Here’s the thing about the Che Cafe closing: Most people don’t really care. Now, before you start writing me an angry email, let me clarify what I mean. Students don’t understand why they should care. They don’t know what the organization does, why its history is significant or why, as the cooperative’s leaders have so passionately argued, we should fight to keep the building operational — and that leaves A.S. Council in a difficult position. Let’s talk about why that is.
A.S. Council is ostensibly the student body’s voice. Ideally, we serve as a voice for groups who wouldn’t normally be heard and work to protect students’ rights and experiences on this campus. With the variety of groups and interests present on this campus, agreeing on the best way to do that isn’t always easy. Supporting the Che Cooperative outright is difficult for a variety of reasons, a fact that’s frustrating to both members of Council and the Cooperative.
The first and perhaps most obvious reason is that, following the court’s ruling in favor of UCSD, neither A.S. Council nor the Che Cafe were in a strong position to argue that UCSD doesn’t have the right to evict. Secondly, there’s a lack of political will on Council to stick out our proverbial neck in defense of the Che. Irrespective of the Che’s history and value as an institution, it isn’t one that reaches many students. In fact, as a fourth year in the very same college that houses the Cafe, I didn’t even know it was an operational building until the Cooperative and UCSD’s administration started butting heads last spring. Ultimately, this comes down to political capital. With the future of Sun God Festival in the balance and A.S. Council once again strapped for cash, A.S. Council has to use discretion in which issues they choose to champion. Frankly, a UCSD without Sun God is a lot more painful to imagine than a UCSD without a functioning Che Cafe.
So what comes next? The administration has offered the Che alternative venues — none of which appear to be satisfactory. A.S. has hesitated to fully back the Cooperative and likely will not end up doing so. Everyone is frustrated. But as with all difficult situations, strong leadership and cooperation can turn this into an opportunity for growth.
At its best, A.S. Council is an intermediary between students and UCSD’s administrators. We’re a group of students who understand not only what students want and need but what motivates UCSD administration to do what it does. A unified council has the power to bring people together to find solutions. If you were waiting for a time to show us what you’re capable of, Council, now is the time. Whether or not we want to put our support behind the Che, we have a responsibility to facilitate a conversation that protects the cooperative’s right to operate on campus while meeting the university’s mandate to keep students safe.