A town hall was held Monday night to discuss the recently announced consolidation of UC Berkeley’s student affairs divisions — including the Residential and Student Service Programs, or RSSP — and the administration and finance operating sectors of the Real Estate office.
The town hall, organized by ASUC Senator Haley Broder and her office, heard input from students, residents and facility workers regarding replacement of staff, displacement of student families and residential sustainability. Both Moira Perez, the Real Estate chief of staff, and Steve Sutton, the assistant vice chancellor of student affairs for RSSP, were present at the town hall to address concerns.
According to Sutton at the town hall, discussion for the transition has been underway since November. Claire Holmes, the associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, detailed the transition of programs within the RSSP in a campuswide email in early April.
The programs that will undergo transition include custodial, facility, design and project services functions and campus restaurants, according to Holmes. Sutton also said at the town hall that Cal Dining will not transition to the Real Estate office.
Holmes said in an email that the transition primarily aims to unite similar functions and to allow for private companies to build more options for student housing.
Attendees of the town hall raised concerns over private companies building student housing on university-owned land, citing the possibility of privatization of campus housing.
Kandy Piper, a lead maintenance worker at RSSP and the sole provider for her family, said she was worried that minimum-wage workers would replace the custodial and maintenance staff once public-private partnerships are in place.
“(The Real Estate offices) are not giving us any truthful answers,” Piper said. “(RSSP workers) are being treated like property and sold off to the lowest bidder. We don’t feel respected by the administrators.”
In response to questions about worker displacement, Sutton and Perez said at the town hall that they could not make guarantees about the transition of workers under public-private partnerships.
Caitrin Connolly-Olszewski, board member of the Village Residents Association, had concerns about the effects of the transition on the management of University Village. Connolly-Olszewski said that the location of the village in Albany and close to the developing Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond would make it a prime target for privatization, high rent and possible displacement of student families.
Sophomore Helia Bidad, program coordinator of the Residential Sustainability Program, has already met with Robert Lalanne, the vice chancellor for real estate, twice and said she fears the transition will “threaten” environmental sustainability in residence halls, in large part because she believes the Real Estate office “has always cared more about dollars than people.”
Perez, however, said at the town hall that “any business (operating) on campus will have to conform with sustainability requirements.”
According to Broder, the Real Estate Student Board, which was created by the passage of ASUC SB 81 earlier this month, will meet for the first time next week. The board will serve as a liaison between the students and Lalanne’s office but will not have decision-making power.
The RSSP transition will take place over the next 18 to 24 months, Broder said.