U.S. Bank announces closure of on-campus branch

Bowing to pressure from the campus Occupy movement, U.S. Bank is closing the doors to its Memorial Union (MU) branch for good.

Since January, the branch had been the site of daily sit-ins by Occupy UC Davis protesters, who said they wanted the bank closed.

“It was all worth it at the end,” said Artem Raskin, a junior political science major and active occupier.

For those involved, the blockade became a daily ritual. Protesters — typically numbering around 15 — would arrive around noon, followed by an officer from the campus police department. Thirty minutes later, bank employees would leave and the entire process would be repeated the next day.

University officials contend protesters were in violation of California Penal Code Section 647C, which makes it a misdemeanor to “willfully and maliciously” obstruct the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk or other public place. However, demonstrators were not arrested. For their part, protesters asserted that a private bank had no place on a public university.

“Days like Nov. 18 may become infamous in the public eye, but the blockade of the U.S. Bank was a real battle against the privatization agenda, and its closure is a victory,” Occupy UC Davis wrote in a statement posted on its website.

In recent weeks, the administration had stepped up pressure on the protest, first by distributing notices of violation and then by threatening to refer demonstrators to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Thus far, six cases have been sent to the D.A., but the office has yet to complete its review.

“We didn’t want a flashpoint at the bank,” said UC Davis spokesperson Barry Shiller. “Although it may appear to have been inaction, it was simply a different type of approach. We wished the bank had hung in there.”

U.S. Bank sent out a letter March 12 to the approximately 2,500 customers of the MU branch notifying them of the closure on Feb. 28. The letter did not cite a reason for the closure.

Bank spokesperson Nicole Garrison-Sprenger released a statement confirming the closure.

“We have closed the branch at the University of California, Davis after several weeks of business interruption that risked the safety of our customers and employees,” she said. “Despite our best attempts, we were limited in our ability to resolve the matter and therefore decided to close the office.”

U.S. Bank arrived in September 2010 after Student Affairs explored the idea of welcoming a bank on campus as an alternate source of funding. After surveying the campus, many students and faculty expressed interest in having a bank on campus. The 10-year agreement was expected to generate $3 million for the university. The campus received $167,000 last year to go toward student activities, on top of the $8,000 in rent paid each month.

Bank officials have said that they were upset with the university’s handling of the situation. At one point, the bank hired private security guards to stand watch outside, but they were recalled after the university intervened.

The final tipping point came in a March 1 letter notifying UC officials of the bank’s intent to terminate the agreement. In the letter, Senior Vice President of U.S. Bank Daniel Hoke called the situation “intolerable,” noting the bank had been “constructively evicted” and that its employees were “effectively imprisoned.”

“The Regents have refused to remove or arrest the persons participating in the illegal gathering even though the Regents have used available laws to disperse protesters who have congregated elsewhere on the University’s campuses,” Hoke wrote.

In addition, he said U.S. Bank would seek damages for business losses and the initial cost of outfitting the branch.

According to Steven Drown, chief counsel for UC Davis, the university is in negotiations with the bank, but he noted it would be premature to speculate on what would happen next or how much this would ultimately cost the university.

“Our position is that the termination is not effective; they didn’t follow the requirements,” he said.

But Drown expressed hope for a resolution satisfactory to both sides. When U.S. Bank arrived in 2010, all students were required to get new ID cards with the U.S. Bank logo on the back. With the departure of the bank, some wonder what this will mean for the campus.

“We don’t want to unduly burden the campus with expenses, such as having to re-do the ID cards,” Drown said.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Emily Galindo, who is involved in the negotiations, expressed frustration with the closure.

“It’s disappointing to see us lose funding in a time of budgetary trouble,” Galindo said.

Though members of Occupy said they were overjoyed to learn the bank had been shuttered for good, one bank customer said they were less than enthusiastic.

“The movement has become destructive to our academic environment,” said junior genetics major and longtime bank customer Melissa Marovitz. “There has to be a better way to go about it.”

The daily blockades prevented students from accessing their money, Marovitz said.

“I was trying to pay rent, and I had to call the management office to explain the situation. Luckily, they were lenient with me,” she said.

The MU branch was one of 21 branches U.S. Bank operates on college campuses across the nation. Among other University of California campuses, UC Irvine also has an on-campus bank — a Wells Fargo operates in the student center.

Supporters of Occupy say the bank’s departure is a good step forward. But many are now wondering what’s next. Raskin, speaking for himself, didn’t rule out expanding the movement’s goals to include ousting UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

“The Berkeley chancellor resigned. Katehi could be forced out too.” he said.

RICHARD CHANG can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

28 Comments

  • abbynormal
    March 24, 2012

    I never said they were horrible people. I said, and stand by it, that they are defiant and law breakers. I did not need the media to inform me of this fact.

    You have a point that the issues of banks on campus has not come up in the comments. But I want to point out that protesters war on banks on campus is flawed to say the least. How do we account for ATM’s on campus? Do they not function as a bank? To remove any and all questionable financial institutions on campus would mean the ridding of ATM’s I would assume.

    The issue of private business on campus would extend to Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Carl’s Jr. Why are the protesters not asking what type of deal the school made with them as well?

    My issue is that to single out one of many private entities, raises a red flag for me. I would love an answer to that.

    I agree with the protesters for the most part, regarding the issues of high fees and the crack down on free speech. I agree that the campus does not require a police force. I agree that the chancellor should be held accountable for her part in the pepper spray incident. I agree that the media cast an unfavorable light on the protesters, which shapes the public’s perception of them.

    But I also feel that the protesters should take some of the blame for the negative publicity that comes their way. They broke the law pure and simple. To set an example of how an adult handles being reprimanded, they should serve jail time and pay a fee. That too me would send an extremely clear image to the world that these students can man up when they have done wrong, but their school officials can not.

    In short, I agree with their message, but I disagree with the means they use to solve the issues at hand. I believe that being proactive is the best way to get things done, but not the only way.

    I do not eat hot pockets. I do stand up for what I believe and have been active in pursuing changes on campus. Your generalization of me is off based. I was trying to bolster the UCD community into action. Ask questions, and seek solutions. Do not leave your fate in the hands of a few, or anyone for that matter. If UCD occupy does not represent you, then represent yourself. Take charge and accountability for your own fate and actions. If we feel screwed over it is because we allowed it. My message is simple: Stand up and fight or lay down and shut up.

  • jordan_carroll
    March 23, 2012

    It’s interesting how, behind all of the Internet vitriol, there’s no substantive discussion of US Bank and the place of finance on campus. Part of that can be chalked up to the level of argument here: a series of readymade cliches strung together to paint the occupiers as despicable, despicable people. They are either privileged college kids (a mainstay of any dumb Internet discussion about universities) or would-be celebrities or raging egotistical hipsters or totalitarian dictators or, apparently, 9\11 terrorists. The degree of hysteria tells us that this argument has absolutely nothing to do with surface political disagreements here, so we have to dig deeper to see what’s wrong. What do all of these stock figures and bogeymen have in common? Whatever you think about them as people or political figures, each of them has a greater degree of freedom and public influence than any random troll on the Internet. When a commenter complains that occupiers “FORCE their ideologies onto those with whom they felt threatened THEIR viewpoints,” it has absolutely nothing to do with the political practice of the occupiers and everything to do with the impotence of anyone posting anonymously on the Internet (myself included). Writing angry comments on news sites is ultimately a self-deluding ritual in which the commenter imagines that he or she can speak back to the news and change it. It’s like yelling at the television, only we have to see a record of it. So, of course, a group of activists who won their objective in just a few months looks terrible to trolls everywhere, who sit alone eating hot pockets and moaning about the fact that someone did something somewhere they didn’t like.

    • James Madison
      March 23, 2012

      Mr Carroll would do well to note that many of us (I assume, though I can only attest for myself) have confronted Mr Raskin (for whom I assume you are defending indirectly with your post) on his beliefs and tried to challenge him to an intelligent discourse. He very rarely listens to those who disagree with him, and not once in my discourse did he let me finish my point without interjecting or interrupting because he had a ‘relevant’ (which most turned out to be extraneous tangents) on what I was commenting on. I have given up talking to him, and therefore wanted a forum on which to display my distaste with his actions and words. This was done so that hopefully others out there – there seems to be many who agree with me, according to the statistics of pro/anti ‘Raskin-supporters’ (I won’t refer to them as occupiers since the movement has a very laissez-faire approach to dealing with his words/actions) – would be able to hear opinions against his own, since he so vehemently opposes intellectual debate in person.

      But, thanks for making grandiose assumptions about my diet and my personal company. A lot classier than my comments on Raskin earlier in this feed.

      JM

      • student2013
        March 23, 2012

        I have a theory. What if the university isn’t taking action against them because they know the longer this goes on the more support the occupiers will lose? That would explain why they’re delaying the pepper spray reports. They’re waiting for the occupiers to shoot themselves in the foot before they release the results so none of us will really care. I have to say it’s worked on me.

      • jordan_carroll
        March 23, 2012

        As far as I know, I’ve never met Raskin and know nothing about him. Mr. Madison, you may wish to consult an exemplary passage from Boswell’s Life of Johnson: “Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat… This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. ‘Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.’ And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, ‘But Hodge shan’t be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.’”

        I must say, though, I did not realize that your ad hominem attacks were directed at someone you don’t like and who won’t listen to you. If that were the case, I would never have suggested that you were wasting your time. Please continue as you were.

    • student2013
      March 23, 2012

      So where do you suggest we air our grievances with the Occupy movement since you all are impossible to talk to in person? I can’t finish a sentence without ten of you jumping down my throat, hurling insults at me, and going off on a diatribe about how anyone who disagrees with you is an evil capitalist. Sadly, online is the only place we can finish a thought without being pounced on. (And all this from a movement that promotes free speech, hypocrites much?)

      And btw, “trolls” are people who post funny cat pictures on serious conversations or leave racist comments just to stir up trouble. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them a “troll”. You’re just calling us trolls and saying we have no life to dehumanize us because your ego is so big that you can fathom the fact that what you’re doing is pretty universally despised.
      You say you’re better than us because you “took action” and succeeded. Well, congratulations. But I think most will agree that a student who goes to class and work like a normal person is more beneficial to the university than someone who bullies the businesses on campus instead of going to class. And what “direct action” should we take to stop you? Form a human blockade in front of your tents? Scream down the halls during class time? Close down every business, club, and activity on campus we don’t agree with and then cry like it’s Bloody Sunday when the cops show up?

      And the things we’ve been saying about you – these aren’t stereotypes or caricatures; that’s how you actually behave. Pretty sad, huh?

  • James Madison
    March 22, 2012

    Sounds a little totalitarian, eh Mr. Raskin? Quite hypocritical.

  • abbynormal
    March 22, 2012

    “After all, who’s going to stop us, the police?”

    The million dollar question.

  • Artem
    March 22, 2012

    @ Artem Raskin March 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Please stop impersonating me on the internet. That’s just juvenile.

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