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UC to Occupy the Farm: 'A Stunning Degree of Arrogance' with Demands

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. See all the Gill Tract stories at http://patch.com/bvbHo.

University officials responded to with "disappointment and dismay," according to a new statement released just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

The university said a "win-win-win" result would be achieved only if the activists who took over UC-owned agricultural land in April abandon their encampment and cede control of the land back to the university. 

If these two steps are undertaken, said the university, the water to the site will be turned back on, and officials will begin a "detailed conversation and planning" process about how to sustain urban farming activities "alongside agricultural research." 

In , they said they would break down their camp only if the university restores water access, and agrees to several other terms related to community access and planting practices at the Gill Tract. 

A representative from the group, Effie Rawlings, said Tuesday that one of Occupy the Farm's main goals was "for access to the east field (and) children's garden...for us and the larger community." (.)

In the university's May 8 letter (attached to this story as a PDF), officials said, "We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives."

Writers Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor John Wilton continued: "There is also a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group's demands and statements about what they are 'willing' to do for our researchers."

Officials also said that the university has been working since the April 22 occupation to find "a peaceful conclusion through constant dialogue" with members of Occupy the Farm activists.

They wrote that "our neighbors in Albany...are, in growing numbers, asking that we take steps to regain control of our property."

Officials write that the continued occupation also threatens academic freedom, and that researchers who have tended the land for years "are insisting that we preserve their right to pursue the educational and research interests without interference from a self-selected group of squatters." 

The university notes that it will continue to leave the door open for the activists to accept its proposal to leave the land "without consequence," but adds that "the university has no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce our legal rights, protect academic freedom, preserve the collaborative community-based planning process and work with our law-abiding neighbors who share our interest in finding a way to allow for peaceful coexistence of urban farming and agricultural research on the Gill Tract."

In closing, Breslauer and Wilton write, Monday's letter from the activists "has made it very clear that they still intend to hold our property and research projects hostage, refusing to relinquish control unless we submit to their demands. We still, however, hold out hope that in the days ahead cooler heads will prevail, and they will agree to accept their portion of the win-win-win proposal we have offered before the non-negotiable need of our researchers to begin work forces our hand."

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation. Scroll down to see the complete letter. 

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

MAY 8 LETTER FROM UC BERKELEY

An Update on the Gill Tract Occupation 

Last Thursday we met with representatives of the group currently occupying university-owned land that is used for agricultural research. We discussed steps that would allow for a peaceful end to the illegal occupation; a resumption of critical research work; and a continuation of urban farming on that part of the land that will not be utilized by our faculty and students. Our proposal is based on these simple, straight-forward steps:

1. A voluntary and permanent dismantling of the tent city.
Why: Our faculty have made it clear that research requiring meticulous supervision and attention to detail cannot be conducted in the midst of an encampment populated by individuals who do not have the knowledge, experience or, for that matter, the legal rights that would justify or warrant their around-the-clock presence.

2. A restoration of university control and supervision over the land.
Why: As the owner of the property the university has legal liability and accountability for what happens on the land. We also cannot countenance the establishment of any precedent whereby a forceful seizure of property establishes a right to unilaterally dictate how the university conducts its research and educational activities. Free, unsupervised public access is simply incompatible with the environment and conditions necessary for complex agricultural research.

3. A resumption of water supply once the first two steps are completed.
Why: We believe in the principle of reciprocity and, as supporters of urban farming, desire to preserve as much of what has already been planted as possible. 

4. An initiation of detailed conversation and planning, led by the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, on sustaining urban farming alongside agricultural research. These discussions would also need to be broad-based, including all interested parties from the surrounding community.
Why: We have determined that the land can be shared in the context of our support for urban farming. We also will not disenfranchise members of the Albany community who, in recent years, have spent a good deal of time and effort working with us in a collaborative planning process designed to ensure that future use of the land reflects and addresses the needs and interests of our neighbors.

5. While this dialogue occurs best efforts will be made, under the supervision of the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, to protect the planting that has occurred as long as it does not interfere with the faculty’s research. 
Why: We believe this is the best and only way to balance and coordinate two very different agricultural endeavors on a single parcel of land. 

In our opinion this is what a win-win-win result would look like in that the proposal addresses the needs and interests of our faculty and students, the Albany community and those interested in urban farming. The door remains open to a peaceful resolution based on this proposal, and we will be ready to step back from any effort to hold the occupiers accountable, in terms of civil or criminal legal actions, if it is accepted.  

In this context we received with disappointment and dismay the occupiers’ response that was published last night. We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives. There is also a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group’s demands and statements about what they are “willing” to do for our researchers. There is no legal or moral foundation for this attempt by individuals involved in an illegal and forceful seizure of property to dictate terms.

Those who have been following developments since the occupation began on April 22nd know that we have been patiently seeking a peaceful conclusion through constant dialogue with members of the encampment. The Dean and faculty from the College of Natural Resources have been frequent visitors to the site, and have made every effort to engage, explain and explore the possibility of compromise. At the same time we are and will remain accountable to our neighbors in Albany--including parents of children who attend the elementary school adjacent to the tent city--who are, in growing numbers, asking that we take steps to regain control of our property.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the continuation of this occupation threatens a principle that lies at the heart of any institution of higher education: academic freedom. A growing number of our faculty are insisting that we preserve their right to pursue their educational and research interests without interference from a self-selected group of squatters. As the Chair of our Academic Senate recently said, “If there is no way to reach a win-win resolution, then I believe that the faculty’s freedom to do their planned research must be supported as a key principle….we must stand by this.” Our commitment to preserve academic freedom is part and parcel of who we are as one of the leading research universities in the world. Whether it is in the areas of health, agriculture, public policy, human rights or engineering, the preservation of academic freedom is non-negotiable.

So, where does that leave us? While we will continue to leave the door open to an acceptance of our proposal that would allow the illegal occupants to leave the land without consequence, the university has no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce our legal rights, protect academic freedom, preserve the collaborative community-based planning process and work with our law-abiding neighbors who share our interest in finding a way to allow for peaceful coexistence of urban farming and agricultural research on the Gill Tract.

Our position since the beginning of the occupation and our decision to now pursue other remedies arise from a careful, broad-based decision-making process that includes senior administration leaders, the Chair of our Academic Senate and other members of faculty, the Deans of the College of Natural Resources and the Graduate Division, UCPD, Student Affairs and Community Relations. This statement is fully supported by all of the above.

The occupiers’ response to our proposal has made it very clear that they still intend to hold our property and research projects hostage, refusing to relinquish control unless we submit to their demands. We still, however, hold out hope that in the days ahead cooler heads will prevail and they will agree to accept their portion of the win-win-win proposal we have offered before the non-negotiable need of our researchers to begin work forces our hand.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost                      Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance

George Breslauer                                                             John Wilton

Doris Meier May 09, 2012 at 05:50 PM
the trespassers had their 15 minutes of fame, now let them go home to mommy
Joy Kekki May 09, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Oh, for Pete's sake! Arrest them. They are trespassing; they are breaking the law; they must leave but, first, they must pay. "California Penal Code 602 PC (and its related sections) penalize over 30 acts that constitute criminal trespassing. The most common acts that California trespassing laws prohibit are: . entering someone else’s property with the intent to damage that property,. . entering someone else’s property with the intent to interfere with or obstruct the business activities conducted thereon, . entering and "occupying" another’s property without permission, and refusing to leave private property after you’ve been asked to do so. California trespassing laws are unique in that they can be filed as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Although all three are possible, criminal trespass is most frequently prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor Penal Code 602 violations subject you to up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine." http://www.shouselaw.com/trespass.html Duh.
Dee May 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Yes! ++++++++++++++++++1!
MS May 10, 2012 at 02:28 AM
last night there was a public forum at UC Berkeley and the Admin. failed to show even though 200 people attended...REAL SPINE ACTION there.
MS May 10, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Last I heard UC was a public university. My taxes pay for it as does yours. What is private property about a public university. Hogwash. Seizure??? I think not. In fact several of the researchers have said they want to work with the Occupiers. I don't know where you are getting the idea that the "scientists" can't work.

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