English Studies Institute faces uncertainty over lease agreement

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Members of an English language instruction program at UC Berkeley are uncertain about their future place on campus as plans for a major construction project push forward.

The English Studies Institute currently leases space on the fourth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building. That lease expires in August 2013, but the building is set to be closed from June until September for renovations, with construction projects continuing into 2015 under the Lower Sproul Plaza renovation project. Members are now looking to the campus to confirm whether they will be able to return once construction is complete.

Chris Carlisle, the institute’s administrative manager, said members have not been informed of what will happen during the remainder of their lease.

“We’re trying to take the high road in terms of continuing to lease space in MLK,” Carlisle said.

Associate ASUC Auxiliary Director Tom Spivey said all leases have language to allow for lease interruptions. He also said that the ASUC is not yet ready to make future leasing agreements with its tenants.

“The spaces themselves haven’t been vetted and approved yet,” he said.

After the construction is complete, leases will be allocated based on both commercial and community interests in order to offer students the services they need, Spivey said. Until then, he said he cannot make any promises.

“The building is going to close, so I cannot offer services,” he said.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the ASUC Commercial and Student Services Board, the institute and its supporters requested continued use of the building after the construction is finished, but have received no assurances from the board. The executive staff of the institute stress that the campus and the institute both benefit from their partnership.

In a letter presented to the board, institute staff members state that their organization has provided over $100,000 in scholarships given to UC Berkeley students, offers important language programs and facilitates the American 101 and 102 courses, which introduce international students to American culture and language.

The institute requests the renewal of their lease of a 12-by-16.5 square-foot space so that they can continue to offer courses in the conference rooms of the building.

“As a student service provider, ESI has been and will continue to be an excellent partner with the UC campus community,” the institute’s letter states. “We look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial relationship with ASUC as it moves into a new phase.”

Editor’s Note: In May 2009, the board forgave The Daily Californian a portion of its rent for the office it leases. As a result of that agreement, a nonpolitical student member of the board, currently Hedy Chen, sits on the Daily Cal’s Board of Operations, which has no control over the paper’s editorial content.