In order to keep the anthropology library open, we, UC Berkeley students and community members, have begun an open-ended occupation of the library. Chancellor Carol Christ is going against the support of students, faculty, and our surrounding communities in order to close the anthropology, math, and physics libraries. In the richest state in the richest country in the world, these cuts to public education are unacceptable. We urge UC Berkeley students and the community to join our fight to preserve our libraries and reverse the defunding of our education.
Chancellor Christ is hostile not only to the libraries she would like to close but to the entire UC Berkeley community, which has made clear we want the libraries to continue operating. The Associated Students of the University of California have unanimously passed a resolution supporting the maintenance of the library, with hundreds of co-sponsors. The faculty senate has also stated they fully support the libraries staying open.
Beyond our immediate campus, efforts to save the library have also been supported by several Native American tribes, including the Board of the Ché’ee Fókaa Band of Northeastern Pomo, who use the research held in the anthropology library to secure federal recognition and reclaim sacred tribal and burial land.
Our fight to save our libraries is also part of a broader national fight for public education. Across our country, the Trump movement has made an effort to ban books, restrict progressive curricula like critical race theory, and ban teachers from mentioning LGBT+ issues. The University of California has an obligation to maintain itself as a public institution open and accessible to all in our thriving majority-minority state. There is no room in the UC system for attacks on the rights of our students and faculty to teach, learn, and research in the ways they see fit. UC Berkeley must lead the fight against these attacks rather than adapt to them.
This fight is not new for us: We can build on our historical wins to save these libraries. In 2012, former Chancellor Robert Birgeneau also attempted to close this library. Outraged students and community members made clear they would occupy the library until they secured a signed agreement from the university to keep it open. They won, and the library has been open since then.
Another example of our power comes from the recent strike, where tens of thousands of graduate workers, postdocs, and researchers came together to win significantly increased wages, improved workplace rights, and union recognition for new workers. Workers state-wide shutdown classes, blocked deliveries, and organized mass marches to show the university there would be no business as usual. We see that when we apply pressure on the university and reject the status quo, we win.
Anthropologists study humans in all the diversity of their history and contexts. The anthropology library serves as a hub, particularly for a multinational group of graduate students, to gather and share information as they seek to teach and cultivate a new generation of critical thinkers who can use their knowledge and research to help guide an increasingly multiracial international society. The library has drawn the Bay Area’s diverse and thriving surrounding communities to our campus. Chancellor Christ’s goal of making UC Berkeley a Hispanic-serving institution is simply self-serving if she continues with her decision to close the anthropology library. Join the occupation and defend public education! The occupation will continue until we have won.
Interested students, faculty, and community members can join us daily in the anthropology library on the second floor of the Anthropology and Art Practice building, or can find us on Instagram @savetheucbanthrolibrary
Aidan Kelley is a Ph.D. student in mathematics at UC Berkeley and a member of UAW 2865. Hoku Jeffrey is a national organizer for BAMN (Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight For Equality By Any Means Necessary).