USAS finally gets their Turner Field meeting with President Becker

Students march to Centennial Hall in anger, after President Becker left their meeting on Friday, Nov. 3. Photo by: Syrina Merilan | The Signal

Updated on Nov. 7, at 11:00 a.m.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) finally acquired their long-awaited for meeting with Georgia State University President Mark Becker, but with no results. And the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a document outlining the concerns and negotiations of the Turner Field community neighbors, has still not been signed.

The meeting was held by Georgia State’s real-estate partner in the sale, Carter Development, on Nov. 4 and consisted of Patricio Rojas, USAS organizer and student representative, President Becker, President of Carter Development Scott Taylor and the general counsel for both parties.

The meeting was meant to clear up any misunderstanding on Becker’s intentions for the Turner Field community. He does not intend to kick people out of their home. And though USAS understands this, they feel that the displacement of residents is an inevitable side effect of the development, according to Rojas.

“We have not communicated that Georgia State intended to purchase homes and directly displace residents. Due to the forces of economics as property value appreciation occurs low income residents will be priced out of the neighborhood, unless a housing opportunity revolving loan fund is put in place by a binding agreement to protect the rising costs for residents,” Rojas said.

Rojas said that Becker abruptly left the meeting, after continuous demands for him to sign the CBA as a legally binding contract. The Turner Field community no longer relies on trust, because of the series of disappointments the residents have had in the past.

“It was clear that Dr. Becker thinks students are unprepared [for the meeting], he thinks students are uninformed, he thinks students are irrelevant and he actually got up and left, before the meeting was over,” Rojas said. “It’s clear as well that because of student pressure Dr. Becker is nervous. He does not want students to spread the word that we have a responsibility over the development.” 

Andrea Jones, Georgia State’s public relations representative, told The Signal that President Becker had a pre-scheduled meeting and had informed USAS that he would have to leave early.

USAS members stand in Centennial Hall to protest President Becker's neglect. Photo by: Syrina Merilan | The Signal
USAS members stand in Centennial Hall to protest President Becker’s neglect. Photo by: Syrina Merilan | The Signal

Peoplestown resident and CBA negotiation member Sherice Brown,remains hopeful as she acknowledges the progress the students and residents have accomplished so far. She also recognized that there is a lot to be done and suggested to the group to get in touch with other officials besides Georgia State.  

“Some more work has to be done but I also feel optimistic that they want to have a conversation on the agreement with us,” Brown said. “I definitely feel that their should be on going conversation and  pressure on other stakeholders and other entities, because it’s not just Georgia State alone.”

To show their discontent with how Becker has been uncooperative to their demands, USAS members marched into Centennial Hall after the meeting holding a banner that said, “Gentrification State University.”

But the protest didn’t last long as the Centennial Hall security began to call reinforcements from the Georgia State police force to put pressure on them to leave. As a dozen officers entered the building, USAS decided to leave on their own accord chanting, “We’ll be back,” as they exited.

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