The campus Student Labor Committee crashed a closed meeting Wednesday demanding that Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sign a community benefits agreement with the city of Richmond.
The meeting aimed to update campus faculty and staff on the development of Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay. Clad in referee gear and armed with flags, whistles and red cards, protesters called for a benefits agreement that would create living-wage campus jobs, establish a displacement fund for Richmond residents and offer career pathways for Richmond youth.
“We’re here to issue a red card to the university,” the protesters said as they forced their way into the meeting held at University Hall. They were then allowed to briefly present their concerns at the meeting.
The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay is part of Dirks’ key initiatives, announced earlier this semester. The global campus intends to act as a center for an international coalition of academic institutions with an emphasis on collaborative research addressing global challenges.
“Richmond is one of the poorest community in the Bay Area,” said freshman Leila Berkovitz at the protest. “The university can help transform the Richmond Community for the better but has failed to sign a binding agreement after a year of campaigning.”
Members of the Student Labor Committee feel that the only way to ensure that the new campus does not gentrify “one of the most disadvantaged communities in all of California,” according to a press release, is to sign a community benefits agreement.
“We have never ruled out the possibility of a Community Benefits Agreement,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email. “In fact, we are, at this very moment, collaborating with a Working Group of community representatives and elected officials to define the benefits that would best meet the needs of the entire community.”
Mogulof went on to say that community interests might be better served through specific memorandas of understanding with civic, labor and municipal groups.
According to a campus handout, the Berkeley Global Campus Working Group aims to respond to strong concerns raised by community, business and local officials.
“It’s this hand-picked group of people,” said freshman Audrey Mancini, member of the Student Labor Committee. “It’s failed to make any legally binding agreements, which is our main problem.”
But “at least a third” of community leaders who requested to become part of the process of planning the campus are already involved, according to Ruben Lizardo, director of local government and community relations in the office of the chancellor.
The working group — made up of representatives from the city of Richmond, local businesses, education nonprofits, faith-based organizations, labor representatives and philanthropic organizations — will submit formal recommendations to Dirks around November, Lizardo said.