Berkeley Briefs

Thursday May 12, 2005 - 08:55:00 PM

Students Protest for Palestine 

One year after storming UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall and making national headlines, several dozen pro-Palestinian student activists staged a modest protest Wednesday afternoon calling on the university to divest from Israel. 

The Sproul Plaza rally commemorated the April 9, 1948, Israeli paramilitary attack on the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, which left several civilians dead. 

Activists, many involved in the anti-war movement, said events in Iraq have shifted the focus away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“I think a lot of momentum was building around the Palestinian issue when the war broke out, and that energy has been transitioning into the anti-war movement,” said NAME REMOVED BECAUSE OF PRESSURE, an Oakland resident who took part in the student protest. 

Last year on April 9 UC Berkeley police arrested 79 protesters for taking over Wheeler Hall. Two months later, the Alameda County district attorney dropped criminal charges against the protesters, but the students involved still faced possible disciplinary action from the university.  

In February, students signed confidential agreements with the university settling their conduct cases. 

On Wednesday, protesters staged street theater with students impersonating Israeli guards before the noon rally. Protesters waved Palestinian flags and equated Israel with South Africa’s former apartheid state. 

Josh Baron, a member of a student group called the Israel Action Committee, held an Israeli flag aloft during the rally. He criticized pro-Palestinian activists for equating Israeli policies with apartheid. 

“I think it does an injustice to the intellectual capacity of this university,” Baron said of the protest. “I’m here to say I think your slogan is crap.” 

—David Scharfenberg 


Cesar Chavez Street 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Betty Olds, Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington will serve on a new committee, formed last week, that will chose a “major street” to be named after Cesar Chavez, the founder of the National Farm Workers Association. He died in 1993. 

The streets that have been talked about include University and Ashby avenues and Gilman Street, because Chavez’s name would be displayed prominently on exit signs on Interstate 80.  

“Sacramento Street has also been talked about because it runs parallel to Martin Luther King Jr. Way, which would have symbolic significance,” Worthington said.  

Olds said she supports naming a street after Chavez, but has reservations about altering Gilman Street and University and Ashby avenues because of the hardships the name change would impose on the small businesses that line those streets. 

“People think it doesn’t hurt businesses, but it does,” she said. “And I don’t think Cesar Chavez would want to hurt these little mom-and-pop businesses.” 

Once the committee chooses a street, it will be approved by City Council and submitted to the city’s two-year work plan. 

—John Geluardi 

Study Slams Charter Schools 

The nation’s growing number of charter schools rely heavily on uncredentialed teachers; fail to secure available public funding for low-achieving or disabled students, and leave black children isolated in racially homogenous schools, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Stanford University. 

“Charter schools now offer hope for hundreds of thousands of families, many dissatisfied with mediocre or unsafe local schools,” said Bruce Fuller, the UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy who directed the study. “Ironically, we discovered that many charter students are exposed to less qualified teachers and weaker instructional support than if they had remained in regular public schools.” 

The report found that 48 percent of charter school teachers, including 32 percent of those in California, are uncredentialed, compared to only 9 percent at the typical public school. 

The study also found that schools serving the largest number of black students are 80 percent black on average. Comparable public schools are more integrated, with 54 percent the highest percentage of black students. 

Critics of the study said the report did not address the fundamental question of how charter school students are performing. A study conducted last year by the Charter Schools Development Center found that California’s “veteran” charter schools — those that have been in existence for five years or more — outperformed standard public schools on the state’s testing system. Charter schools, as a whole, did worse than regular schools. 

—David Scharfenberg