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Economic Justice, Sustainability and Diversity Among
Concerns Expressed by Students at Chancellor's Town Hall

By Ioana Patringenaru | May 25, 2006

Town Hall
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox met with students during a town hall meeting on May 22 at the Faculty Club.

Watch a complete video of Monday’s town hall meeting

Economic justice, sustainability, diversity and campus climate were on the minds of students who took part last week in a town hall meeting for students with Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.

About 100 students, faculty and staff turned out at the Faculty Club on Monday. Of those, some two dozen students wore green T-shirts and wrist bands. They stood up while Viraf Soroushian, a fourth-year sociology and economics major, spoke. He said he represented a coalition of students, organizations, employees and businesses, from Porter’s Pub, to Students for Economic Justice to Students Take Action Now: Darfur.

“We’re united in our deep concern for a social and environmentally sustainable campus,” Soroushian said. “We expect nothing short of excellence from our university.”

The coalition believes that social and environmental justice fit perfectly in the university’s principles of community, he said. The university has taken several steps to promote sustainability, including the creation of an advisory committee, but it can do better, Soroushian added. He then asked what the administration will do next year to make UCSD a leader in the area of social, environmental and economic justice.

The university has launched two environmental initiatives, Chancellor Fox replied. One focuses on research, but the other is looking at practical ways to improve the environment. Also, a power plant on campus generates 95 percent of UCSD’s electricity needs, said Assistant Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews. Next year, the campus will focus on hybrid vehicles and natural gas shuttle buses, he said. Solar panels will make their appearance on campus by July.

In response to students’ requests, Chancellor Fox pledged to hold multiple meetings with them until they feel they got to the bottom of their agenda. She also urged students to tell the administration about their priorities.

“We’d like very much to work with all of you to make sure that all of the factors that you think are important are either being addressed or we can explain to you why they’re not being addressed,” Fox said.

After the meeting, Soroushian said he believed students got their message across. He also said he hopes the Chancellor will push for administrative change and promote student involvement.

Chancellor Fox was supportive of a plan to make sure that clothing sold in UC stores isn’t made in sweatshops, political theory major Akaash Gupta told his fellow students during Monday’s town hall. UC President Robert Dynes said earlier this month that the UC system will take part in a program to cut back on apparel made in sweatshops.
 
“Thank you very much,” Gupta told Fox. “You’re welcome,” she replied.

Campus climate also was a hot topic of discussion. Student Vince Arvizo expressed concern about the fact that Porter’s Pub’s lease won’t be renewed. As a transfer student, Arvizo said he found it difficult to make friends on campus.

“I found that Porter’s Pub is kind of a spark of life on a socially dead campus,” he said.

Chancellor Fox deferred to Vice Chancellor Joseph Watson, saying it was the first time she’d heard about this issue. The university isn’t renewing Porter’s lease, Watson said, adding he wasn’t sure about the specifics. But the plan is to have a restaurant and an “activity venue” at that location, he said. “That means a bar,” Chancellor Fox interjected, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Several students also said they were disappointed about the lack of diversity on campus.

“It’s just really important that we keep in mind the under-privileged, under-represented and marginalized students,” said Kevin Mann, the newly elected chair of the Student Affirmative Action Committee.

Mann is a tutor at Lemon Grove Middle School and sometimes takes his charges to the UCSD campus. During one visit, a pupil asked where the black students were. Mann said it broke his heart to tell the boy they only made up about one percent of the student body at UCSD.

UCSD’s student body is unfortunately not as diverse as it ought to be, Fox conceded.

“I believe very strongly in diversity,” she said.

She urged students to get involved in outreach programs. It’s important to reach students as early at middle school, she said. It’s also important to provide them with support, including programs such as OASIS, once they get here, she added. The university will provide $93,000 in permanent funds for OASIS this coming year, Vice Chancellor Watson said.

“It is immoral for us to admit a student and not give them the support they need,” Chancellor Fox said.

Last week's town hall was one of three such meetings Fox plans to hold with faculty, staff and students. Other town halls scheduled include:

May 30, 2006 Faculty 3:30 - 4:30 PM Faculty Club
June 22, 2006 Staff 12:00 - 1:00 PM Eucalyptus Point

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