Letter to the editor: SF State English Department addresses President Robert A. Corrigan

An Open Letter to Robert Corrigan, President of San Francisco State University

We, the undersigned faculty of the Department of English at San Francisco State University, are greatly disturbed at the recent escalation of police violence against peaceful protestors on California campuses. We firmly believe that debate, dissent, and criticism of existing power structures are integral to the enterprise of higher education and our academic community, and that university campuses should be safe locations for the necessary freedoms of assembly,
expression, and non-violent protest.

However, recent events have made it clear that some university chancellors and presidents are all too willing to send riot police against even the most peaceful protests. On November 9, students and faculty engaged in a peaceful protest at UC Berkeley were assaulted by police, who bludgeoned a number of defenseless protestors. On November 16, police at UC Davis casually used military-grade pepper spray against several students whose only crime was to sit on the
ground and link arms in a peaceful show of civil disobedience. We refuse to tolerate any such police actions against peaceful protestors on our own campus.

We therefore call on you, President Corrigan, to declare San Francisco State University a Safe Protest Zone, where the nonviolent expression of political dissent will be protected by the university, and where the use of police force against peaceful protestors will not be condoned or tolerated. Furthermore, we call on you to institute the policies necessary to put this commitment into effect, and to instruct university and municipal police adequately on those policies.

We note that, on November 15, over 100 SFSU students held a peaceful sit-in at our Administration Building, and in response the police and the administration acted admirably and without violence. It is our hope that, by declaring San Francisco State a Safe Protest Zone, that kind of good judgment and restraint will become official university policy. Such a declaration will provide for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and community members who choose to express political dissent on campus in a non-violent manner. Moreover, it will send a clear message that university campuses such as ours ought to be places where peaceful protest can occur without the threat of police brutality.

Sincerely,

Kory Lawson Ching
Lawrence F. Hanley
Beverly R. Voloshin
and 58 other faculty members of the Department of English
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