The following letter was sent to the administration and student councils of the University of California San Diego this week concerning the impending university ordered closing of the Che Cafe:
We are writing you as concerned members of the UCSD community, as citizens of California, and as UPTE (University Professional and Technical Employees, Communication Workers of America 9119) members.
We support the right of the Che Café to continue operations in its current building and oppose any plan for demolition of the building. We are motivated by values of fair play and due process as well as our sense of civic responsibility to speak clearly about the educational and cultural priorities of our public university.
We are dismayed by the UCSD administration’s current actions to destroy an important institution of our San Diego region, the Ché Café. Despite the request of the Ché Café for dispute resolution procedures under the terms of the UCSD co-ops Master Space Agreement (MSA), and without abiding by those terms, the UCSD administration served the Ché Café with a 30-day notice of termination of their lease on June 13, 2014. Legal counsel for the Che Café has publicly insisted that the Ché Café is not in breach of any of the terms of the lease, nor n default, and that the Regents therefore have no legal basis for termination of the lease. To the contrary, Ché Café maintains that the Regents are violating the MSA lease by not allocating funds required for building maintenance.
We have several related concerns:
• Ché Café and the other student co-ops at UCSD are a vital educational activity that warrant greater support from the Regents.
• Ché Café and the other student co-ops at UCSD provide a successful laboratory for students to learn about worker-owned and operated enterprises. Co-operatives of many varieties are and have long been a significant part of the economy, and we want to encourage their success. Likewise, unions in the US and abroad have taken over operation of productive facilities that corporate CEO’s wanted to shut down. Working at Che Café and the other co-ops students learn important lessons about workplace democracy – a value shared by the labor movement. The skills that students learn in co-op staff meetings and in running the co-ops also translate very well into what people need to know to become sole proprietors or partners in starting new small and medium -ized businesses. This is hands-on laboratory education you simply cannot obtain in a classroom.
• Ché Café and the other UCSD co-ops have long been in the forefront of supporting union and workers’ rights for campus staff and faculty as well as economic and social justice issues on our campus and in the San Diego community. Ché Café over more than 30 years has sponsored countless benefit shows for campus and community groups and causes. The lessons of community awareness and civic engagement which students learn working at the Ché Café are consistent with the highest values of a public university. Ché Café deserves the broad support of the University and the progressive community.
• The administration’s current assertions that a major fire safety issue exists at the Ché Café directly contradicts the Fire Marshall’s own report in April of 2014.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents are incorrect in asserting a lack of student support while simultaneously rushing to evict the Ché Café during the summer break, while fewer students are around to show their support.
• More than 11,000 people have signed the online petition to keep the Ché Café open in its current facility, with proper funding for building maintenance. These are students, alumni, faculty, university staff, and citizens in the community at large. No one reading these petition signatures and comments can say there is a lack of student (or other) support. Few other buildings at the UCSD campus could ever garner this kind of support to defend against a threat of demolition. Few other groups on the campus enjoy this level of support.
• The Ché Café is one of the few safe, sober, all-ages venues for concerts, art shows, and theatrical performances in the entire San Diego region. The University community, with a large population of students under the age of 21, needs this venue.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents are insulting core principles of academic freedom and the First Amendment by asserting that a lack of student support (real or fictional) should be a basis for attacking, defunding, evicting, and destroying a student organization
• Ché Café has earned international acclaim in the music and art worlds and deserves the University’s support not its disdain.
• Coffee Hut/Ché Café building was the first UCSD student center (1966), has historic and cultural significance, and should never be destroyed
• Coffee Hut/Ché Café building is one of the last WWII Camp Matthews structures still on the campus, has historic and cultural significance, and should never be destroyed
• It is often impossible to move valuable murals–the Che Cafe murals are a landmark at UCSD and it would be a tragedy to lose them.
• The building is less than 100 years old – practically brand new by East Coast or Old World standards.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents have been performing in an incompetent manner in publishing estimated costs for Ché Café building maintenance, without documenting and publishing any of the bases for those estimated costs. This violates the fiduciary responsibility of the Regents and the administration.
• The UCSD administration has a long history of threatening to close down the Ché Café and the other co-ops, with gross overestimation of costs for maintenance; exaggeration of health and safety issues,;and failure to honor contractual (and ordinary landlord) obligations to maintain tenantability of the buildings.
• The UCSD administration has a long history of providing “bad data” to the undergraduate and graduate student governments and to the original Student Center Board, the University Centers Board, and the current University Centers Advisory Board. The student majority on these boards has not been in a position to collect, compile and project all the cost and expense data for the operations of the Student Center and the Price Center and the Ché Café. That data has mainly been provided by the University administration. On too many occasions the administration has “cooked the books” to push the board majority to favor priority pet projects of the administration and/or to defer maintenance expenditures to suit the administration’s hidden agendas.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents are the ultimate responsible party in regard to obligations of the co-op leases, including maintenance obligations. The University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB) is advisory to the Regents. The Regents must do the right thing and cannot hide behind the idea that a student majority on UCAB voted to exclude the required building maintenance funding from the budget while the facts and figures for that UCAB decision were all provided by the UCSD administration.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by holding a closed executive session of the UCAB to vote on the Che Café being excluded from the UCAB budget. The statutory basis for the closed session was not published in the UCAB agenda. The closed session itself was not publicly agendized. The vote should be done over in public.
• The UCSD administration and the Regents have been acting dishonestly in not communicating concerns to the Ché Café in a timely manner and in giving a 30-day termination notice without honoring the dispute resolution procedure. This certainly is not living up to UCSD’s own Principles of Community.
• The UC and the Regents is a government entity bound by the 14th amendment to respect the constitutional protections of due process. The administration’s failure to honor the dispute resolution procedure detailed in the MSA violates due process rights.
We strongly urge the Regents and the UCSD administration to reverse course and start providing the Ché Café and the other UCSD co-ops with the nurturance and institutional support they deserve; this course is worthy of our University, whose primary missions are to educate our students, perform cutting-edge research, and serve our community.
San Diego President
University Professional and Technical Employees – UPTE-CWA 9119