FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/1/2014
UC Berkeley Coalition Takes Action against Privatization, Leads Alum to Action on 50th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement
Maggie Downey, email@example.com, (717) 471-0559
Alison McDonald, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (951) 330-0660
Facebook: www.facebook.com/calprogressivecoalition Twitter: @CalProgressives
A & E Building, UC Berkeley Campus: Following the 50th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement rally, UC students, workers, and community members of the Cal Progressive Coalition (CPC) led a surprise march and sit-in at Capital Projects, the real estate arm of the University of California that is actively privatizing public resources. The CPC action sparked dialogue among Free Speech Movement alums on the ways that the UC continues to silence students through the privatization of the school and increasingly militarized police violence.
Students led the sit-in inside Capital Projects, with 5 demands. 1) They demand that Capital Projects provide them with the documents about the proposed commercial development of the Gill Tract Farm that Vice Chancellor of Real Estate, Robert LaLanne, promised them in May, and 2) demand a meeting with Chancellor Dirks, who backed out of a meeting with the group he promised in May. 3) The students also demand a halt to the commercial development of the Gill Tract Farm to allow for alternatives that better reflect student and community needs for the land (more about the Gill Tract, below). 4) They demand that Capital Projects work with other branches of the University to respect the wishes of the community of Richmond in their plans for the new Richmond Bay Campus. Finally, 5) they demand that all of capital projects’ documents be made transparent and accessible.
In speeches outside the building, the Coalition underscored that this is just one of many grievances with Capital Projects and the UC Administration’s privatization and corporate take-over of our “public” University, as seen in the increasing extraction of wealth from students through tuition who are then not given a voice in where this public money is invested (more about issues highlighted in speeches, below). Much of this is emblemized by the oligarchy of the UC Regents and their corporate ties. Additionally, at every level of the system, the UC is also militarizing to actively repress these voices of resistance in speaking out against these corporate interests. Signs and speeches spoke out to the police violence on campus, where students have been pepper-sprayed, beaten, and had guns pulled on them. This violence is part of escalating militarization of police globally- like in the police violence in Ferguson, the detention of children at the US border, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The increasing debt and threat of violence that students live with are two sides of the same system of silencing that the Free Speech Movement resisted 50 years ago.
Cutting through the facade of the University’s nostalgic memorialization of the Free Speech Movement’s anniversary, students held signs and chanted “The Struggle Continues”.
More on concerns in student speeches:
Students spoke to the ever-increasing student tuition and fees, and residents of the UC Village student family housing complex spoke to their rent hikes. Members of Fossil Free Cal and Students for Justice in Palestine spoke to their protracted campaigns for divestment and student voice in the decisions making about where public money is invested. Arnold Meza, a Richmond resident and campus worker spoke about UC Berkeley’s new development in Richmond and the need for UCB to respect the Union, by ensuring that all jobs are UC employed union jobs, and to respect the community by ensuring that all private corporations that they partner with respect the environment, affordable housing and promote fair public education. The community in Richmond has been devastated by bad corporate players, like Chevron, and UCB should be held to a higher standard. Members from the UAW 2865 Student Worker union highlighted how corporate funding of research negatively impacts academic freedom to develop innovative solutions to climate change and social injustices.
A recent publication by the Coalition to the University’s Student Environmental Resource Center, highlights the importance of a “Just Transition” from corporate-dominated fossil fuel-based economy, to a people-powered alternative economy:
More on the Gill Tract Farm:
Students, faculty and neighbors to the land have petitioned the Administration with alternatives to the commercial development as far back as 1997, pointing out that the big box-grocery store, large parking lot, and high-end housing complex are an irresponsible use of an undeveloped greenfield, that will have devastating health impacts for the local community. Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) has teamed up with these long-time community residents to advocated for a “Food Initiative” on the Gill Tract that would provide hands-on learning opportunities for students and community-drive research in urban agriculture and other solutions to climate change.
Capital Projects refers to the site of the proposed development as an “empty lot”, but the land is directly on the historic 100acre Gill Tract Farm parcel that once stretched from San Pablo to Marin. The Coalition, acknowledging the land’s legacy as a historic farm and research site, refer to it as the Gill Tract Farm.
SEAL interviews available upon request