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URGENT: Help Ricardo Domínguez!

Dear Friends,

In case you haven’t heard about the troubles facing Ricardo Dominguez at UCSD, the urls and letters below explain the attempts to de-tenure him and stop further work by the Electronic Disturbance Theater. Please take action to defend him.

Background on the problem: http://bang.calit2.net/2010/03/bang-lab-edt-update-call-for-accountability-and-the-criminalization-of-research/

A “how to help” link, the text of which is included below: http://bang.calit2.net/2010/04/how-you-can-help-the-bang-lab-and-edt/

The showing of support from around the world will surely help this case and hopefully demonstrate to the UCOP how difficult it is going to be for them to continue this repression.

Here’s what you can do to help:

1. Write a letter expressing your concerns about this issue, supporting bang.lab/EDT research, calling for an end to the investigations and an end to the
harassment of Ricardo Dominguez and bang.lab/EDT members to:

“Kester, Grant” <gkester@ucsd.edu>, “Larsen, Kristina” <klarsen@ucsd.edu>,
“Lerer, Seth” <slerer@ucsd.edu>, “Lawrence.Pitts@ucop.edu”
<Lawrence.Pitts@ucop.edu>, “Rosen, Amy” <arosen@ucsd.edu>, “SVC Academic
Affairs” <SVCAA@ucsd.edu>, “Ricardo Dominguez” <rrdominguez@ucsd.edu>

Please send your letters by April 7th, 2010!

2. Please come to UCSD on April 8th at 10:30am and show your support with a rally outside of the meeting between Ricardo Dominguez and the Vice
Chancellor. As of now, we think the meeting will be in Grant Kester’s office, Mandevilla 209, on the 2nd floor. A map to the Mandeville building
is here: http://visarts.ucsd.edu/node/view/495/ The vice-chancellor needs to know how broad and determined the support for Ricardo is! Let’s fill the courtyard, the stairs and the first floor open area! Please come and bring friends! The Vice Chancellor is pushing to have the meeting at his
office on North Torrey Pines road, so please check back at http://bang.calit2.net <http://bang.calit2.net/> for updates on April 7th!

BACKGROUND/LANGUAGE FOR LETTERS:

You might use some of the language from this statement in your letter if you are short on time. Following a first, shorter letter is another, lengthier statement that lays out the many threats implied in the UC’s response to Professor Dominguez activist work, for those who would like to know more about what is at stake.

Statement 1, from the UCSD Faculty Anti-Racism Coalition:

Our colleague and member of the UCSD Faculty Anti-Racism Coalition
Professor Ricardo Dominguez (Visual Arts) is being targeted by members of
the Senior Leadership Team for criminal charges and revocation of tenure.

Professor Dominguez researches and engages in various forms of
technology-based art, activism and protest, including facilitating virtual
sit-ins, which allow individuals to protest organizations by occupying
their web sites virtually. Ample precedent has established both the
legality and effectiveness of Professor Dominguez’ research. Professor
Dominguez’ internationally acclaimed leadership in digital activism led to
his hiring as an Assistant Professor at UCSD and promotion to tenure. Most
recently, Professor Dominguez’ b.a.n.g. lab has developed a Transborder
Immigrant Tool to reduce the death toll of immigrants crossing the border
by helping them navigate to water caches, and facilitated a virtual sit-in
of the UCOP web site in support of students protesting budget cuts.

Professor Dominguez’ recent activities have resulted in numerous violent
threats by local racists. Instead of committing university resources for
securing Professor Dominguez’ safety, members of the Senior Leadership
Team have:
-harassed Professor Dominguez’ B.A.N.G. Lab with a time-consuming audit
-initiated the process of revoking Professor Dominguez’ tenure
-sent UCSD detectives to threaten Professor Dominguez with criminal
charges of city, county, state and federal statutes.

Not only do these actions undercut Professor Dominguez’ physical safety,
they also threaten the academic freedom and tenure of all faculty,
especially those who have been working to address and improve the toxic
climate at UCSD.

The Senior Leadership Team’s brazen misuse of the audit, criminal and
tenure systems to go after a faculty member of color working to better our
campus climate and the border region in which we live demands an immediate
and forceful response by the faculty. Note that no-one at the Koala has
been charged with anything to date. The student who hung the noose in the
library will almost certainly not be charged too. Exploring criminal
charges against Professor Dominguez is yet another insult that we refuse
to accept.  It is a rapid reversion to the racial insensitivity that is
the norm for this campus.

The Faculty Anti-Racism Coalition has called an emergency meeting for
Tuesday, April 6 at 5PM in SSB 10 to organize such a response. Please
sprtead this email to as many colleagues, students and staff as you are
can.

In Solidarity,
UCSD Faculty Anti-Racism Coalition
“Another University is Possible”

Statement 2: a lengthier discussion of the situation and its implications, by The UCSD Faculty Coalition:

—————————- Original Message —————————-
Subject: Urgent letter sent to SVCAA Paul Drake concerning Ricardo Dominguez
From:    “ivan evans”
Date:    Mon, April 5, 2010 1:52 pm

————————————————————————–

Dear Coalition members:

On behalf of the Faculty Coalition, a letter has been drawn up to defend
and support Ricardo as he deals with the investigation that Paul Drake has
unleashed against him. The letter, which was sent this morning, is
attached herewith and is also included as text below.

Please feel free to circulate the letter as widely as possible amongst
students, staff, faculty and administrators. There is a sense of growing
shock and outrage that the SVCCAA appears to be deadly serious about his
quest to file criminal charges against Ricardo, possibly revoke his tenure
and dismiss him from UCSD. Astonishingly, the Koala remains eternally
sacrosanct while Ricardo’s academic research is being used to file
criminal charges against him–the very same research the SVCCAA himself
relied on to endorse Ricardo’s promotion to Associate Professor! This is a
measure of what I once referred to as the “racial effrontery” of the
executive and administrative culture at UCSD. To attack a tenured Latino
professor while protecting the unspeakable and hate-filled bigotry of the
Koala beggars belief. We should be, and I believe that we ARE ready to
repel this new assault on our ranks.

Things have changed. As Fnaan said the day after the Compton Cookout
invitation was revealed, “Do they know whom they are dealing with here?”

Ricardo is the primary victim of this perverted development and the
infuriating double-standard it entails. He deserves our full and
unqualified support. But Drake’s investigation is also a general blow
against academic freedom, the freedom to dissent and our right to hold
University administrators accountable–just as the BSU reminded us a few
weeks ago. We will abandon neither our our colleague nor our own freedoms
on campus.

The Anti-Racism Coalition, comprising faculty on campus, will hold an
Emergency Meeting on Tuesday, 6 April from 5-6 p.m. in SSB 101. Please
attend!

In solidarity,

Ivan

__________________________________________
April 5, 2010

Professor Paul Drake, Senior Vice-Chancellor Acadamic Affairs
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla
CA 0065

Dear SVCAA Drake:

The UCSD Faculty Coalition has learned that one of its members, Ricardo
Dominguez (Associate Professor, Visual Arts Department), is being
investigated for an artistic project (“Virtual Sit-In on University of
California Office of the President”) he developed on March 4, 2010 in
conjunction with the recent student protests on campus. Your office has
informed Professor Dominguez that you are attempting to determine the
legal grounds necessary to file criminal charges against him. These
charges, if successful, could lead to the revocation of his tenure at UCSD
or other disciplinary procedures through the Committee on Privilege and
Tenure. Two detectives from the UCSD Police Department (Officers Michael
Britton and Garrett Williams) have since interviewed Professor Dominguez
(on March 30, 2010) and made it clear that they were concerned with
whether or not he had violated any city, county, state or federal laws,
with the goal of turning their findings over to the San Diego City
Attorney’s office or the California state Attorney General.

We hereby inform you that the Faculty Coalition views these developments
with great alarm and is prepared to oppose them in the strongest possible
terms. We are particularly concerned because of the implied attempt to
criminalize an artistic practice, “Electronic Civil Disobedience” or ECD,
which is central to Professor Dominguez’s role as a researcher in Visual
Arts at UCSD. This attempt is evident in the initial documentation of the
complaint, which erroneously claims that the March 4 project involved the
use of  “botnet” code and “zombie” computers (see e-mail from Elazar
Harel, March 5, 2010, “Denial of Service Attack Against UCOP Website”).
This misunderstanding is unfortunate, as the distinction between ECD and a
“classic Denial of Service attack” (e-mail from Paul Weiss to David Ernst
and Nathan Brostrom, March 4, 2010), is absolutely central to Professor
Dominguez’s work, and was discussed in some detail in the referee letters
for his tenure promotion file (approved by your office in 2009). As you
note in your notification letter of March 30, 2009, “Professor Dominguez .
. . has been a defining figure in the migration of performance art from
physical space to virtual space. Professor Dominguez’s work, first with
Critical Art Ensemble and then with Electronic Disturbance Theater, has
been highly cited, and he has been invited to lecture on the work across a
host of important international venues . . . The esteemed status of
Professor Dominguez’s field-defining work has been duly noted by the
external referees, who include major international intellectuals working
in performance art, new media and globalization”.

The central importance of ECD, and a related practice, “Electronic
Disturbance Theater,” to Professor Dominguez’s research is referenced
repeatedly in those same referee letters. Thus, Stephen Duncombe of New
York University notes that Professor Dominguez “is one of the seminal
figures in the cross-over world of activism and art . . . He continually
pushes the boundaries of the field, and in the process redefines it  . . .
His Electronic Civil Disobedience enthralled practitioners and scholars of
contemporary social movements by theorizing that one could move the
terrain of an age-old political tactic to the internet.” Michael Hardt, of
Duke University, argues that Professor Dominguez’s work with Electronic
Disturbance Theater has been “widely influential in academic fields such
as critical theory and performance studies . . . He has essentially
invented a form of political activism and civil disobedience that combines
art performance and new technologies.” Finally, Rita Raley of UC Santa
Barbara clearly states that “the bulk of Dominguez’s work falls under the
category of art-activism . . . it is not for nothing that this art
practice is also known as ‘Electronic Civil Disobedience’ . . . There are
important differences between EDT and what we might call basic distributed
denial-of-service attacks . . . First, EDT by no means aims simply to halt
server traffic. An important component of any EDT performance . . .
involves an error message that itself is part of the performance.
Specifically, the applet will request files with names such as ‘Justice,’
‘Freedom,’ and ‘Human Rights’ from targeted websites; the error message
then in effect reads, ‘Justice Not Found’. As a performative exercise EDT
has three parts: Act 1 is the announcement of the action; Act II is the
action itself; and Act III is the follow up discussion. The discussion is
the site for sophisticated theoretical intervention.”

“Classic” denial of service attacks use the computers of unknowing
individuals as the conduits or vehicles for increased traffic to a given
URL, through a program surreptitiously placed on these computers via the
internet. The goal is to mask or obscure the identity of the actual
perpetrators. As Professor Raley emphasizes, ECD or EDT are defined
precisely by their transparency, and by the open acknowledgement of
responsibility. Professor Dominguez’s March 4 action was widely publicized
ahead of time as a form of conscious, public speech, with the intention of
demonstrating the breadth of support for UC-wide protests against the
dismantling of public education in the state of California. Professor
Brett Stallbaum, one of Professor Dominguez’s collaborators and a fellow
developer of ECD, further clarifies the distinction:

A botnet runs autonomously and automatically, and operates under remote
direction. The owners/users of zombie computers controlled by a botnet are
generally not aware that their computer is performing any action that
could have an effect on a third party or targeted website. Neither are
owners/users typically even aware that their computer’s security has been
compromised, nor that it is under the direct and ongoing control of a
third party. By contrast, in a Virtual Sit-in, there is no botnet
controlling anything . . . in a Virtual Sit-in the owners/users are always
aware that their computers are having an effect on a third party machine
or website. This is a very important difference that goes directly to the
issue of legality and free speech . . . as organizers of hundreds of past
EDT related protests Ricardo (and I) have always taken full and complete
public credit for organizing the protests. Instead of maintaining the
anonymity desired by criminals, we maintain the public face of citizens
freely expressing ourselves as artists.

This key distinction, and the broad academic recognition of ECD as a form
of contemporary artistic practice, is elided in the language of the
investigation against Professor Dominguez launched by UCSD. In the absence
of any more compelling explanation for this sudden willingness to
criminalize a research-based artistic practice that the university, only a
year ago, recognized as deserving of tenure, one can only assume that UCSD
has been placed under some form of external political pressure. Whether
this pressure is coming from the UC Office of the President or some other
source it represents a disturbing breach of the university’s obligation to
maintain a climate of free creative and academic inquiry.

The Faculty Coalition is deeply concerned about the chilling effect that
will result from this investigation. We view the attempt to prosecute
Professor Dominguez on criminal grounds as a serious assault on the
principles of academic freedom and the right to protest. In our view, a
major goal of the investigation is to intimidate Professor Dominguez and
dissuade him from examining activities for which the university has
hitherto routinely rewarded him. All that appears to have changed is that
in the course of the student protests, UCSD became the object of Professor
Dominguez’ acclaimed work. Thus, it is the object of his criticism, and
not the nature of his work, that appears to have set off the criminal
investigation. In short, Professor Dominguez is being muzzled for purely
institutional reasons and his rights as both scholar and citizen are under
attack. Therefore, the Faculty Coalition also views the on-going criminal
investigation as an attempt to intimidate and silence all other faculty,
staff and students who exposed and mobilized against racism on the campus
and eventually singled out the administration as a major pillar of the
“hostile campus climate” that has taken root at UCSD.  The attack on
Professor Dominguez is therefore a shot across our collective bow, an
attempt to restrict both academic freedom and the right to dissent against
the University.

The energetic investigation of Professor Dominguez contrasts starkly with
the university’s tepid response to the various outrages perpetrated by
students, including the criminal destruction of University property and
the serial commission of hate crimes on campus. To date, no charges of any
kind have been brought against a small number of known perpetrators who
repeatedly violated the civil rights of many students, staff and faculty
and created an inhospitable climate that almost brought the campus to a
standstill. The contrast between the treatment of Professor Dominguez and
the Koala is particularly galling and offensive. You will recall that
Chancellor Fox refused to act against the Koala for fear of infringing on
the newspaper’s “freedom of speech”. In light of this response, the
criminal investigation of Professor Dominguez is bizarre, and an egregious
insult to the scholarly community at UCSD.

It should be noted that over past two to three months Professor Dominguez
and his collaborators have received several death threats in response to
their research. Comments such as “Hopefully, you traitors will be shot in
the back of your heads when you least expect it” (and much worse) have
been posted directly on the bang.lab website and also mailed to Professor
Grant Kester, Chair of the Visual Arts Department. At a time of
increasingly violent rhetoric from political extremists in this country,
including harassment and threats directed at public officials who hold
alternate political views, it is deeply troubling that our administration
is not mounting a more robust defense of the mission of the university as
a site of autonomous, critical, reflection. While the threats today are
directed at ECD, tomorrow they may well be aimed at evolutionary biology
or genomic research.
We call upon the UCSD administration to discontinue the unwarranted attack
it has initiated against Professor Dominguez and on the very principles of
free inquiry on which the university system is based.

Sincerely,

The UCSD Faculty Coalition

Cc:
– Stephanie Burke (Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Audit and Management
Advisory Services)
– Professor Harold Pashler (Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom)
– Professor Ricardo Dominguez (Associate Professor, Visual Arts Department)
– Professor Grant Kester, (Chair, Department of Visual Arts)

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