Nearly a year after a campus police office at the University of California pepper sprayed students nonviolently protesting against tuition hikes–under the banner of Occupy–the University has reached a settlement with the students. The LA Times reports that the police overreaction will cost the school nearly $1,000,000–$30,000 to each of the 21 students and $250,000 to the attorneys for the students.
John Pike, the officer who sprayed the student and became an internet sensation, is no longer working for the University. Linda Katehi, the Chancellor whose leadership deficiencies contributed to the situation, remains in her job, and her immediate tasks include writing a formal letter of apology to each of the students.
One million dollars is a lot of money in the University of California, particularly in an extremely difficult budget environment. The settlement should provide a powerful message to campus police and administrators throughout the system–and across the country–about how to police their own students. I expect that campus police chiefs will be receiving long memos about appropriate force and administrators will think a third or fourth time before authorizing strong police action. The settlement is a victory for campus-based activists for all sorts of causes.
But the larger battle about the future of the University of California, Occupy, or even tuition at the University, is still very much in the air. Protest has absolutely subsided, and Californians will vote on a series of temporary tax hikes in November.
Should Proposition 30 fail at the polls, University administrators have promised program cuts and tuition hikes. Some students, no doubt, working to make sure that doesn’t happen. If they lose at the polls, they’ll be out in the streets–with others. There will be police, but it will take a little bit more disruption before the pepper spray comes out.