Gathering at four campuses and linked by teleconference, the regents Monday first got an earful of criticism from students about the Nov. 18 incident in which UC Davis police doused nonviolent student protesters at close range with the chemical spray. During a 90-minute public comment period, students also urged the regents to embrace a campaign, organized mainly by unions, that seeks tax changes to generate more revenue for the state's colleges and universities.
UC leaders emphasized Monday that they support students' rights to demonstrate peacefully and promised to thoroughly investigate the Davis incident, which was caught on video and sparked outrage nationwide.
UC President Mark G. Yudof announced that former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, a retired UC Davis law professor and civil rights expert, would lead a university task force that will review an independent investigation into the incident. That inquiry will be led by former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.
"We can not change the past. But we can change the way we act in the future," regents Chairwoman Sherry Lansing told the crowds gathered at UCLA, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and UC Merced. "We want all of you to know we fully and unequivocally support your right to protest peacefully."
But as the regents began discussing next year's budget, students started chanting slogans, including "We need to make UC public again," and declared a "people's regents meeting." Reluctant to order police to use force against the students, the regents retreated to nearby rooms to finish their discussions at three locations. The disruption was on a smaller scale at UC Merced and the sole regent there was able to stay in the original room, campus officials said.
No arrests or injuries were reported at any of the four campuses. And although the police presence was large, authorities took less aggressive actions than they have in years past in ejecting protesters from regents' meetings.