UCSC public records show that the school spent $6,000 to document student protests
UC Santa Cruz undergraduate Tom Pazo recently received a public records document he requested from the university nearly seven months ago. The returned record consists of two pages: an invoice from private investigator Scott H. Newby for $6,000, and UCSC’s receipt of purchase of Newby’s services to document a student demonstration on May 18 and 19, 2010.
According to the invoice, UCSC contracted Newby for 24 hours at $100 per hour, including post-production and transportation fees from San Jose to Santa Cruz. The May 18 and 19 demonstration to which the invoice refers was a UCSC Strike Committee-led event entitled “Walk Out to Your Education.” The Strike Committee, a self-defined open collective and coalition of students, graduate students, workers and professors organizing in defense of public education, intended the event as an alternative way to draw general attention toward, and educate students about, the unstable budget situation at UCSC.
“What this says about the allocation of [UCSC] funds is that it’s a complete joke and lie to say that there’s not enough money or funding,” says Pazo, a senior politics and sociology major. Pazo, a participant with the Strike Committee, made the public records request on July 28, 2010.
A portion of the request was returned Feb. 15, 2011. The status of the rest of his request—documentation to OK the presence of police vans from UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley on May 18 and 19—is still pending.
“I was not getting responses back for up to two weeks between each email,” says Pazo. “I did follow the proper procedure. I asked for receipt of purchase, purchase order regarding the hiring of a private investigator by the name of Scott Newby on May 18 and 19, 2010. Very specific. These things do take time, but there’s really no excuse… And this is just a drop in the bucket of all [UC Santa Cruz’s] lack of accountability.”
According to a Santa Cruz Sentinel article on Feb. 14, UC Santa Cruz received a failing grade for complying with public records requests. This data came from the group Californians Aware, which gave UCSC 40 points out of 100, or an F.
Because of the budget crisis in California, in the past couple of years the UC system has seen fee hikes, faculty and staff layoffs and educational cuts to programs including the elimination of entire majors.
Budget cuts have been met with heavy opposition by student organizers and workers, exemplified by numerous protests and organized actions. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed an additional $500 million in cuts to the UCs.
According to Brian Malone, a graduate student and Teaching Assistant at UCSC, a failing grade for accountability is no shock. “One of the things we’ve been demanding all along is transparency from the UC,” he says. “It’s not a surprise that it took so long for them to respond with two pages to a public records request. It’s not a surprise that in the Sentinel a couple of weeks ago there was that article about how UCSC receives an F for response to public records request … $6,000, that’s more than members of my unit, the TA union, get paid to TA for a quarter.”
Six thousand dollars is also the amount of funding required to run a lecture at UCSC for one quarter.
UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns says the campus hired Newby as part of planning for what was originally billed as a “three-day shutdown” of the campus. He says the UCSC Police Department retained Newby’s services.
“He was hired as a videographer/photographer; he was not hired as a private investigator,” Burns says. “This decision was based on legitimate law-enforcement concerns. Obviously, we would much prefer not to have to spend any additional staff time or money in this manner. This is one of the reasons that the chancellor commissioned the formation of the Demonstration Advisory Group, which will begin meeting soon and has representatives from many segments of the campus.”
Maria Morris, a Spanish language lecturer who has taught at UCSC since 1989, will be a member of the Demonstration Advisory Group. She brought her class to the campus’ West Entrance in support of May 18 and 19 “Walk Out to Your Education,” and spoke with Newby alongside Tom Pazo during the event.
“I was really upset that [Newby] was hiding behind a tree across the street taking pictures of my class,” says Morris. “I was pissed…because I wouldn’t expose students to any danger. I’m there to support them…some of them were quite upset [that their picture was being taken].”
Burns tells GT via email that photographs such as the ones taken by Newby are not used to profile students. “Rather, they are taken in the event that there is activity that violates university policies or regulations and/or the law,” he writes.
Leo Ritz-Barr is an undergraduate at UCSC and organizer for the Strike Committee. Last year he was cited with seven violations taking part in the student occupation of the Kerr Hall administrative building. At the Kerr Hall protest last year, many students, including Ritz-Barr, were identified and cited with violations based on photographs taken at the event.
“The cops call me Leonard. Nobody calls me Leonard. My parents don’t call me Leonard, no teachers call me Leonard. Only administrators who don’t know who the fuck I am, or only know me through cameras and pictures of my photo ID, call me Leonard,” says Ritz-Barr, who organized last year’s March 4 protest, a statewide UC and CSU-wide strike and protest of the continued budget cuts to higher education.
According to Pazo, officer Augie Zigon, head of UCPD, approached him on May 18. “He asked me, ‘Are you Tom Pazo?’ and I was kind of taken aback, like, ‘Who wants to know?’” Pazo says. “He was asking if I was an organizer, asking what was going to happen during the day.”
According to Burns, photographs taken at events like those on May 18 and 19, “Are attached to a case file documenting an event. In the absence of the suspicion of criminal activity, the photos are purged after one year.”
Ritz-Barr says the UCSC Strike Committee made it a point to make the administration aware that the actions on May 18 and 19 were not intended as a harmful strike or protest.
“We had poetry, famous Bay Area poets came down…students [and faculty] read poetry, we had workshops and discussion groups,” says Ritz-Barr. “[Newby’s] presence and the heavy police presence were intended for intimidation. There’s nothing more intimidating than 70 police officers, which is almost as many police officers as there were people there. The whole idea is to make people feel comfortable talking about these things in an environment that is not specifically combatant.”
According to Pazo, Ritz-Barr, Morris, Malone, as well as several photos Pazo snapped, UCSB and UCB vans were present at the May 18 and 19 event, but Pazo is still awaiting the public record of “Record for the authorization of out of department police from other UC campuses on May 18 and 19, 2010.”
In an interview with City on a Hill Press reporter Laurel Fujii, UCB Police Department Lieutenant Alex Yao said he did not remember the May 18-19 event, but that it is not uncommon for UCSC PD to be assisted by UCB PD, which is one of the largest UC police departments. “[UC campus police departments] assist other campuses on a regular basis for various types of events,” he said.
The heavy police presence was expected on May 18, as it coincided with the Amgen Tour de California bicycle race, but Malone and several others say the amount of police attention on May 19 was unnecessary. “By what stretch of the imagination do you need 18 uniformed police for a poetry reading? Part of it was a pure waste of resources on the part of the administration, and a waste of money, presumably tens of thousands of dollars in overtime and travel for other UC police to come [to UCSC],” Malone says.
The UCSC Police Department failed to respond to multiple requests for an interview. But as for hiring Newby, Burns says the university’s spending was necessary. “It made sense to contract for such services for several reasons,” he says. “The University Police Department does not have the expertise to provide such services; using a police officer to provide such services prevents the officer from fulfilling his or her law-enforcement duties; and if such documentation ultimately was needed, it made sense to contract with someone who had professional experience in that area.”
Malone says the issue speaks to the administration’s greater attitude in regards to education spending. “I don’t know details about the letter of the law when it comes to those things, but they are clearly not in compliance with a spirit of transparency to the stakeholders in this university, whether those stakeholders be students, employees or the taxpayers in the State of California.”
TOP PHOTO: STUDENT WATCHDOG Tom Pazo, a UCSC senior, requested the public record detailing the school’s purchase of Newby’s services last July and received it last month. PHOTO BY JESSE CLARK.