The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

UCSD Tenants rally with non-profit and worker union to demand UC-wide divestment from Blackstone Inc.

Photo by Mila De La Torre/ UCSD Guardian

UC San Diego students and workers assembled on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Price Center to protest the University of California’s multibillion-dollar investments in Blackstone Inc., an international alternative asset and real estate management firm. 

In May 2019, Blackstone faced accusations from the United Nations of “[contributing] to the global housing crisis.” The protest was organized to criticize Blackstone’s role in the housing market. 

A crowd gathered on the steps of Price Center, holding signs reading “University of CA Break Up With Blackstone.” Many of the protesters themselves were tenants of housing complexes operating under Blackstone Inc.  

Jorge, a custodian at UCSD for the past 30 years and tenant of Blackstone-owned property, was the first speaker to address the protest. 

“Se ve, se siente, los inquilinos están presentes,” Jorge said.

“You can see it, you can feel it. The tenants are present,” Jorge said. 

“We cannot pay rent close to where we work anymore,” Jorge continued. “A lot of us end up on the freeway, one, two hours from here … If you look at the numbers, $120,000 to $150,000 for [Blackstone’s] down payments, is too expensive. We are one paycheck away from being homeless.”

Various other stakeholder groups were in attendance of the protests. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the American Federation of State 3299, UC’s largest worker union, were among those present. 

Celeste, an ACCE state representative and single mother with two jobs, critiqued the ethics of the UC’s involvement with Blackstone.

“[Blackstone’s] rent increases are exorbitantly high,” Celeste said. “The corporation has spent over $7 million fighting against rent control, opposing statewide ballots for rent caps in 2018 and 2020.”

Leaders of ACCE and AFSCME 3299 held sister marches with campus-based workers and students across eight different UC campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley.

At noon, protesters began marching down Library Walk, which was lined with numerous student organizations tabling for Valentine’s Day. The protestors then stopped in front of the Chancellor’s Complex, where they began voicing their specific demands. 

The systemwide UC Investments Office invested $4 billion into Blackstone’s Real Estate Income Trust’s housing developments for UC workers, according to Blackstone itself. This is in addition to the $2 billion that the UC has previously invested in Blackstone Inc. 

“Did the UC ask us to use our pensions to fund the corporation kicking us into the street?” Jorge asked, to which the crowd responded by shouting “No!”

The crowd began knocking and addressing the Chancellor’s office. An ACCE member carried a large “valentine,” which read ‘Our Demands to the University Of CA’, in hopes of delivering it to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla in person. 

Six demands outlined the following: 

— UC’s “breakup” and divestment from Blackstone

— Alternative investment in affordable housing

— Frozen annual rent rates for housing on and off-campus

— Immediate repurposing of UC facilities for low-income housing

— Further divestments from corporations violating tenants’ rights

Although Khosla did not appear at the protest, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Patricia Mahaffey accepted the postcard and said that she would try to deliver the card to him. 

Despite the Chancellor’s absence, the crowd repeated their chant: “Khosla, be our valentine! Break up with Blackstone now!”

Statewide organizer for ACCE Patricia Mendoza spoke about ACCE’s role in helping to organize the protest with The UCSD Guardian. 

“We fight for economic, social, and racial justice, and of course, tenant rights,” she said. “We empower our communities to fight back to organize and to fight back because when we organize, we fight against illegal evictions, illegal rent increases, and against landlord harassment. That’s what we do.”

In reflection of the event, Mendoza expressed optimism towards the results of the protest.

“When we organize, we win. Regardless of where you’re from, where you’re at, because sooner or later, this housing crisis is gonna hit all of us,” Mendoza said. “If it’s not hitting you today, it’s probably hitting your neighbor … Blackstone is the greediest monster in the whole world, not just in the state, not just on the national level, but worldwide.”

About the Contributors
Carter Castillo
Carter Castillo, Senior Staff Writer
I spent three days agonizing over writing this.
Natalia Montero Acevedo, Staff Writer
A Political Science major, Natalia Montero loves to engage with on-site reporting to connect with communities’ affairs. Be warned, she will bombard you with random facts about whatever book she’s currently reading. She will also make sure to bring up The Sound of Music, Mitski, and Roger Deakins’ or Justine Triet’s work in whatever conversation she’s in.
Mila De La Torre
Mila De La Torre, Photographer
Keita Kobayashi
Keita Kobayashi, Photo Editor
Photo team, best team (W.I.P)
Leave a Comment
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *