Fight Privatization! Reclaim the Commons!
Tuition hikes are only the tip of the iceberg in the revolving door of industry robber-barons, neoliberal government, and oligarchic regents who are mismanaging public resources. For the first day of the Statewide 96 Hours of Action against Tuition Hikes and Police Violence, SEAL led a direct action cafe disruption to spread the word among our classmates that we need to fight back against the privatization of our land, labor, lives, and learning.
We not only spoke out against tuition hikes, we also provide free food outside the cafe to highlight what we believe we need to create for the future. Education should be free, and food should be free. These are some of the foundations of what we need to live and thrive in resilient communities.
Recent Update from the Historic Gill Tract Farm
In the early morning of Thursday, February 26th, the UC mandated the slaughter of 60 trees on the historic Gill Tract Farm. The UC’s quick move to begin clearing the way for their proposed housing and shopping complex shocked farmers and neighbors, as there is still an active lawsuit on appeal in the county courts contesting the development’s detrimental environmental impact. Knowing the community would mobilize to defend the trees, the UC hired a huge demolition team and police force, cutting down the trees with lightning speed.
Our community is in mourning, but we continue to actively farm on the north side of the land, teach and engage with students about the problems in the food system, and grow affordable produce for food insecure communities.
Privatization and the Food System
Today, as part of the statewide 96 Hours of Action, we are acting in solidarity with all those around the world who experience food insecurity, land grabs, and food system labor violations because of the corporate control of the food system. These global issues are experienced locally, and have real impacts on our health.
Tuition Hikes and Food Insecurity
Recent UC Undergraduate Experience Surveys have reported that, like communities around the world, many students here on campus are unable to access healthy and sustainably-grown food because of poverty, debt, and the injustices in our food system. Tuition hikes will only exacerbate these impacts. Financial aid suggests students budget $5 a meal for food, and yet there is nowhere on campus where you could buy a healthy meal for that amount. In the University Village directly next to the Gill Tract, 46% of student families rely on food assistance programs to feed themselves and their kids. Instead of focusing on the health of its students, the privatization agenda of our university is raising their rents, their tuition, and paving over historic farm land that could provide healthy, nutritious food.
Students sharing with each other at Free Education! Free Food!
Corporate Capture of the Academy
Our Land Grant Public University has been pivotal in creating this unjust food system where unhealthy food is cheapest, and food insecurity is rampant. Privatization raises our tuition, and also sells out our university and our ideals to the corporate interests of Novartis, Syngenta, Monsanto, and the other biotech giants that have pillaged land, seeds, and livelihood from people around the world.
Our land grant public university should prioritize research in the public interest- like land reform, food justice, local economies, and sustainable alternatives to chemical agriculture. It cannot do this when it is driven by corporate interests.
Gill Tract Farm:
Emblem and Intervention
The history of the UC-managed Gill Tract farm is an emblematic case study in the defunding of research in the public interest and the shift to research in the interest of private industries. The late 1990s saw the final stage in the dismantling of the Biological Control Research Station, a pioneer in integrated pest management, which is the foundation of agroecology. That same year, the College of Natural Resources received an unprecedented donation from the biotech-company, Novartis. Today, much of the land is used for corn genetics research for patents, and is under threat of privatized development into a “Sprouts Farmers Market”, a greenwashed corporate supermarket responsible for injustices in the food system from labor violations to greenhouse gas emissions.
For 20 years, the local community, students, and faculty have attempted to create a Center for Urban Agriculture on the land. In 2012, Occupy the Farm’s successful land occupations pushed out Whole Foods from the development and established a community farm project on 1.13 acres. We highlight a potential strategy for solidarity with global food sovereignty and intervention in the corporate control of food systems and academia.
A strong community-based Center for Urban Agroecology and Food Justice at UC Berkeley’s Gill Tract Farm, would promote community-driven research, create opportunities for meaningful student engagement and experiential learning, and provide an example of an authentic partnership project in local community-driven food sovereignty.
The local struggle to reclaim the Gill Tract is part of the global struggle to reclaim the commons to reclaim our land, labor, life, and learning. Like with tuition hikes, students are standing up and defend our public university and put into action the future that we would like to see!
We as students have power! We have stopped tuition hikes before, and we can do it again! Join us to #FightTheHike this Thursday at 12 on Sproul!