Boalt Hall Student Continues Vigil in Campus Lot

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Rick Young is a law student, not a postman, but neither rain, snow, heat nor gloom of night can keep him out of Underhill Parking Lot.

Young remained in the lot yesterday - seven days after he first plunked down his sleeping bag - despite pouring rain, a true test of resolve for a student facing finals and a summer job.

A Boalt Hall School of Law student, Young said he will stay in the lot until UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl agrees to sign a five-point letter that would have him make efforts to reduce the campus' greenhouse gas emissions, enhance public safety and step up housing endeavors.

Young is also protesting the Underhill Area Projects, a series of proposals to develop the lot into a mixed-use complex.

In response, Assistant Chancellor John Cummins sent Young a letter last week urging him to voice his concerns during public comment meetings. The university released a draft of the Environmental Impact Report last month and is gathering input from students and residents before going ahead with construction.

"Opinions vary widely on the need for both additional campus housing and more student housing," the one-paragraph letter read. "We are actively addressing both needs in our proposed Underhill Area Projects."

But Young said he found the letter far from sufficient.

"The chancellor's office doesn't quite know what's going on," he said. "Don't insult Boalt Law - we know how the process works."

Rather than enticing him to vacate the lot, Young said the letter encouraged him to stay, despite the fact he, like all UC Berkeley students, is approaching finals time.

"I'm not leaving," he said. "I can stay out here for months."

He said his professors have been understanding and may allow him to take his finals in the parking lot. Staying in the lot, he added, takes precedence over his summer job.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Marie Felde would not comment beyond the letter. Berdahl, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Although an extended stay in a parking lot could be lonely, Young was not hurting for company this weekend.

Friday night, the female branch of Critical Mass, an activist group, stopped by the lot. Project organizers said in a statement the event was "sure to be a rowdy scene as great hordes of lovely scorchers descend on the hideous scar upon our mother earth."

Last night, Young threw a pizza party for his growing list of supporters. Medea Benjamin, a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, and Berkeley City Council members Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington have signed on as Young backers. They join Julia Butterfly Hill, the woman who lived in a redwood tree named Luna for two years to prevent it from being cut down. Young is now commonly referred to as the "Julia Butterfly Hill of Berkeley."

Worthington said yesterday he was as disappointed in the letter as Young was.

"I'm pretty amazed that somebody didn't write a better response," he said. "That paragraph is a pretty pathetic bureaucratic response. It's non-responsive in the context of the issue that he's talking about, but it's not even a good bureaucratic letter. It should say something like 'we care about you and we take your ideas seriously,' but it doesn't."

Lounging under a tree to stay dry yesterday, Young kept an eye on his setup, which has now grown to include a couch, a table, a television set and a solar shower.

"That's a little disappointing," he said of the letter. "They've had a week to figure out what to say. I'll just wait patiently."


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