November 14, 2014
UC Berkeley Students Meet with Chancellor Dirks and Present Community Food Initiative to Halt Development Plans on the Gill Tract
Camille Fassett, UCB student, (650) 995-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katt Hoban, UCB Alum, Community Member, (510) 541-3144
Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL), sealstudents.wordpress.com
UC Berkeley, California Hall, 12:30p – UC Berkeley students will meet with Chancellor Dirks Friday to present a Community Food Initiative as an alternative to the approved commercial development of 5-6 acres of The Gill Tract. Students and community are calling for an inclusive discussion over the proposed development of the historic farmland, located close to the University in Albany. Capital Projects, the real estate arm of the University, has proposed a privatized commercial development, transitioning it into a high-end senior care center and a chain grocery store. Students ask instead that the university fulfill its obligation to serve its students and community, and prioritize this land for experiential learning and community-driven participatory research.
The rally and meeting coincide with the release of Occupy the Farm to movie theaters across the country, a documentary about the 2012 struggle over the Gill Tract. The Occupy the Farm Film opens in 20 cities in major theaters this Friday, including LA, NYC, San Diego, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Vancouver, Denver, Phoenix, Portland and many more.
WHO: UC Berkeley Students, Community Members, Occupy the Farm, Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL)
WHAT: Meeting with UC Chancellor Dirks to present the collaborative Food Initiative and halt development of the Gill Tract, the East Bay’s last remaining historic farmland
WHERE: UC Berkeley, California Hall
WHEN: 12:30 – Rally with speakers Prof. Miguel Altieri, Ignacio Chapela and Eric Holt-Giménez of Food First
1:00 – Students meet with Chancellor Dirks
2:00 – Students report back from meeting, closing statements, press conference
STATEMENTS FOR THE PRESS:
“Our university must be held accountable to the promises it makes, and it has an obligation to represent the interests of its students as a public land grant university. That means entering into an inclusive discussion about the future of the Gill Tract, land overflowing with potential as a center for urban agriculture and feeding the community.” Camille Fassett, UCB student and SEAL member
“We are at a critical juncture, at which we either value food justice, hands-on education, and student voices, or pave over our mission as a land grant university along with the Gill Tract, favoring corporate interests and UC privatization.” Haley Broder, Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) Senator
“As a public university the UC has a responsibility to be accountable to students, the community, and the greater public. The Gill Tract is a rare piece of farmland that presents a rare opportunity for learning. Students are asking for the opportunity to learn, to grow food and grow in learning. We don’t need another supermarket in an already congested urban area. Farmland is for farming.” Katt Hoban, UCB Alum, Community Member
“This is much bigger than us. We have the honor of continuing a struggle led by the community for years. It is our duty to use our positions of privilege as students of this public institution to push for an engaging dialogue with the administration.” Dea Oganesian, UCB student and SEAL member in the meeting
In the meeting with Chancellor Dirks, students will discuss the future of the Gill Tract and emphasize that commercial development without community dialogue and input would be an irresponsible use of historic farmland. Students for Engaged and Active Learning (SEAL) will present a letter of support signed by over 50 University of California educators and researchers, and a public petition against the development with well over 2000 signatures. SEAL’s campaign for the unity of hands-on student learning and community-driven research is backed by 20 community organizations and 6 on campus organizations, including the Associated Students of the University of California. SEAL’s report summarizes community visions and surveys for uses of land alternative to commercial development, focusing on meetings from the past 2 years as well as the proposals from the Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture in 1997 and Urban Roots in 2004. The report outlines SEAL’s recommended path forward, which includes biological, hydrological, and soil surveys of the land and an analysis of the social, environmental, and financial costs and benefits to the community.
Outside of California Hall, students and community members will rally, raising their voices in support of a community process for alternative visions of the land. They will honor and celebrate the land, its past and future, and the dedicated people who have struggled to preserve it. Educators such as UC agro-ecology professor Miguel Altieri and leaders of community organizations like Eric Holt-Giménez of Food First will speak to the importance of active student learning and urban agriculture as solutions to food insecurity and climate change.
The rally and meeting follow the release of film “Occupy the Farm” to theaters across the country, a documentary about the 2012 struggle over the Gill Tract. Due to the occupation, students and occupiers forced the University to halt development on part of the land and protect 1.3 acres of it as an experimental farm collaboration between students, faculty, and community members. Eight years remain of the ten years of promised protection, and the struggle over the remainder of the Gill Tract has continued.
The meeting is the direct result of a sit-in at Capital Projects last month on the anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, organized by SEAL and Cal Progressive Coalition. Students denounced the University’s privatization of resources and lack of transparency in financial decisions, demanding access to Capital Projects’ documents and a meeting with the Chancellor. While SEAL is prepared to enter into a rational conversation about the uses of the Gill Tract, it recognizes the importance of civil disobedience and its instrumental role in securing the meeting and providing the students with the power to engage with the administration.