People’s Park has long been a source of contention for UC Berkeley, its students, city residents and people who use the space. The park itself has changed over the years and will continue to do so as the campus grows around it, with the Anna Head Residence Hall set to open this fall.
Though finding fault with efforts to clean the park and reduce its rat population is difficult, the way in which the campus went about doing so on Dec. 28 was insensitive to those who use the park the most.
Yes, the campus has the right to — and should — clean the park for students and Berkeley community members. But by not communicating their intent prior to sending work crews in, campus administrators failed to respect the park’s storied history. Not even the People’s Park Community Advisory Board, which holds regular meetings and maintains a relationship with the campus administration, was informed of the incoming workers.
This incident highlights the troubling inconsistency of how UC Berkeley administrators deal with park-goers. Campus officials cannot choose, for the sake of convenience, to ignore the people who they allow to call the park home. The park’s well-being and its rodent problem should always be important issues to campus administrators, not just before the opening of a new residence hall looms near.
The destruction of important fixtures created and maintained by the park community, including trees, gardens and a pergola, may have been avoided had a conversation occurred between administrators and park patrons prior to the maintenance. Just because the campus can send workers to People’s Park unannounced does not mean that it should.
Moving forward, the campus must engage with park activists, community members and students before undertaking further significant work in the park. It is also incumbent upon park users to make an effort to be communicative with the administration as well.
As the campus and city of Berkeley change around the park, an atmosphere of mutuality is sorely needed to maintain its unique character.