bow, an attempt to restrict both academic freedom and the right to dissent against the University.

The energetic investigation of Professor Dominguez contrasts starkly with the university's tepid response to the various outrages perpetrated by students, including the criminal destruction of University property and the serial commission of hate crimes on campus. To date, no charges of any kind have been brought against a small number of known perpetrators who repeatedly violated the civil rights of many students, staff and faculty and created an inhospitable climate that almost brought the campus to a standstill. The contrast between the treatment of Professor Dominguez and the Koala is particularly galling and offensive. You will recall that Chancellor Fox refused to act against the Koala for fear of infringing on the newspaper's "freedom of speech". In light of this response, the criminal investigation of Professor Dominguez is bizarre, and an egregious insult to the scholarly community at UCSD.

It should be noted that over past two to three months Professor Dominguez and his collaborators have received several death threats in response to their research. Comments such as "Hopefully, you traitors will be shot in the back of your heads when you least expect it" (and much worse) have been posted directly on the bang.lab website and also mailed to Professor Grant Kester, Chair of the Visual Arts Department. At a time of increasingly violent rhetoric from political extremists in this country, including harassment and threats directed at public officials who hold alternate political views, it is deeply troubling that our administration is not mounting a more robust defense of the mission of the university as a site of autonomous, critical, reflection. While the threats today are directed at ECD, tomorrow they may well be aimed at evolutionary biology or genomic research.

We call upon the UCSD administration to discontinue the unwarranted attack it has initiated against Professor Dominguez and on the very principles of free inquiry on which the university system is based.

The UCSD Faculty Coalition

- Stephanie Burke (Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Audit and Management
Advisory Services)
- Professor Harold Pashler (Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom)
- Professor Ricardo Dominguez (Associate Professor, Visual Arts Department)
- Professor Grant Kester, (Chair, Department of Visual Arts)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

UC/AFT Resolution in Support of the B.A.N.G. Lab and In Defense of Academic Freedom


UC/AFT Resolution on Academic Freedom in light of UCOP's recent efforts against initiatives by Senate and Non-Senate Faculty.

Whereas an internet performative collaboration, (http://bang.calit2.net), was done by U.C. faculty and

Whereas such action is part of a Senate faculty member's mode of often collaborative art practice and

Whereas this tenured Senate Faculty, Professor Ricardo Dominguez, was hired and promoted by the U.C. San Diego Visual Arts Department for this and other kinds of "new media" work and

Whereas, in this case, has involved Unit 18 members such as Micha Cárdenas in his department as well as Ken Ehrlich at U.C. Riverside whose rights are protected by an MOU with the UC/AFT and

Whereas, a similar work was done without UCOP intervention a year ago by Professor Dominguez and

Whereas, UCOP initiated an investigation by the Senior Vice Chancellor (SVC) of (http://bang.calit2.net) and

Whereas, UCOP by its actions seems intent upon a shut down of the bang.lab's research server, which hosts student publications, the lab's blog and essential class services including a wiki,

Be it resolved that said action by UCOP is an unwarranted assault upon the academic rights and freedoms of it faculty and

Be it further resolved that the UC/AFT call upon UCOP to cease and desist in this and any other attempts to stifle free expression by faculty and students and

Be it further resolved that the UC/AFT will join with other members of the academic community, individuals, groups and organizations in the community to protect academic rights and privileges