UCSD Prof Questioned About Virtual Sit-in

At issue on the campus of one California university: can one take the civil disobedience or non-violent action and teleport that into digital space as electronic civil disobedience?

More than 150 people gathered outside of a University of California San Diego library Thursday, to support a professor under investigation for his work developing technologies that could prove criminal.

UCSD Visual Arts professor Ricardo Dominguez met with auditors Thursday to discuss a virtual sit-in staged in march to protest the UC system’s financial management.

During the event, about 400 students, faculty and staff triggered a reloading of the UC system president's Web site by registering for the sit-in using a computer program that Dominguez helped create.

The program also prompted a series of messages to appear, including "There is no transparency found at the UC Office of the President" according to published reports.

“At the core of this is that art is not a crime. Online protest is not a crime. Online protest is art,” Dominguez said.

The professor, who met with supports and faculty before marching silently to the meeting with university officials, questioned the timing of the investigation.

“[It would be] an unwise choice for them to attempt to stop academic research and artistic research that I was awarded for in past years,” he said. “Why now? What is different and what does the administration want?”

UCSD administrators say they honor academic freedom, but need to look into any potential criminal activity.

According to Gary Matthews, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning, the meeting involved a personnel issue and was simply procedural.

“It's more a review of the specifics to determine whether there's any need for a criminal investigation or not,” Matthews said.“We will do our best to ensure people’s voices are heard and that due process is served.” 

Dominguez says he is concerned the university may revoke his tenure.

Dominguez was part of the team of researchers who worked to develop the Transborder Immigrant Tool, an application designed to help migrants cross into the U.S.

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