Panda Express Contract Draws Student Protest

Photo: Students gathered on Thursday to protest the ASUC's contract negotiations with Panda Express. The protest took place during a meeting between company representatives and ASUC officials.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
Students gathered on Thursday to protest the ASUC's contract negotiations with Panda Express. The protest took place during a meeting between company representatives and ASUC officials.

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Panda Express representatives met with ASUC Senators and members of the Store Operations Board Thursday in the ASUC Senate chambers to discuss the conditions of the Panda Express contract, while around 40 students protested outside.

In response to the protests, the board set up an impromptu question-and-answer period for students to voice their concerns over the contract, and then went into closed session.

Nadesan Permaul, director of the ASUC Auxiliary, said significant progress has been made to bring the contract to the Store Operations Board.

He said despite the concerns voiced by protesters, the majority of students support the franchise.

"While I respect and admire the principles of the protesters, they are not the only constituents on campus," Permaul said. "This was brought to the Student Operations Board. If they don't want it, they don't have to have it."

He said the board will vote on the official contract before the end of this academic year.

But Cooperative Movement Senator Christina Oatfield said many students still felt outraged about the contract.

"This is a fast-food chain coming to the UCB campus," Oatfield said. "I think this is a huge step in the wrong direction."

Arthur Chang, a Panda Express representative who fielded questions at the meeting, said the chain is addressing student concerns by taking steps to include vegetarian options and offer biodegradable packaging.

"We are very, very excited to be a part of Berkeley's unique culture but also want to be responsible," Chang said.

But sophomore Xander Lenc said Panda Express's efforts to be sustainable were "a joke" and that the chain would push out smaller businesses.

"We are very aware of the dire financial situation of the ASUC, but we don't think that Panda Express is an option," Lenc said.

Chris Tan, owner of the Gelateria Naia, said he has been in contract negotiations to partner with Panda Express to increase his business's revenue since May 2007.

"We've tried to figure out student interest, and Panda seemed like the best and brightest option," Tan said.

He added that students protested the concept of a chain business without considering all sides of the issue.

"It wouldn't matter what they said-the students' minds were already made up," Tan said.


Contact Christina Berke at [email protected]

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