Respect Richmond Coalition hosts speak-out, protests outside chancellor’s residence

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Student activists hosted a “speak-out” on campus Wednesday night, criticizing the campus administration for having not yet signed a community benefits agreement with Richmond residents despite the impending construction of the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.

Attended by more than 60 students and community members, the event was organized by the recently formed Respect Richmond Coalition, a student group with representatives from a variety of campus organizations including but not limited to the ASUC Sustainability Team, the Black Student Union and the Student Labor Committee. At the event, four Richmond residents expressed their frustrations with campus administration, which they said had failed to respond to their concerns that the new campus could potentially gentrify the surrounding area in Richmond.

“(Campus administrators) are thinking about profit over the people of Richmond,” said Melvin Willis, a Richmond resident and community activist who spoke at the event. “The UC needs to be a public service institution, not a money-making engine.”

After the hourlong speak-out, many students and community members walked over to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ residence, protesting what they believed to be his failure to listen to their demands. While taping a large banner with their demands to his front door, they chanted slogans ranging from “Respect Richmond” to “Hey Dirks, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”

According to coalition member Audrey Mancini, the group formed to coordinate campus efforts and to compel Dirks to sign a legally binding agreement with the city of Richmond. A draft of the agreement includes provisions to institute a living wage policy, subsidize affordable housing units and invest in opportunities for small local businesses.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email that while the administration has not ruled out the possibility of an agreement, it wishes to pursue what it perceives to be more effective alternatives.

“Community interests might actually be better served through targeted, specific memoranda of understanding with civic, labor and municipal groups,” Mogulof said. “Given we don’t even currently have a defined construction project, we are clearly not at the point where there could be an agreement.”

Mogulof said agreements will be drafted by the administration based on recommendations to be made in November by a community working group.

Richmond residents who spoke at the event said they would oppose any agreement made by what Willis called a working group “hand-picked” by campus administration.

“Not only will it be a watered-down version of what we’re asking for, but there’s also no legal guarantee that the administration will listen to the working group,“ Willis said.

Mancini said the group was satisfied with the event and will be preparing to organize another demonstration at Sather Gate on April 30.

“We’ve made our point, but we’re not going to stop here,” she said.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ishaansriv.