Donors, Campus Differ On Interpretation of Letter

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A letter from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau alarmed two donors this summer by alluding to racial motives behind opposition to UC Berkeley's proposed athletic center.

Campus officials say the letter, which was sent in June following letters from the donors, was misinterpreted. The donors had expressed concern over the actions of campus administrators regarding the tree-sit.

Birgeneau wrote, "I am surprised by the fact that you advocate for criminal trespassers who use their own feces and urine to harass our staff while, at the same time, ignoring the racism against our underrepresented minority student athletes that underlies much of the opposition to our proposed student high performance athletic center."

The donors-UC Berkeley alumni and local residents Janice and Thomas Boyce-had repeatedly written to Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor of Administration Nathan Brostrom expressing concern over the campus's treatment of the tree-sit and allocation of funds, according to Janice Boyce.

However, Birgeneau was not directly addressing the donors, but instead referred to recent e-mail comments he received from separate individuals who supported the tree-sit, said campus spokesperson Marie Felde.

Felde said Birgeneau interpreted those e-mails to be "implicitly racist" by implying that some of the athletes who would train at the proposed center were only admitted to UC Berkeley due to their race.

"(The e-mails) said, in effect, that the facility for student athletes was being built for students who did not belong at UC Berkeley," Felde said. "(Birgeneau said) for anyone to imply that some of our students had not earned the right to attend UC Berkeley was ... hurtful to students of color and to all student athletes."

Janice Boyce, who has donated to the school since 1958, said she and her husband wrote to Birgeneau because they were concerned that the campus was not efficiently distributing funds to undergraduate education.

Felde said Birgeneau was not characterizing the entire protest as racist, nor accusing the Boyces of racism.

"The comments that he made in the letter were not directed to them personally, but (there) were issues others had raised that were very disturbing to the chancellor," she said.

Tags: TREE-SIT, CHANCELLOR ROBERT BIRGENEAU


Contact Rachel Gross at [email protected]



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