Members of Occupy the Farm — who are part of the 11-day old encampment on UC-owned land in Albany — will meet with campus representatives Thursday night, a day after receiving the support of the ASUC Senate.
Occupy the Farm Spokesperson Anya Kamenskaya said members are interested to hear the concerns of the university at the meeting, which will occur at 6:30 p.m. in California Hall.
The university has been in communication with the occupiers’ lawyers and requested the meeting on Tuesday, according to Kamenskaya.
In an open letter presented to the occupiers Wednesday night, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton told the occupiers they are open to discussions about designating part of the land for metropolitan farming but reiterated that the encampment must end.
“We cannot accept anything that will impede the ongoing and important work of our students and faculty,” reads the letter. “We are also deeply concerned by challenges and concerns arising from dozens of people living on an agricultural tract adjacent to an elementary school and residential areas.”
Kamenskaya said campus officials have “always been welcome” at the movement’s community meetings but that the university has “never expressed interest in coming down to the farm.”
College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless has in fact visited the farm to speak with protesters. In a letter issued Thursday, Gilless said that he has consistently expressed willingness to facilitate “meaningful dialogue about the future of the Gill Tract,” and his firm belief “that biology research and a well-organized metropolitan agriculture program could ultimately not just co-exist on the site, but benefit from interaction.”
At its last meeting of the semester Wednesday, the ASUC Senate unanimously voted for a bill to support the Occupy the Farm movement.
The bill — written by Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein — asked the senate to support the occupation’s goal of maintaining a productive, educational farm and urges the university to reopen the water supply to the Gill Tract. About five student representatives gave a presentation during the meeting that detailed the history of the land and the occupation.
The representatives asked the senate to put pressure on campus administration to restore access to water that had previously been turned off.
“This is the evolution of the Occupy movement,” said junior Devin Murphy, who added that historically the movement has not had clear demands. “Occupy the Farm is willing to negotiate with the university and UCPD.”
In their presentation, the representatives said “the university has decided to sell off prime soil land for a retail center and quick money.” The protesters have marked 10 acres of the land for their farm.
But according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the university does not plan to “sell off prime soil.” The university intends to turn the land into an open and recreational space, as requested by the Albany community, according to Mogulof.
The administration’s decision to cut off access to the water included turning off a fire hydrant, a move that could endanger the lives of nearby residents and farm occupants, according to senior Navid Shaghaghi. Additionally, Shaghaghi said the lack of easily accessible water could disrupt research from being conducted on the farm and poses a potential sanitation problem, seemingly exacerbating the campus administration’s earlier claims about lack of sanitation on the farm, before protesters installed port-a-potties at the site.
Mogulof said the fire hydrants were not turned off at the encampment, and that the university “would absolutely never turn off a fire hydrant across the street from an elementary school.”
Albany Fire Department could not confirm whether any hydrants were shut off on the Gill Tract. UC Deputy Fire Marshal Greg Van Aken said that he deals exclusively with the campus, and did not know anything about the Gill Tract fire hydrants.
The representatives left potted plants for the senators and encouraged them to visit the farm.