Sample Policy

Recommendations in response to protests on University of California campuses


The University of California (UC) has an important legacy of civil disobedience—UC Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, the first act of mass civil disobedience on an American university campus. In the half-century since, the school has remained closely associated with free speech and protest. But incidents in 2011 in which campus police responded to student protesters with excessive force prompted administrators to rethink their approach to civil disobedience. In November 2011, UC Berkeley police beat student protesters aligned with the Occupy movement with batons. Just a few days later, campus police at UC Davis used pepper spray on student Occupy protesters when they refused to remove their encampment. In response, UC President Mark G. Yudof asked Vice President and General Counsel Charles F. Robinson and Dean Christopher F. Edley Jr. of Berkeley Law to review the university’s policies and procedures for dealing with civil disobedience. In 2012 Robinson and Edley issued their report, which included a set of practical recommendations that recognize the historic significance of civil disobedience and make explicit exactly what kind of actions protesters can expect the university to take. In 2014, Janet Napolitano, the new president, accepted the recommendations with minor revisions and charged individual UC campuses with implementing the recommendations within 12 months.

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What we like about these recommendations

  • Recognize the historic significance of civil disobedience and its role in shaping public discourse.
  • Acknowledge that while civil disobedience, by definition, is not protected speech, it plays an important role in an environment committed to free expression and the right to protest.
  • Provide clear, specific guidance to administrators and campus police on how to respond in the moment.
  • Lay out specific guidelines for how to train and communicate with campus police to deter the use of excessive force against protesters.
  • Prioritize administrators over police as decision makers when possible.

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