Property of UCSD?

    Throughout the years, generations of UCSD students have seen conflicts between the co-ops and the university come and go. This year, yet another point of disagreement has surfaced, whereby the university has threatened to evict the four co-ops — Groundwork Books, the General Store Co-op, Ché Café and the Food Co-op — if favorable lease agreements are not made.

    The first co-ops were established on campus during the 1970s. Groundwork Books had been operating off campus in Solana Beach selling textbooks to students, and the vice chancellor of student affairs at the time felt it would be “wrong” for students not to have their own textbook store on campus, according to former president of the Graduate Student Association and 1996 graduate Steven Dubb.

    “There was a lot of conflict on campus in the ’70s,” said Scott Kessler, a former Student Center Board member and founding member of both the Food Co-op and Ché Café. “[The] general issues were student democracy. … [The co-ops] didn’t meet any resistance.”

    There were, however, several incidents in the 1980s that led to hostile relations between the co-ops and the university. In 1984, during the construction of Price Center, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Programs and Facilities Tom Tucker told Groundwork Books to end the sale of textbooks, threatening to close it down if it did not comply.

    According to Dubb, the question of the Price Center, and specifically the question of allowing commercial establishments (such as Wendy’s or Round Table Pizza), was very pressing during this time.

    The late 1980s and early 1990s also saw struggles over the types of locks used on co-op doors. In June 1989, the university tried to add a provision to the co-ops’ lease renewals, mandating that the co-ops have university locks on the doors. The locks and leases disagreement went back and forth, with the co-ops finally winning the battle and avoiding university locks.

    Late 1991 and early 1992 were arguably the times of the most controversial co-op events. In November 1991, University Center director Jim Carruthers informed Groundwork Books that it had 30 days to choose whether to become a commercial vendor or become controlled by the university. The reason for this threat was a misunderstanding between the bookstore and the university concerning accounting practices and alleged violations of the Policy and Procedures Manual.

    Groundwork Books chose neither option, and as a result, power to the store was shut off. Negotiations eventually failed. On Jan. 15, 1992, at 1:30 a.m., co-op members learned that UCSD police had broken into the General Store in order to seize the building.

    “The purpose of our entry … was to access the records [of the General Store],” Tucker said at the time. “We feared they were being doctored.”

    When co-op members arrived at the scene, they found that the locks had been changed by the university. Students broke the new locks and had the store up and running at 7:30 a.m. that morning. At 10:00 a.m., Tucker arrived at the store and told students and co-op staff that the General Store would be closed for an audit.

    As the police and university officials went inside, students outside began to pound on the windows and chant, protesting the fact that they were being locked out of the store. At 11:15 a.m., students broke glass panels to gain entry to the store and occupied it until nighttime.

    The occupation of the General Store ended on Jan. 16 when the co-ops asked for and were awarded a restraining order against the university and a Superior Court told the co-ops to give financial records to the university.

    Problems between the co-ops and the university arose in the summer of 2000 as well, when the university objected to the shows being performed at the Ché Café.

    “The university claimed that there were liability issues with the way the shows were being done,” former GSA President of Academic Affairs and co-op staff member Kris Bohling said.

    Bohling said that when there were problems, the co-op workers fixed them quickly.

    On June 29, the co-ops received an e-mail from Assistant Director of Student Activites and Government Randon E. Woodward telling them that the Ché Café would be closed by the university. Unable to find legal counsel because of the timing of the e-mail, co-op members and students occupied the Ché Café to prevent the shut-down.

    Eventually, a restraining order was filed against the university and the Ché was not closed down. According to Bohling there was clear support from students.

    “[It was] pretty obvious that the students wanted the Ché to still be there,” Bohling said.

    In 2002, controversy sprang up once again over a co-op-run Web site hosting “links to sites … that were questionably terrorist,” Bohling said.

    Burn.ucsd.edu was a Ché Café Web site which used the UCSD Internet domain and whose goal was to inform readers through primary sources about various political organizations. The site included links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party. Both organizations were officially listed by the State Department as terrorist groups. The university cited Ché Café’s violation of the Patriot Act.

    “It wasn’t merely a link. It was more than a link,” Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas S. Aguilar said of the FARC link at the time.

    Co-op members asserted that the site’s hyperlinks did not constitute support for any organizations.

    “[The] co-ops took a stance to support free speech,” Bohling said. “[However, it could be argued that the] link to the Web page was providing material support in the form of communication to terrorists.”

    After consulting UC attorneys over whether the links truly did constitute material support, the university allowed the co-ops to keep the Web site running.

    The latest conflict between the co-ops and the university began last spring. The Master Space Agreement outlines the leasing of university center space to Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association, who in turn sublease the space to the co-ops.

    When this agreement expired on April 29, the university said it wanted to renew the agreement only if changes were made in the way the co-ops were run.

    The co-ops began renting the space on a month-to-month basis, but Aguilar said the month-to-month system would end Oct. 15 if an agreement was not reached.

    The university agreed in October to extend the deadline for negotiations to Nov. 14 and has said that it will negotiate directly with the co-ops rather than with the Graduate Student Association and Associated Students.

    There are many opinions about why the university and the co-ops have had so many conflicts over the years.

    According to Kessler, the university simply wants to exercise as much power over students as possible and benefit financially from businesses on campus. The administration has a different perspective on the conflicts.

    “It has been said … that the administration wants to extract [the co-ops] for financial reasons,” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson said at a meeting of the Warren College Student Council on Oct. 28. “Nothing is further from the truth.”

    Administrators have, however, repeatedly stressed that the co-ops need to better address issues of health and safety liabilities.

    Both sides, however, have agreed that the co-ops are a distinctive UCSD institution that bring many positive features to campus.

    — Additional reporting by Angela Yao and Yoon Kim

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