Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Berkeley City Council and U.C. Berkeley

Many here may be aware of a controversy over the last week concerning a decision by the Berkeley city council of California to send a letter to a Marine recruiting center established in downtown Berkeley that it is not welcome here, and then to provide a free parking space in front of the center, along with a weekly demonstration permit, to Code Pink. YouTube videos have shown various demonstrations, including members of another antiwar group, World Can't Wait, blocking entrance to the Marine recruiting center.

This has inflamed national sentiments and led to a strong reaction in the form of the Semper Fi Act of 2008, legislation which would deprive Berkeley and UC Berkeley of somewhere over $2 million in recently earmarked funds, including $243,000 for a Berkeley school lunch program to promote organic and healthy diets; $243,000 for the Ed Roberts Campus, a project that houses offices for disability organizations; $750,000 for water ferry service planned from Berkeley to San Francisco; $94,000 for a police and fire emergency communications system; and $975,000 to the UC Berkeley Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service.

Personally, I think the city council should have the right to say whatever it likes about the Marine recruiting center without fear of losing funding; I also believe that the recruiting center should be allowed to function and people who are curious or interested should be allowed to visit it. But this legislative reaction is way over the top, punishing many people who have nothing to do with the Berkeley City Council and in some cases don't even live in Berkeley.

The issue over the Matsui center is also a library related issue, as it involves donated papers of the late U.S. Congressman Robert T. Matsui, "including documentation of legislative efforts surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement, welfare reform, base closures and Japanese-American reparations, to be housed at the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library." Click here for press release.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau says: "This will be the largest collection of papers at The Bancroft Library from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and it will be highly valued by our students and faculty and by visiting researchers."

Birgeneau has written to the 52 elected officials in Washington DC sponsoring this Semper Fi legislation, explaining that UC Berkeley has nothing to do with the actions of the Berkeley City Council, but it appears that those pushing this legislation don't care, and want to make this into another battering ram kind of election year campaign issue.

Today's Contra Costa Times also reported on the controversy.

- Steve Denney
library assistant, U.C. Berkeley