Eshleman occupation leads to negotiations between students, administration

Kore Chan/Staff

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Five students chained themselves to Eshleman Hall Tuesday night to protest the consolidation of some Multicultural Student Development offices at UC Berkeley and what they felt was a lack of communication between students and campus administrators.

Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard, along with ASUC and Graduate Assembly representatives, negotiated with the students — who occupied Eshleman’s sixth floor for four hours — to end the occupation around 9:40 p.m. Campus administrators agreed to grant the occupiers amnesty and to create a transitional review team to assess the multicultural center’s administrative structure and goals.

At the time he was informed of the occupation, Basri said he was in the middle of discussions with Graduate Assembly representatives to create a task force to address issues similar to those raised by the protesters.

ASUC President Connor Landgraf said students met multiple times with Basri this semester to suggest alternatives to the consolidation of the Multicultural Student Development offices but could not make headway until Eshleman’s occupation.

“The crux of (the discussion) was the vice chancellor’s unwillingness to consider students’ ideas,” Landgraf said of his conversation with protesters Tuesday night.

According to Basri, the offices’ changes were intended to streamline administrative tasks and to allow for more resources to be used for outreach and the retention of minority students. He said the fact that the changes did not receive any attention until a year after their implementation suggests that students were not negatively affected by the consolidation.

“I’m sad that we are finding ourselves spending time on an issue that I don’t see as advancing equity and inclusion but rather is taking time away from our real issues,” Basri said. “But my office has open access — anyone with an appointment can have one.”

ASUC senators have also expressed frustration with structural issues within the multicultural offices, although the senate was not tied to the protest. The senate passed a bill in September urging Basri to reconsider budget cuts and structural changes to development offices, and many senators recognized similarities between their demands and those of the Eshleman protesters.

“I’m glad that the wider public is starting to hopefully converse about this,” said CalSERVE Senator Klein Lieu at the protest.

The transitional review team, created as a result of Tuesday’s occupation, is expected to convene in the spring semester. The team will create a list of proposals on multicultural student development and report directly to the chancellor later in the semester, according to Landgraf.

Contact Libby Rainey and Alex Berryhill at [email protected].