UCSD Professor Ricardo Dominguez (by Nelvin C. Cepeda / Union-Tribune)

Ricardo Dominguez, a visual arts professor at the University of California, San Diego, is under fire for electronic civil disobedience work.

Today, the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Dominguez is really feeling the heat from his university, auditors, and the police over a virtual sit-in he staged last month on the website for the president of the University of California system:

The event, which disrupted the site’s operations, was held to protest budget cuts and what Dominguez called the increasing privatization of the public university … Officials at the University of California San Diego are looking at whether the sit-in amounts to a “denial of service attack,” in which a hacker tries to shut down a Web site.

But that’s not his only project that is attracting attention. His Transborder Immigrant Tool project has been under fire from anti-immigration forces and conservative congressmen since it began earlier this year:

Since January, Dominguez said, he’s also been questioned by campus administrators about a GPS-enabled cell phone tool he’s helping develop that would provide illegal immigrants with information on water bins and Border Patrol lookouts in the border area. That project has drawn complaints from three local congressmen who said public money shouldn’t be used to help illegal border-crossers.

Art is not a crime,” Dominguez said during the rally. “Online protest in not a crime.”

This is more information on bang.lab and there is an online petition you can sign to show your support for Dominguez, who is “currently being threatened with criminal action and the revocation of his tenure by UCOP and several UCSD senior administrators.”

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

18 replies on “Art Professor Under Fire For Artistic Protests”

    1. What a nuanced and subtle comment. Did you even read this?

      For the ECD protest, it only worked if people actually clicked a link that would run a script that only refreshed the page of the UCOP website. This means that there was no hacking whatsoever, and that they were not using bots or zombie computers to use up bandwidth. There’s nothing illegal about this, and there is a legal precedent in Germany that upholds this as civil disobedience. They were using the exact same software in that case, too.

      As for the Transborder Immigration Tool, the organization Border Angels basically does the same thing: they provide water to illegal immigrants crossing the border who would die otherwise. This is a purely humanitarian project. Professor Dominguez even worked with the Border Patrol on this project.

      If this is illegal, and you seem to have figured that out very quickly, then why did it take the University of California over a year? (hint: it’s a trick question)

      Please take some more time with such a serious issue. Less than 5 professors in the entire history of the UC system have ever had their tenure revoked, and here we have a professor who has received praise and awards for the very work he is now being harassed about.

        1. Apologies for any ambiguity. I thought since I was replying to Cohen’s comment that it would be clear I was criticizing his comment. And to further clarify, that was also sarcasm.

          1. i read everything twice and thought about it before you woke up…the point is the guy is breaking the law artistic protest or not. If i walk down the street dressed as a giant joint and toking a small one, whether or not its art, i am still going to the catacombs for the night. Also i am a minority just like him. jewish fascists are in short supply

  1. Mr. Cohen, you still have not gone into any detail as to why this is illegal. At best you gave an irrelevant analogy. As I stated before, there is legal precedent that affirms this type of protest as legitimate civil disobedience.

    Furthermore, if this is in fact illegal, then why isn’t Brett Stalbaum being investigated? He wrote the code for the Transborder Immigrant Tool, and he has not been contacted by any of the authorities. Also, none of the other people involved with the protest against the UCOP website have been contacted by the authorities, despite public statements of both involvement and leadership in the project. The whole situation is incredibly specious. When one or two people are selectively targeted, it seems that the law is acting just as dubious as you claim Ricardo Dominguez has acted.

    If you refuse to engage in a discussion, that’s fine, I’m sure you have your reasons, but you give me dismissive remarks with no logic or explanation and it comes off as dickish.

  2. Well, there are just laws, and then there are unjust laws. Don’t you get what civil disobedience even means? It seems the bigger issue is that some people think art should be this or that, and that no one should be allowed to oppose this view; it seems these same people think thus that an artist can be bullied, and so pull up all manner of rationalization to bring him down. And as usual the discussion is completely focused on everything other than the problem the protest was meant to address, how typical. You’re too comfortable worshiping your institutions, if the lines are not pushed, change will never happen.

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