A resounding victory for The George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library was symbolized by stuffed sleeping bags and rolled-up mattresses just last week.
After 85 days of occupation, university administrators made concessions that would allow the space to stay partially open amid prior announcements that threatened to shutter its doors. The agreed terms will establish the space as a reading room available to hold about 40% of the books currently housed in the building.
While this has proven to be a resounding victory for students and staff alike, the future for the anthropology library remains up in the air, as the university has held firm on withholding monetary support. After an initial $45,000 allowance, the anthropology department will be made to wade the turbulent waters of funding for the library by itself.
Although a circulating library will no longer exist for the department and footing the bill has become an unfortunate reality, the protection of this one-of-a-kind space demonstrates a rare underdog outcome for student protestors.
We begin by applauding the efforts of all those involved in the occupation, as this unlikely result beckons the possibility for students to have a seat at the decision-making table.
Without understanding the arguments made by those most affected by budget cuts to their respective departments, the administration fails in its very mission to function as an “active working repository of organized knowledge.”
In the case of the anthropology library, books are grouped in a specific manner to adhere to ethnographies and fieldwork conducted by anthropologists. By disseminating these meticulously ordered collections throughout Main Stacks and the Richmond Field Station — as the original plan proposed — the entire utility of the volumes is compromised.
Furthermore, continuing to deny students a holistic voice in their own education will ensure that the best interests of lucrative major programs are prioritized more than humanities majors.
If one were to take a look at Soda Hall, they would be quick to point out the contributions of notable alumni from corporations as big as Apple and Intel. While these Fortune 500 companies undoubtedly rake in name recognition with a price tag attached, alumni from many humanities programs contribute important work in academia that may not be as profitable in providing donations, but furthers an overall understanding of society at large.
This reality should further incentivize the university to put robust support behind less well-funded programs, as the academic experience should be of equal importance and quality for all students attending UC Berkeley.
We end this editorial by using this historic victory to fuel the fight to put students first within their own university. While budget cuts and deficits are temporary setbacks in the UC system, it is important to note that extinguishing the flame of education is equally catastrophic as it is permanent.