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U.S. Bank leaves UC Davis: What’s next?

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Details of what the future will bring for U.S. Bank on the UC Davis campus are still hazy after the bank announced the branch’s closure in the wake of the Occupy UC Davis movement, but a school official said he is hopeful that the partnership can be restored.

“The biggest impact if this relationship can’t be salvaged is that student programs won’t earn the money they were slated to earn,” university spokesman Barry Schiller said Tuesday, adding that the best-hope figures put those earnings at $3 million over 10 years.

“In the last year, I believe that it was something on the order of about $167,000 for student programs,” Schiller said.

The money was channeled to the student programs as part of a contractual agreement between the bank and the university.

In January, students and at least one faculty member began sitting in front of the bank’s doors, preventing their opening to let customers in, and to let employees out, Schiller said.

He added that campus officials told the protesters that they could not sit in the space the doors needed to swing open, and when they refused, their refusal was documented.

“We engaged in a day-after-day-after-day effort to try to engage with the individuals,” Schiller said. “Our goal was not to send out police and create daily flashpoints that would not solve anything.”

Campus officials recently sent evidence collected to the Yolo County District Attorney’s office, and Schiller said the hope is that the protesters will be charged with criminal misdemeanors.

Rev. Ashiya Odeye, a spokesperson for the Justice Reform Coalition and an organizer for both Occupy UC Davis and Occupy Sacramento, said Tuesday that the bank branch’s closure is a “first-round victory” for the Occupy movement, and that the criminal complaints were anticipated, but not a deterrent.

“I can’t really tell you what our next thing is, because I don’t want it to get out yet. We will be taking action into Sacramento and to (U.S. Bank’s main office),” Odeye said, adding that he expects to see the Sacramento protests grow in April.

Teri Charest, spokeswoman for the Minnesota-based U.S. Bank, said Tuesday that the bank closed the branch on the UC Davis campus because the protesters made it impossible to do business.

“Our concern was our inability to conduct business and the safety of our branch employees, and the ability of customers to come and go from the branch,” Charest said.

She added that the UC Davis branch is the only one in the country that has had to shut down as a result of the Occupy movement.

Schiller said he is hopeful that the protesters will be criminally charged, and that will cause bank officials to reevaluate the branch’s closure.

Charest said she was not aware of the potential for criminal charges, but added that it is too early to speculate on whether the bank might reopen on the campus.

“U.S. Bank is still committed to providing the service to the community and the area (through other branches),” she said.

Schiller said there is another U.S. Bank branch about two and a half blocks from the edge of campus, but there are no other banks within the campus itself.

ATMs from six banks in addition to U.S. Bank’s ATMs are located on the campus, but Charest said U.S. Bank will be removing its ATMs in the near future.

When asked about his response to students who use the bank and don’t agree with the Occupy movement’s goals, Obeye – who is not a student – said, “I’d tell them to grow up and face reality. What do you want, (to) support criminals and the downfall of our system, or hold these people accountable? We can get somebody else in there: make it a student credit union.”

In addition to costs to student programs, Schiller said dissolving the contract with U.S. Bank will cost the school an unforeseeable amount, possibly including litigation fees.

“We have offered to the bank to mediate this dispute,” he said. “I don’t know whether the bank will be amenable to that.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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