Panda Express Contract Rejected

Photo: The ASUC Store Operations Board voted 5-4 against an official lease agreement with Panda Express during their meeting Tuesday. Negotiations with the chain will continue.
Anna Vignet/Photo
The ASUC Store Operations Board voted 5-4 against an official lease agreement with Panda Express during their meeting Tuesday. Negotiations with the chain will continue.

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The ASUC Store Operations Board voted down an official lease agreement with the fast-food chain Panda Express by a 5-4 vote at their meeting Tuesday.

The move was in line with the opinion of dozens of students who crowded the ASUC Senate chambers during the meeting to oppose the agreement.

But the board said negotiations with the chain will continue, which some members said went against the wishes of the student body.

"The board voted in favor of what the students wanted," said board member and ASUC Executive Vice President Krystle Pasco. "To some degree, the student voices were heard, but as the night continued, the board created a double standard to continue negotiations ... it's still up in the air."

Along with Pasco, ASUC President Roxanne Winston, UCPD Chief Victoria Harrison, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Barbara Davis and graduate student representative Alberto Ortega voted against the deal.

Votes in favor were Store Operations Board Chair Jordan Smith, Co-Chair Dave Rhoads, graduate student representative Nish Rajan and Associate Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Ron Coley. The contract needed a majority approval to pass.

The decision followed five hours of discussion addressing the transparency of negotiations and student concerns that Panda Express could not properly conform to progressive standards.

"If they refuse, I expect an explanation and a counter-proposal," said Coley, who supported the agreement and continued negotiations with the chain.

Many who spoke during public comment highlighted inconsistencies during the process to bring Panda Express to campus.

"I am disheartened by the process that got us to this decision," said sophomore Laura Zelko, who spoke against the agreement. "(It) is not conducive to Panda Express ever leaving the conversation."

But ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul said a deal with Panda Express is necessary to keep the auxiliary solvent and to maintain the student government's autonomy from the university. The auxiliary is currently facing a $200,000 deficit.

"The business of the ASUC was not addressed by the passionate advocacy, and we have as much a responsibility to deal with that issue now as we do to embrace those passionate values expressed at the meeting," Permaul said.

Permaul's position received support during the meeting from Jan Crowder, director of student affairs, who presented a letter to the board signed by 20 auxiliary employees.

"I am extremely concerned about the possibility of falling prey again to the circumstances that led the ASUC to a $6 million deficit and near bankruptcy in 1998," Crowder said. "If ASUC does not enter into a contract with Panda Express, it will not have other options available to stay afloat."


Zach E.J. Williams covers student government. Contact him at [email protected]

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