Climate justice groups speak about UC Berkeley’s partnerships on panel

Josh Kahen /Staff

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A panel of four climate justice student groups discussed UC Berkeley’s involvement in certain industries at the event HypocritiCAL: UC Berkeley’s Investments in Problematic Industries put on by Carbon Crew, a Student Environmental Resource Center project team, on Oct. 29.

The panel consisted of campus senior Mia Silverberg and junior Selena Melgoza from ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ’s Unsustainable Partnerships Team; campus sophomore Tess Gauthier, a member of Fossil Free Cal; campus junior Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky from Cal Bears Against ICE; and senior Bria Tennyson, member of Mauna Kea Protectors at UC Berkeley. Campus sophomore Grace Gau and senior Kaylee Holland moderated the event.

“We think that when forming your opinions and taking action, you should have all the facts. So we really just want to educate and mobilize everyone,” Gau said. “We want to help (students) create the Cal they want to attend.”

The panel emphasized the impact of divestment, which Mamedov-Turchinsky described as cutting all ties with companies that are complicit in unethical practices. She added that the campus has a history of divestment and hopes the campus will drop Palantir, a tech company that sells technology to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, by 2020.

Panelists agreed on the importance of working together to hold the campus accountable and to create a school that students are proud to attend.

Mamedov-Turchinsky and Tennyson both discussed how they believe that UC Berkeley’s partnerships with companies such as Palantir, as well as its funding of the 30-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, seem to directly oppose some of its stated values.

Mamedov-Turchinsky alleged that by supporting companies such as Palantir and Amazon, UC Berkeley is breaking its commitment to undocumented students. She further alleged that the campus is not only signaling its consent to human rights violations but also seemingly enabling these companies to engage in what she believes to be unethical practices.

Tennyson said it is important to have these conversations because he thinks the campus does not seem to be doing enough to facilitate conversations about its partnerships.

“Our school says ‘Fiat lux’ and go with light and knowledge,” Tennyson said. “But this is really the dark underbelly of pursuing knowledge because this is something that goes untalked about, not just on a national level, but also here on campus.”

Silverberg alleged that the campus’s zero waste goal — which aims to divert 90% of waste from landfills by recycling, composting, reselling or donating by 2020 — will be impossible if the campus maintains its partnership with Pepsi.

Silverberg further alleged that the partnership is disproportionately affecting low-income students because big food companies, such as Pepsi, offer unhealthy food at a lower price than other, healthier options on campus. UC Berkeley is currently in a pouring rights contract with Pepsi, which gives Pepsi almost exclusive rights to sell and market its beverages on campus.

“It’s important to work together because, at the end of the day, we’re all fighting for the same things,” Tennyson said. “We want to see the university we believe in — and that university is a just university, an equitable university and a humane university.”

Contact Maria Young at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.