Commentary: UCD Complaining About 8500 in Occupy Costs? Really? That’s it?

Occupy-Camp-Costs-UCDI could not believe when I saw the release from UC Davis: “Occupy’s aftermath: 8,500 for cleanup and repair,” my thought was, really?  That is what you are going to complain about?
More remarkable still was that the Davis Enterprise ran it as their headline story: “Occupy camp costs UC Davis $8,500 in cleanup, repairs.”

I don’t want to come across as callous, but my reaction is, really?  That’s what you want to focus on?  My second reaction is, get over it.

I can hear the fiscal conservatives talking about the fact that this is taxpayer money, we are in a budget crisis, people are being laid off, yada yada yada.  I’m sorry, I think I have established my fiscal creds on this site more often than most in this community.  Here’s my thinking: you just pepper-sprayed students on handheld video, before TV and newspaper cameras.

Your university has become a symbol for overzealous crackdowns on students protesters.  The image of John Pike pepper-spraying kids has become an iconic moment in the national political discourse.  Between the loss of donations and the threat of investigations – if the worst thing that happens is that you have to pay $8500 in cleanup costs and repairs, consider yourselves damn lucky.

If the protesters had actually wanted to inflict damage it would have easily run into the tens of thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the UC Davis News service. They are friendly, easy to work with, and above all professional in terms of their treatment of the news media, including this outlet.  That said, it probably cost more than $8500 in staff time to produce this report.

The students occupied Dutton Hall for two weeks, and they left Dutton Hall at 10 a.m. Sunday (Dec. 11).

Writes the news service, “Soon thereafter the cleanup and repair crews moved in – all on overtime. They worked from about noon to midnight, scrubbing away graffiti, fixing broken door locks, cleaning the stained carpets, picking up trash and airing out the building.”

The report continues, “Meanwhile, groundskeepers have their work cut out for them on the Quad, the site of an encampment that at its height numbered about 80 tents. A few tents and a geodesic dome remained as of this morning (Dec. 16), and officials said they were making plans to aerate and reseed the turf.”

Allen Tollefson, assistant vice chancellor in charge of Facilities Management, estimated the cost of the Dutton Hall cleanup and fix-it operation at $7,000. The grounds unit estimated a cost of $1,500 in labor and supplies to rehabilitate the Quad.

At Dutton Hall, six custodians and five building services employees put in a total of 63 hours on Sunday, cleaning the building and making repairs.

Really, that’s it?  After two weeks of occupation, the cost is in the four digits.  That should be the real story, because you know darn well if the students really wanted to cause damage, it would have been easy to run that figure far higher.

The story should be, despite their lawless image, students leave behind a small but unavoidable mark that is remarkably low considering their illegal occupation of a building and the lack of police involvement.

The story continues, however: “Then, Monday morning (Dec. 12), for the first time in two weeks, Dutton Hall employees found a clean and clear path to their offices, and students once again had easy access to important services such as Financial Aid and the Cashier’s Office on the first floor, Student Accounting and the Student Academic Success Center on the second floor, and Student Judicial Affairs on the third floor.”

“No more stepping over people in sleeping bags. No more maneuvering around tents in the lobby and hallways. No more seeing people in their underwear,” the story continues.  “The occupation peaked with about 30 people spending the night. With the occupation’s end, Dutton Hall employees regained confidence that everyone in the building had legitimate business there, as students, faculty or staff.”

The presence of occupiers who were not affiliated with UC Davis “was a big worry of ours,” said Matt Carmichael, acting police chief. “And it was a big fear of the employees, including women who felt they needed to pair up for restroom visits.”

Acting Chief Matt Carmichael reported that the Police Department stepped up its patrols during the occupation, walking through Dutton Hall every hour, 24 hours a day – a practice that meant reduced patrol elsewhere on the campus.

“Dutton Hall is not meant to be lived in,” Mr. Carmichael said. “It is not meant for sleeping or food storage or eating or doing your laundry in the bathroom sinks.”

The story continues, not emphasizing a lot of positives that could have been gleaned out of this, including the absence of any attacks and the lack of intentional property destruction.

The smell, however, made the news: “Yet, that is what went on there for two weeks – as evidenced by the strong body odor in the building. Tollefson said eliminating the smell required his crews to stop the recirculation of air and fully exhaust the building.”

The occupation posed difficulties for students and staff, said Don Dudley, director of Student Judicial Affairs.  That was the point of the occupation, was it not?  If the worst thing that came out of this is inconvenience and difficulty, consider yourselves lucky and move on.

Instead, according to the news service: “His office closed for one day and Financial Aid closed another day, but, other than that, Dutton Hall employees ‘absolutely did the best they could to keep providing services.’ “

“Still, students – on the eve of final exams – found themselves having to adjust to alternate sites for tutoring sessions or workshops, or alternate ways of taking care of business at Student Accounting, where a large tent blocked the main entry,” the story continues.

Leslie Sherlin, associate accounting officer, said Student Accounting closed its service counter and instead worked with students by telephone or online, or arranged to meet them outside of Dutton Hall – if they felt uneasy about coming in.

As the occupation went on, and the employees mustered through, the protesters held meetings and teach-ins, and posted Facebook invitations to two after-hours dance parties, neither of which drew a big crowd.

“Besides walking through Dutton Hall on an hourly basis during the two-week occupation, police responded to nine calls for service in the building, compared with zero during the same time frame a year ago,” the story continues.  And this is surprising?

The one issue I would like to see more on is the assault and battery: “The occupation-related reports included an assault and battery involving two people not affiliated with the campus, and someone beating on doors.”

There was apparently some mess left behind.  Mr. Carmichael said the occupiers did little cleaning of their own. They made such a mess of a sofa that the university threw it out, after first trying to clean it.

The news service cites a Dec. 11 article, where The Davis Enterprise quoted Bernie Goldsmith, described as a local attorney active with the protesters, as saying the occupiers would “broom-clean” the building and hire a professional window cleaner.

“But the window cleaning apparently never happened, Carmichael said, leaving Facilities Management with the task of removing all the tape that the occupiers had used to hang up posters,” the story continues.

After the building emptied out, police picked up the belongings that remained, including sleeping bags and blankets, a cushion from a couch – and a scooter. Carmichael said the property is being held in safekeeping at the Police Department, if owners wish to claim the items.

Police said they also gathered contraband: marijuana and empty alcohol bottles.

Imagine that.  I’m expecting the voice of Duncan McLeod’s character, from Valley of the Dolls, about now saying, “She was living in a single room with three other individuals. One of them was a male, and the other two, well the other two were females. God only knows what they were up to in there… and furthermore, Susan, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that all four of them habitually smoked marijuana cigarettes… reefers.”

Is that really where we are going with all of this?

If I were writing this story, it would have been, despite some mess and unavoidable property damage, for the most part the occupiers were well-behaved, did not go out of their way to inflict damage, and the university should be darn thankful that the result of the pepper-spraying, which made it nearly impossible to deploy campus police, was not far worse than it was.

But instead, we get a story about a small amount of mess and property damage and try to turn it into some grave injustice, and it just was not that.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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28 Comments

  1. rusty49

    Let’s see, soiled couches, graffiti, stained carpets, broken locks, marijuana, empty alcohol bottles, etc…
    $7000 in damage to Dutton Hall in just two weeks, sounds to me like the agitator protesters acted like a bunch of pigs. I say they would have made a much bigger statement if they had done no damage and left the place as they had found it. I know David that it fits into your agenda to try and downplay the damage that the agitators caused but this hurts their so-called movement no matter how much you dislike it.

  2. justoutsidetown

    Those Janitors would have been paid $8500 no matter what.. they are a FIXED COST.

    The Davis Enterprise should be ashamed to print red herrings like that.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Whether or not you think it is commendable, it’s hardly worth the University likely spending more to put together a news story on it and the local paper running it as a headline story.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]“Occupy camp costs UC Davis $8,500 in cleanup, repairs.”
    I don’t want to come across as callous, but my reaction is, really? That’s what you want to focus on? My second reaction is, get over it.[/quote]

    THe fact of the matter is the students caused damage they failed to clean up/fix. Someone else was required to go in and scour the mess away. That puts the students in the wrong, any way you slice it. The idea that it could have been so much worse does not justify what the students did/failed to do. Secondly, had the students been allowed to “camp” for a longer period of time, it probably would have resulted in far worse damage, which is I’m sure how the UCD administration saw it.

    The damage the students did does not in any way negate the unwiseness of using pepper spray on the students when a less violent means was probably at hand (police could have gone in at night after sprinklers were turned on to make protesters/campers very uncomfortably wet). The two are separate issues IMO…

  5. David M. Greenwald

    No Elaine, the fact of the matter is really that the UC Officials should consider themselves lucky if that’s their only cost rather than whining about it and having the Davis Enterprise put it as a front page headlined story – it’s a non-story and everyone knows it.

  6. Don Shor

    If you support the Occupy movement, and want to help defray these costs, just make your check payable to U.C. Regents and send it to UC Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616.

  7. medwoman

    “THe fact of the matter is the students caused damage they failed to clean up/fix. Someone else was required to go in and scour the mess away. That puts the students in the wrong, any way you slice it

    I agree with you on this one Elaine. It does not matter that there were far more egregious wrongs on the part of the police. Each action has to be addressed on its own merits, or demerits as the case may be. The protesters would have made a much more powerful statement is they had left the building in exactly the same state as encountered. This would have the advantage of retaining the moral high ground by taking full responsibility for one’s own actions.

    Having said that, I do not think that the “adults” in this case, the police, the Chancellor, and Yudof have set much of an example to the supposedly still impressionable students with their dissembling, fingerpointing, continued lack of accessibility, and general unwillingness to step up, accept full responsibility in anything more than platitudes, and clean up their own mess, so to speak.

  8. roger bockrath

    So U.C. Davis figured out how to make a small cleaning after the occupiers left look like $8,500. Why did the cleaning crew have to work on overtime hours?

    At that rate, the cleaning after a typical Aggie football game must cost $20-$30,000. I think U.C. is damn lucky the student protesters did not burn Dutton Hall to the ground. The real financial impact from the police brutality will be felt if student Protesters file a multi-million dollar Federal civil Rights suit against U.C.

    With U.C. Davis now nationally known for failure to keep their students protected from their own cops, it’s going to be much more difficult for Chancellor Katehi to mooch the millions expected of a chancellor from her wealthy one percenter friends.

  9. Don Shor

    President Yudof could cover that cost in 34 hours at his [i]base[/i] pay of $529K per year (there are a few other parts of his salary that push it up a few hundred thousand more…). Or he could waive his annual car allowance at $8900/year.

  10. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]No Elaine, the fact of the matter is really that the UC Officials should consider themselves lucky if that’s their only cost rather than whining about it and having the Davis Enterprise put it as a front page headlined story – it’s a non-story and everyone knows it.[/quote]

    Your OPINION, not mine. We will have to agree to disagree on this one. Protesters should be made to clean up their own messes wherever possible. IMO the reason protesters are so eager to voice opinions by being destructive is bc they never have to clean up after themselves!

    [quote]Having said that, I do not think that the “adults” in this case, the police, the Chancellor, and Yudof have set much of an example to the supposedly still impressionable students with their dissembling, fingerpointing, continued lack of accessibility, and general unwillingness to step up, accept full responsibility in anything more than platitudes, and clean up their own mess, so to speak.[/quote]

    Well said!

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “Your OPINION, not mine. We will have to agree to disagree on this one. Protesters should be made to clean up their own messes wherever possible. IMO the reason protesters are so eager to voice opinions by being destructive is bc they never have to clean up after themselves!”

    Understood, but my point in writing this is not to say that the posters acted optimally, but rather to point out that UCD is basically whining about a very small cost, they have turned it into the front page story on the Sunday paper of the Davis Enterprise, and yet, in real terms this is a non-issue. THe Students could have done far worse than they did. If the worst that happened was a little extra-cleaning, that as Roger points out, could have been done on normal times and not incur OT costs, then the university should consider themselves lucky.

  12. dgrundler

    [quote]So U.C. Davis figured out how to make a small cleaning after the occupiers left look like $8,500. Why did the cleaning crew have to work on overtime hours? [/quote]

    Because the rest of their cleaning duties don’t go away.

    [quote]At that rate, the cleaning after a typical Aggie football game must cost $20-$30,000. I think U.C. is damn lucky the student protesters did not burn Dutton Hall to the ground. [/quote]

    The cleaning fee for the football games is factored in to the cost of the tickets and contracts. You got the second part of that wrong. The protestors are damn lucky they didn’t burn Dutton Hall to the ground. Not only would charges be brought against participating students, it would have invalidated the whole protest and turned the ire of many more people (probably a majority of the community) against the cause.

    With U.C. Davis now nationally known for failure to keep their students protected from their own cops, it’s going to be much more difficult for Chancellor Katehi to mooch the millions expected of a chancellor from her wealthy one percenter friends.[/quote]

  13. civil discourse

    $8500 is nothing for UC Davis. The announcement is a joke. If an oak tree fell at the arboretum and UC Davis had to pay for it to be removed, would anybody hear it? The press release only polarizes opinions already held. Look at the reactions on this blog- no new opinions, just ammo for either side. UC Davis news should be ashamed.

  14. 91 Octane

    of course the vanguard doesn’t want this part of the equation addressed because it doesn’t make his protestors look good.

    “No Elaine, the fact of the matter is really that the UC Officials should consider themselves lucky if that’s their only cost rather than whining about it and having the Davis Enterprise put it as a front page headlined story – it’s a non-story and everyone knows it.”

    non – story according to you. And no, everyone does not know it. Basically this is what makes the vanguard a propagandist – when the facts come out that doesn’t make his side look good, call it a non-story that should not be covered…….

    8500 damage is the end result of a so called “peaceful protest”

  15. 91 Octane

    You can spin it either way, for me $8500 is chump change compared to the millions in damage that could have been done to the building.

    well maybe that chump change should be taken out of the vanguard’s pocket. or possibly the protestors perhaps? there should not be an argument because its “chump change”

  16. Adam Smith

    $8500 seems like a misprint. To David’s point about the cost of the story, the same would be true for sending out the police force. All the planning and meetings, extra security,plus reseeding the lawn, dealing with the waste? $85,000 would seem more like it.

  17. Greg Kuperberg

    The Davis Vanguard has suggested many times, when the issue is compensation for public managers, that feelings and symbolism are more important than math and logic. So how come the math matters now? Technically it’s correct that $8,500 is not very much money for UC Davis, but tough cookies, the symbolism is bad. When people walk away from math, they do so at their own peril.

  18. David Suder

    [quote]$7000 in damage to Dutton Hall in just two weeks, sounds to me like the agitator protesters acted like a bunch of pigs. – rusty[/quote]Agree. Having damaged or soiled the building in any way was inappropriate.
    [quote]THe fact of the matter is the students caused damage they failed to clean up/fix. Someone else was required to go in and scour the mess away. That puts the students in the wrong, any way you slice it. – Elaine[/quote]That absolutely puts the Dutton Hall occupiers in the wrong. Do we know whether the the occupiers actually were UCD students?
    [quote]“Occupy’s aftermath: 8,500 for cleanup and repair,” my thought was, really? – DG[/quote]This is kind of an interesting story. I recall reading earlier that the Dutton occupiers had hired window washers to clean up Dutton Hall (although one would think that dirty windows would have been a minor issue). At the time, I recall thinking that the occupiers were attempting to “hold the moral high ground” by cleaning up after themselves. The UCD News Service/[i]Enterprise[/i] story suggests that the Occupiers did not follow through and left some damage and mess behind.

    While I would certainly not consider $8,500 to be a petty cost if the damage were to my home, it does seem rather small within the context of the UCD/Occupy story (especially considering that it is probably somewhat inflated). I am certain that the cost of lost donation opportunities and staff/consultant time spent on reputation repair will exceed that value by several orders of magnitude.

    It would seem that PR mistakes were made on both sides here: The Occupiers (whoever they actually were) erred by leaving [i]any[/i] damage or mess when they left Dutton Hall, as it degraded their image. UCD PR staff erred by keeping the UCD/Occupy story alive for a few more days. I would have thought it far wiser to let a day or two go by without another UCD/Occupy headline.

  19. jimt

    I too am surprised that the cost was just $8500; I would have thought much higher.
    Presumably the policing cost was much more?

    I also agree that the occupiers should have cleaned up after themselves–did they at least help to clean up some of the mess they made? I would suspect this; and would also suspect they did not completely clean up after themselves; some likely were responsible about cleaning up and some careless/irresponsible. Too bad press corps was not there to document the occupiers leaving and what they did and didn’t do to clean up!

  20. medwoman


    Next time someone damages UC property we should all thank them for not damaging more property. That’s funny.

    Just as a corollary, the next time campus police pepper spray protesters, should we thank them for not shooting them ?

  21. joeyjoe

    Hi. Ive been involved with Whole Earth Festival in varying degrees and positions for the last 20 years. A large part of WEF budget goes to reseed the grounds every year, and this figure easily goes into the multiple thousands of dollars. One must remember that UCDs maintenance staff is unionized,and if you consider union pay scale coupled with overtime this can easily make a seemingly few man-hours cost a lot of money.
    For instance, two years ago, WEF requested ( at my behest ) two 240 Volt 50 Amp California twistlock power drops be installed right outside Wellman Hall. I priced the two plugs at $42 each ( that’s retail ) plus perhaps $300 tops ( also retail ) for the wiring. This sort of job would take a skilled electrician perhaps three hours at most. The university quoted me over $2000 for the entire job. Since this did not fit into the WEF budget, we were not able to get the drops.
    We are talking about $1616 for three man hours of labor. Now what we have not considered is the administrative cost, i.e., the cost of pushing all of the paperwork through the UC beauraucracy in order to make the work request a reality. The request must first go through the purchasing office, then to the electricians union office, then finally the electricians can be scheduled, so on and so forth. At every stage of the game, the office costs pile up. Reminds me of the days of the $800 hammers and the $12000 toilet seats when people discussed defense spending.
    Really, the Enterprise should have considered these costs as well when they printed their article, as it represents a large portion of the total $8500. That they did not shows what awesome journalists they are :-)!
    I live across the street from Central Park. The Occupiers have cleared out, and the only trace they have left is some discolored grass, no worse than the football punks who rent the house next door to me. In fact the occupy site is cleaner than the punks front yard, and a lot quieter. In fact, I wish I had occupiers living next to me instead of the football clowns. They were much quieter and much better neighbors. At least the occupiers probably would let my daughter and I sleep at night.
    And these ( the university ) are the people who would regularly let the area between 2cd and university and between A and B street get DEVASTATED every picnic day, with full sanction from the city. Like a NUCLEAR BOMB went off. I remember walking down second street calf-deep in trash, platic cups, beer bottles, broken glass and god knows what else. How much did it cost to clean up that little UC-sanctioned party?
    The Enterprise makes me sick, as do all of you people bagging on the occupiers. – Joe Wisgirda

  22. joeyjoe

    Oh yeah, and as for the rest of WEF’s budget – it all goes to the cops. Out of about a $35K budget, maybe $8K goes to sound and the bands – the rest goes to grounds and the cops. No lie. That’s to have four officers on duty, plus aggie hosts, present during the course of the festival. About $27K. To reseed the lawn and have four cops present.
    I would not be surprised if they included policing in that $8.5K number, and I would not be surprised if the police tacked it onto overtime …….

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