For over two weeks now, University of California (UC) Berkeley students, faculty, and community members have occupied the George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library. The UC Berkeley administration has been trying for months to close three campus libraries: the Mathematics-Statistics Library, the Physics-Astronomy Library, and the Anthropology Library. Students in the Physics, Math, and especially the Anthropology departments have organized together against the library closures and cuts to student services.
Throughout this past semester, undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty in the Anthropology Department, have organized rallies, occupations, and marches to protest the closure of these libraries. In February, students and staff occupied the library for the first time. But the Chancellor and Head Librarian, after meeting with the occupiers, dismissed their demands, with the Chancellor even laughing in the faces of the occupiers.
The university administration has conjured an army of lies about why they need to close the libraries. Chancellor Christ and the Head Librarian for the university, Jeffrey Mackie-Mason, have said that closing the library is what students want and is the best way to maintain library services. However, practically every other university institution has voted against closing the Anthropology Library. The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), the student government at UC Berkeley, voted against the library closures in March. The UC Berkeley Academic Senate has also voted unanimously against the funding cuts too.
The UC Berkeley administration also claims that it will save $1.6 million from closing the three libraries. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to the $3 billion budget that UC Berkeley manages every year. The UC Berkeley Chancellor, Carol Christ, is paid $538,000 a year. According to the university administration, it would take only $400,000 a year to keep the Anthropology Library open. Chancellor Christ isn’t even the highest paid UC Berkeley employee. The head coach of the UC Berkeley Football Team, Justin Wilcox, is paid over $4 million every year! A fraction of that money could pay to keep all the libraries open. It’s clear the administration is making a choice: to cut student services even as the university administration and bureaucracy get paid millions of dollars every year.
These library closures are a part of a larger attack on public education. For decades, public universities have operated increasingly along the lines of for-profit businesses. In the UC system, that has meant relying on underpaid lecturers to teach over 40% of undergraduate credit hours, even as lecturers face little job security. It has meant that 92% of graduate student workers are rent-burdened. These are conditions that must end.
If you are in the Bay Area and want to join the occupation and maybe stay the night, you should come to the second floor of the Anthropology and Art Practice Building near Bancroft and College Avenue.