ASUC Approves Tully's Lease, Still Considering Panda Express Contract

Photo: Several spoke out against the proposed Panda Express deal at an ASUC Store Operations Board meeting during public comment.
Chris Chung/Photo
Several spoke out against the proposed Panda Express deal at an ASUC Store Operations Board meeting during public comment.

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The ASUC Store Operations Board unanimously voted to make its lease with Tully's Coffee official last night, while a finalized contract with Panda Express waits until the board's meeting in April.

A Tully's Coffee kiosk in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union could be erected by the end of the semester.

While the Tully's deal has been relatively unopposed by students, the proposed Panda Express contract has been met with controversy, as attested by the 50 students who voiced their concerns over the chain during public comment at the Store Operations Board meeting.

One of the chief concerns was whether the board's decision process has sufficiently taken student views into account.

"There's a lack of transparency on what Lower Sproul is going to look like in the future," said senior Erin Pangilinan at the meeting. "Is this what activists of UC Berkeley of the '60s envisioned their campus to be? We should have a say, because the university runs off students."

But Jordan Smith, chair of the Store Operations Board, said the decision to partner with Panda Express without holding an open bidding process took place before he became chair.

"The decision was made over a year and a half ago," he said. "We were looking for a strategic partner, and at that point we decided to start working with them."

Smith said that at the time no other businesses were willing to invest in the infrastructure necessary to convert the office space into a restaurant.

Panda Express has offered to invest $750,000 to install a kitchen and restaurant, he said.

Pangilinan and other students also said they were worried Panda Express would offer inauthentic Chinese food and misrepresent UC Berkeley's Asian American community.

"Panda Express is unhealthy, unsustainable and it's cultural imperialism to have it on the UC Berkeley campus," said ASUC Cooperative Movement Senator Christina Oatfield.

But ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul said the decision to partner with Panda Express was a necessary financial move for the ASUC.

Without the reliable flow of income the chain would provide through rent, he said, the ASUC risks defaulting.

"Revenue from Panda Express is absolutely necessary," he said.

Permaul added that the losses sustained by the ASUC Bookstore have reached $1.9 million for this fiscal year, up from $1.3 million last month.

The board is poised to vote on the contract at their next meeting, scheduled for April 14.


Contact Rachel Gross and Katie Meyer at [email protected]

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