Student groups block Sather Gate in latest protest for relocation

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Alice Langford/Staff

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More than 100 members and supporters of the Queer Alliance Resource Center, or QARC, and bridges Multicultural Resource Center blocked Sather Gate for several hours early Friday afternoon as part of their latest protest to be relocated to different club space on campus.

Protesters led chants and held signs reading “Fight 4 Spaces of color” and “Students over profit” and, after a break of several hours, resumed demonstrating that evening. It was the groups’ third protest since last week to advance relocation demands from their current space in the Eshleman Hall basement to spaces in that building and the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building currently allocated to the ASUC Senate and Student Store.

Last week, members and supporters rallied at the office of Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell, and they occupied the Student Store on Monday. Members of the group packed Wednesday night’s ASUC Senate meeting, and bridges board director Jerry Javier said the groups may occupy future Senate meetings if their demands aren’t met.

At an emergency meeting held Thursday with the ASUC Student Union Board — which controls space allocation in the student union building — and campus officials, the student groups rejected proposals that would move their spaces to floors in Anna Head Alumnae Hall, the fourth floor of the student union building or the Hearst Field Annex.

According to David Lemus, organizing and community development director for bridges, the groups took issue with the alternative locations’ lack of visibility on campus.

“It’s not just the size of the space, it’s also the location,” Lemus said. “Nobody even knows that MLK has a fourth floor.”

The groups also took issue with several postponements of the meeting and the fact that Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell originally agreed to attend the meeting after the group’s Monday occupation of the Cal Student Store but was not present.

“It feels like they’re not taking our demands seriously,” said Angelico Patricio, transfer recruitment and retention director for bridges.

At the end of its current five-year contract with BBA Solutions, the private vendor that operates the student store, the board could choose a different vendor but would need to pay BBA Solutions $750,000 of construction costs, according to ASUC Student Union Board member Kena Hazelwood-Carter. She added that moving a student group into the space could require renovating the space for noncommercial use.

“We don’t have power to break (the) contract,” Hazelwood-Carter said. “We could be taken to court if we break it.”

Lemus clarified that the groups are not asking that the Cal Student Store be eliminated; instead, they are asking that the contract be renegotiated for its relocation.

Joe Wilson, chair of the ASUC Student Union Board, previously said QARC and bridges originally agreed to their placement in the Eshleman Hall basement in 2011 due to privacy concerns.

Bridges’ Executive Director Carolyn Nguyen, however, said the group was only given the option between sharing its office space with all other student groups or taking the space in the basement. According to Nguyen, because of bridges’ work with K-12 students, they are required to keep certain information confidential and therefore had no choice but to agree to its current location.

Nguyen, however, raised concerns about the ASUC Student Union Board’s communication with the group during the space allocation process.

One of the issues contributing to the situation, Hazelwood-Carter said, was that original plans for Eshleman Hall envisioned the building with six floors of space. The ultimate five floors led to a “space crunch” and “tap dancing” after negotiations.

“This is not a promise that was broken,” Hazelwood-Carter said. “The space did not live up to the promise that was made.”

Contact Alex Barreira and Jessica Lynn at [email protected].