Yearlong Rent Battle Reveals Shady University Practices

    Illustrations by Michael Capparelli/Guardian

    Although university officials eventually did the right thing
    by granting the Food Co-op full rent abatement last week, their decision is
    nothing more than a weakly veiled public-relations move. Clearly wanting to
    prevent a larger student backlash, administrators agreed to honor the co-op’s
    master space agreement only after members brought the issue in person before
    the A.S. Council. University Centers Director Paul Terzino said that because
    the amount in question was relatively low — just over $1,000 — campus
    administrators felt it best not to use up everyone’s time by allowing the
    council to form a committee to investigate and mediate the issue.

    But if time was really the concern, why did officials waste
    the last year refusing to honor the MSA?

    Administrators need to get their act together and start
    advocating student rights, instead of working against them. The Food Co-op is
    student-run and nonprofit, and its laidback anticommercial atmosphere provides
    one of the last sanctuaries for those at UCSD seeking relief from overcrowded Price
    Center
    . But university-sponsored
    construction has hampered sales, and near-extortion from officials has only
    further hurt the co-op over this past year.

    But what stings the most about the entire debacle is that
    the University Centers Advisory Board — which, rather than the A.S. Council, is
    charged with mediating co-op issues should they arise — failed to come to the
    co-op’s aid. Instead, Meghan Clair, all-campus senator and student UCAB
    representative, spoke out against the Food Co-op at the council’s Jan. 23
    meeting. Who, if not our student representatives, will rally for student
    organizations against administrative bullying?

    At least students can be thankful for representatives like
    Vice President of Student Life Donna Bean and Vice President of External
    Affairs Dorothy Young, who both spoke out in favor of the co-ops when the issue
    was brought to their attention.

    Seeing the council form a committee to address the
    situation, officials must have felt a fire brewing and decided to put it out
    fast by finally granting rent abatement. But Terzino and his gang should have
    followed the MSA from the start, rather than playing unfair — and totally
    inappropriate — power games. The co-op should have been granted full rent
    abatement immediately, not after a year of struggle that forced its members to
    visit the A.S. Council.

    And while it is good to see justice finally served, the
    amount of arguing and effort it took to get the university to abide by its own
    agreement is alarming. Officials should be driven by more than the threat of
    bad publicity; let’s hope in the future they start acting for, rather than
    against, the students they’re supposed to be serving.

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