ASUC Senate discusses People’s Park development, rising COVID-19 cases

Photo of People's Park
Brian Bi/File
Out of all of the UC system's campuses, UC Berkeley houses the lowest number of students. To combat this, housing project manager Peter Gorman suggested People's Park as a potential area for housing, which raised concerns for ASUC student advocate Joyce Huchin.

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The ASUC Senate met Wednesday to discuss UC Berkeley’s development of People’s Park into student housing and COVID-19 guidelines and management. 

Campus Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher, campus Associate Vice Chancellor John Arvin, campus professor emeritus of architecture Sam Davis and housing project manager Peter Gorman joined the Senate for a presentation for campus housing projects and for answering questions and concerns.

UC Berkeley’s campus houses the lowest percentage of undergraduate and graduate students out of the UC campuses, according to Gorman’s presentation, which compounds the already “tight” Bay Area housing market.

To address this, Gorman said campus identified a number of sites for student housing, including People’s Park. By 2036, campus hopes to add between 10,535 and 13,875 beds for students, with 950 to 1,200 of those beds located in the proposed People’s Park development

When given time for questions, multiple senators asked about the displacement of unhoused people in the park. Senators also expressed concerns about the presence of UCPD around the building site and the loss of community and resources in the park.

“Even though we are building more housing, it’s really difficult for low-income students like myself to be able to afford housing,” said ASUC student advocate Joyce Huchin during the meeting. “I’m wondering how you are balancing knowing that, along with knowing that a lot of people will be displaced from their homes, people who have existed in the park for a really long time and have built communities and a lot of central resources at the park.”

In response, Davis said a social worker was working with campus and those in People’s Park to secure housing for them.

During executive reports, ASUC President Victoria Vera expressed her concerns about COVID-19’s increased spread among members of the campus community. 

“I just feel very hurt and frustrated with the university response to COVID-19,” Vera said during the meeting. “One thing that’s become abundantly clear is the need for us to hold our peers accountable during this time.”

Vera further urged students to work together to ensure a return to in-person classes and campus activity.  

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu pointed out that students are able to anonymously report to the Tang Center if they have been exposed to the virus and give a representative a list of people to contact. The Tang Center, Anyanwu said, will keep student information private but ensure exposed individuals are informed that they need to self-sequester.

“It’s a free option and definitely a lot more students can take advantage of it,” Anyanwu said during the meeting. “It’s completely confidential as well.”

Sebastian Cahill is a student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.