Occupy demonstrators at the University of California, Riverside got a surprise visit Monday during a campus rally. University officials, including Chancellor Timothy White, stopped by.
It was the first time Chancellor White had appeared at a campus Occupy event. This one was staged partly in a show of solidarity with students from UC Davis who were pepper-sprayed by campus police last week.
"Mic check," White began, following Occupy tradition. "Mic check!" the students replied.
White fielded questions in the non-amplified “human microphone” style favored by Occupy activists.
“What maters the most it seems to me, is that your powerful voice gets heard in a way that changes policy in California and creates accessible, high quality, affordable education for all willing to do the work and capable to do the work," White said.
"For free!" a student shouted. "I did not use the word 'free,' so don’t put that one on me!” White said to laughter from the crowd.
White said he felt it was important for him to address the students’ concerns in the wake of the violence at UC Davis and elsewhere. “My style has always been let’s have a conversation and talk about what’s on people’s mind. And I felt as a leader that if I were to not be out here then I wouldn’t hear their voices, I wouldn’t understand more deeply their feelings of the past week or so on the other UC campuses, but also the broader issues in society.”
Occupy activists at UC Riverside voted Monday in favor of pitching tents on campus. It’s unclear when that might happen. Chancellor White expressed continued support for demonstrations that are peaceful and respectful of the larger campus community.