Faculty members, researchers disagree on Albany encampment

UC Berkeley Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri speaks during teach-outs at the occupy the farm encampment in Albany on Saturday, April 28, 2012.
Christopher Yee/Staff
UC Berkeley Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri speaks during teach-outs at the occupy the farm encampment in Albany on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

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ALBANY, Calif. — Although several UC Berkeley faculty members have expressed support for the encampment on UC-owned land in Albany, researchers who use the land said they are not able to start work due to the occupation.

In an open letter to the Albany community, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton said campus officials will continue discussions with protesters to seek a peaceful resolution provided they dismantle the encampment.

During his Saturday teach-out at the encampment, Miguel Altieri, an environmental science, policy and management professor, encouraged the protesters not to give up their only bargaining chip — the land.

Altieri gave the encampment his support but made it clear that he was there as a private citizen and not a representative of the campus or the College of Natural Resources, which has not taken a public stance on the encampment.

“I think it’s a good idea that we save this land for agricultural research and community outreach supporting organic means of food production,” Altieri said.

Damon Lisch, a professional researcher in the College of Natural Resources who plants on the occupied land along with three other researchers, said they can not start until negotiations between the campus and protesters are complete.

Lisch, who also visited the camp on Saturday, added that the grant through which he is paid will end after this year and that halting with his research would seriously endanger the possibility of receiving grants next year.

“I’m not a professor like Altieri, so (my funding) is entirely dependent on my research,” Lisch said. “Unfortunately, they made an opponent of me as well as the university … An open compromise between the occupiers and the university doesn’t seem right to me because it rewards unilateral action.”

Lisch said that if a compromise is reached between the two groups, he will work alongside the protesters to conduct his research.

Despite Lisch’s disapproval of the encampment, anthropology professors Laura Nader and Paul Rabinow visited Albany on Sunday to express their support for the protesters.

“I think there are many people in the faculty and neighborhood who would like things to change,” Rabinow told the group. “We probably don’t have the courage to do what you are doing, so this is great.”

Although she mentioned that she would talk to Gov. Jerry Brown, Nader said that the protesters should show the community support and practicality of the farm to the UC Board of Regents.

“The university needs to join hands with the community and … with the young,” she said. “Occupy is not the enemy of the university.”

Christopher Yee is the assistant news editor.