Students, faculty gather in opposition to corporate involvement at UC Berkeley

Alex Turney/Staff

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About 25 people gathered at Kroeber Plaza on Monday to oppose corporate involvement at UC Berkeley in response to a controversial gameday event held by Fox Sports on the plaza last month.

The event was organized by the Anthropology Undergraduate Association and included a panel of four UC Berkeley professors who decried what they consider the undue influence corporations wield on campus. Members of the anthropology association said Fox Sports’ TV broadcast on Kroeber Plaza before the Cal-Ohio State football game last month, which resulted in the temporary closure of Kroeber Hall, was an impetus for the protest.

“We believe in a public university,” said UC Berkeley anthropology professor Paul Rabinow, who spoke at the event. “There has been a series of really atrocious commercial events here, which we had no notification of, and we were totally offended by it — Fox Sports in particular.”

The event elicited an op-ed in The Daily Californian by the UC Berkeley Faculty Association, which accused the administration of favoring athletics over academics. In response to faculty concerns, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sent an email to UC Berkeley Academic Senate chair Elizabeth Deakin affirming his commitment to an academics-first mentality.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, a committee of faculty, administrators and staff will address concerns raised by the September incident.

“There’s already been an initial meeting, and I think people feel very optimistic that we can do a better job at this,” Mogulof said. “They’re looking at every aspect of it.”

Colleen Lye, co-chair of the faculty association, said an increased corporate presence on campus is part of a long-term trend caused by decreased state funding. According to Lye, many faculty members have become disillusioned with the involvement of companies such as Macy’s, Samsung and BP, which they say hurts the campus’s reputation of being committed to the public good.

“One of the major attractions of working here has been not only working at a top-notch university but also working at a university that serves the public good,” she said.

The anthropology association co-president, Brian Campbell, said the protest Monday was an important first step in a broader conversation.

“All we wanted was to make our voices heard in a public space that we were upset with Fox News and with Samsung and Macy’s,” he said. “We’re not talking about reworking the entire university — we’re talking about … just getting a space we can express ourselves and hear from faculty.”

Rabinow said he supported Dirks and the administration’s response to the Fox Sports event backlash but reiterated the importance of keeping pressure on university leaders.

“Politicians say one thing, and then they need to be pushed to keep their word,” he said.

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected].