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

  • lulu_pickles
    March 22, 2012

    Sounds to me like you’re fighting for your own inflated sense of ego and newfound sense of power. Sounds like this US Bank “victory” is getting to your head:

    “We are the 99%. And we won’t stop until every business on campus that we disagree with philosophically has been permanently removed. After all, who’s going to stop us, the police?”

    Yes, you are the 99%. However, you are a tiny subset of the 99%. The rest of us are too busy working to support our families while you pampered pseudo intellectuals have time to sit in front of a bank every day. I wonder….who is paying your bills? Student loans which you willingly signed up for? Mommy and/or daddy? Maybe you’re one of those trust fund babies. The only thing I know is that I work TWO jobs and don’t have the time to sit for hours and wax philosophical on a world which you obviously know nothing about. Davis? Davis is a piddly, atypical, sheltered little hamlet. Maybe your petulance is and bullying is accepted here, but step outside of Davis. Live elsewhere in the U.S. Learn who the REAL 99% is. Not a bunch of privileged children who have time in between “Fire Dancing 101” and “Anarchy for Dummies” to disrupt the lives of other people.
    As for “…we won’t stop until every business on campus that we disagree with philosophically has been permanently removed.” Wow, you’ve got the makings of a dictator, Mr. Raskin. You and your ilk, who expect tolerance for your viewpoints and way of expressing them, displaying no tolerance for others? How can you be so confident that your philosophy should be the way of the world. A shiver courses down my spine when I think of suicide bombers, flying planes into the western symbol of capitalism that day in 2001. They too, took the necessary measures to FORCE their ideologies onto those with whom they felt threatened THEIR viewpoints. But hey, you’ve got to break a few eggs, right? Attaboy. You’ve got the right idea.
    I forget: we can’t defend ourselves. We can’t think for ourselves. We need a political science student on the student government (*scoffs*) to tell us the right way to think. Do I owe student loans? Absolutely. I graduated from a land grant university similar to UC Davis. And I made that choice and I am paying them off for the next 20 years. So what? Nothing in this world is free. But I suppose you, still insulated in your little world, believe that you should be handed everything. I understand. Poor boy. You’ll learn the way this world is soon enough, I suppose.
    Who will stop you? Maybe not the police, but people like me; the largely silent majority who, every day, is growing more and more sick of your empty rhetoric and outright bullying. We, the 98.999999999999999% who believe that you and your posse are nothing but a bunch of entitled little (for lack of a better word) brats. We’re already speaking up, raising our voices in unison with yours. Because you DO NOT stand for us, you DO NOT care about us. You simply care about amassing a false sense of power through intimidation tactics.

  • worked my way through
    March 21, 2012

    Anyone who disagrees with you can go to hell? And you won’t stop until every business you disagree with has been removed?

    WELL, as you can read here—the 99% here at UC Davis do NOT agree with you. So guess that means you should leave now. Occupy is so over… Bye Bye.

  • abbynormal
    March 21, 2012

    If students appear ungrateful, it could be that we didn’t ask for your help, and more importantly, your help is not exactly helping.

  • abbynormal
    March 21, 2012

    Why haven’t these students been arrested yet? They clearly broke the law, defiantly, and are happy that they did so. They openly celebrate the closure of a branch that served a community they loosely claim to represent. Committing a crime, and not receiving the due punishment was the key reasons why this occupy movement was able to take off. They demanded, and still do the full extent of the law be applied to the chancellor and the officers. They demand and still do that the parties involved in the pepper spray incident take legal and financial responsibility. I find this ironic because the occupiers dismiss the concerns and objections of the students to their own illegal actions on the campus.

    When the civil rights activists performed sit ins, they did not block patrons from entering or leaving an eatery. They simply took a place in the eatery and controlled their own access to an eatery. That was the beauty of the sit in- the passive aggressive action of resisting social constraints did not require the sitters to interfere with the daily lives of the patrons. Yes, they were a nuisance, but not a physical deterrent to the employees or the patrons entering and exiting the eatery. The occupiers can learn from the this when considering the next occupation of a place on campus.

    At that rally where the world confronted the chancellor, the cry was for lower fees and no privatization of public schools. That is what brought so many students together. Yes, there was a cry for justice, but for the most part, we were there to confront the world about the increase in fees; at least I was. What happened to that agenda? Why is time wasted by blocking a single bank, in a town, and not the headquarters? Banks all over are involved in one way or another in the student debt problem. Will each bank be blockaded? What if the majority of students have federal loans, do the occupiers have plans of taking over the federal reserve as well?

    I have come to the conclusion that the occupiers and the general student population have different approaches to countering the fee hikes. This is sad, because as a whole, greater work could have been accomplished with such power in numbers.

    Accountability. That was demanded in November, and still is. Accountability, is not, and should not be limited to school officials and officers. It applies to everyone. Who do we, the students hold accountable for the closure and breach in contract of the bank? Who do we hold accountable for the displacement of student services and loss in revenue? Who do we hold accountable for the hostile take over of the campus?

    The occupiers demand accountability of everyone but themselves. They demand everyone in the administrative offices legally conduct themselves on the behalf of the students, but they repeatedly fail to do so. How can anyone take a move seriously, that openly and defiantly bend and break the rules according to their own agendas? How are their actions any different then the underhanded actions of the top school officials?

    If this is truly the students school, why are we allowing a band of rogue students dictate our daily lives and affairs? I do not have the answer to this? Do you?

    P.S. I am well aware that the blockade was not an “official” or an agreed upon agenda of the occupiers.

  • Artem
    March 20, 2012

    Fact check.
    I’ve explicitly told the Aggie that I was not an active blockader and asked them to specify that if they quote me. People should be able to express their support or opposition to protests without a threat of a lawsuit.

    • student2013
      March 20, 2012

      Dear Artem and fellow Occutards,

      You claim to understand democracy, the constitution, and the American way in general but you clearly do not. The US is about ALL the people coming together, VOTING, and making decisions based on the ideas of the whole. The US is about respecting private life, private business, and the rights of all individuals. Somehow, you and your thug friends have decided it’s about a group of bullies who think that they’re better and smarter than everyone else deciding for the rest of the country what they should be able to do. You say you’re doing it “for their own good”, and you think that somehow your “superior” understanding of Marx makes you qualified to butt your way in, harass a private business, and remove student services just because of dozen of you like minded thugs thing you know what’s best for a campus of 30,000 intelligent students. You are the worst kind of person. You’re a smug, self-important piece of trash who thinks you can throw a tantrum and rule the world. The thought that you think you’re a good and important person makes me sick. Deflate your head and realize that the world does not revolve around you. The fact that you have only a dozen or so “supporters” who can stand to be around your air of superiority should have hinted you off a long time ago.

      Sincerely,

      One of the students who you think can’t make her own damn decision about which bank to go to

      • UCDstudent
        March 20, 2012

        From actual student working his way through UC Davis, Well said!

    • James Madison
      March 21, 2012

      Fact check.
      You are not above the law, and do not speak for a majority of the people on this campus. You are a rogue entity spreading vitriol to incite compassion for ideas that even you don’t understand the vast economic impact of.
      JM

  • TheAggster
    March 19, 2012

    Artem Raskin, along with anyone else who openly admits to taking part in the Occupy Bank Blockades, should be sued by the University and ASUCD for damages in a court of law. The loss of this bank, besides from costing the university millions of dollars, has resulted in the termination of multiple employees of the bank and the inconvenience of hundreds of students and faculty on campus who rely on the bank to pay their bills.

    I’ve talked with this kid personally. He is nothing more than an ideological, ignorant, and self-righteous hipster who thinks that his own radical political persuasions are more important than civil discourse and tolerance for ALL opinions, even those he disagrees with. He is a disgrace to UC Davis, and our school should be ashamed of him.

  • lazygirl
    March 19, 2012

    i am so glad that some people do take the time to understand the issues and not just be reactive. thanks occupiers! we need you!

  • James Madison
    March 19, 2012

    This Raskin character sounds like a modern day thug, disguised in the name of ‘progress’, ‘the 99%’, and ‘Occupy-this-and-that’. It really is tiring to see this continued wanton disregard for laws, civility, and common decency. It’s as if these men and women (likely more still adolescent in nature) believe the world does, and should, revolve around them. Egomaniacs have no place on a university campus, and I for one hope they are dealt with soon before their actions get increasingly distasteful.

    JM

  • TheBlackSnorlax
    March 19, 2012

    Honestly? This is really stupid by the Occupiers. They keep uglifying the campus Quad with their tents, causing dozens of people at the US Bank to lose their jobs, creating a nuisance to the other students, making our campus look unattractive to future students, etc. I really do not understand why the University is not doing anything against these people. Yes, maybe that pepper spray thing was bad, BUT that is no reason to let them continue to break the law. Your 99% bullshit has lost all meaning because those workers at the bank, us students, the surrounding greater Davis area, and most of your fellow citizens do not stand by your destruction, methodology, or constant obstruction of the daily lives of the actual 99%. I hope they are happy knowing they just added dozens of more people on our nations unemployment list and further eroded money used for our university.

  • worked my way through
    March 19, 2012

    It is a SHAME and total abdication of LEADERSHIP at the top– that this branch has been driven out of business in violation of their contract. Students and working class women have lost their jobs. These protesters have long ago alienated the support they had after the pepper spraying–occupying the EOP office, Dutton and now this. Not only do we lose much needed funding for student services, the university will wind up paying legal fees (both sides!) and damages for breaking this contract. This misguided fringe of radicals needs to be disbanded and removed from campus. Time to take the abandoned tents off the quad. Their 15 minutes is OVER.

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