SEIU 1021

Faculty, students, alumni, and elected officials join forces to Reclaim Holy Names
At a town hall last Thursday, they spoke out about HNU's importance -- and why the campus must be preserved as an educational institution


When Holy Names University administration announced the school would be closing after the spring 2023 semester, after years of mismanagement and lax oversight by its board of trustees, the fates and futures of hundreds of low-income students of color, faculty, and staff were put on the chopping block.

But the news got worse when the board announced its intention to sell the property to the highest bidder to reconcile its debt, blaming its decision on the lender – despite the lender’s willingness to work with the adjunct faculty union and Oakland City Council to find an educational institution to take it over.

With the prospect of losing a beloved Bay Area institution of higher learning that trains the next generation of teachers, nurses and other healthcare professionals, counselors, sports medicine practitioners, and more to luxury real estate development, students, faculty, alumni, community members, and elected leaders linked arms to put a stop to the plan.

Thursday, April 20, they hosted a virtual town hall to speak out on their issues, concerns, and the importance of preserving the legacy of HNU by making sure it remains an institution of higher learning. 

“We’re here to give a voice to all of you, as many of us have been silenced into submission,” said SEIU 1021 Holy Names chapter leader and adjunct professor Melody Parker. ”We’re tired of the silence and we’re tired of being obedient at the cost of our students’ education, our jobs, and our home. I think it’s been a long winter but spring is finally here. So we’re prepared to fight for our goals. We welcome your input and your help in pressuring Steve Borg and the Board of Trustees to sell Holy Names property to an educational nonprofit group.”

“My peers and I are being forced to abruptly alter our plans and goals and lose a community that has grown into a sacred and safe place for many,” said sophomore A’Niya Bankston, a pre-nursing student and president of the HNU Black Student Union. ”I’m now faced with many difficult decisions like transferring to a new institution that will provide me with an affordable education or possibly changing my major. I may even have to leave my home and my family in less than a month to attend school in another state that offers me an affordable education.

“I’ve known that it’s a sad reality that Oakland’s education system has been facing for a while now. I was a victim of a school closure in 2017 when my middle school shut down, and here I am again being stripped of my right to earn a four-year degree from a university I entrusted with my future.

“The closure of HNU will disproportionately upend the lives of many Black and brown students in Oakland. It’s completely unfair that students have to face the burdens of the Board of Trustees’ poor decisions and lack of transparency.”

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spoke to her efforts to ensure that HNU remains an institution of higher learning. “Some have said it wouldn’t be possible for there to be an educational future, and some board members even said they were being forced to sell it to for-profit luxury development and not keep it in educational use. They first said the attorney general said they should do that, and then we talked to the attorney general, and he said he did not do that. The lender is not pressuring them to sell it on a for-profit basis and is willing to defer action to allow a nonprofit educational user to come in. And we’ve learned that the Oakland General Plan designation of the site is institutional educational. So there’s no excuse for not having an educational future at Holy Names.”

Watch the full town hall on our Facebook page here.

The Reclaim Holy Names coalition is continuing conversations with elected leaders and will be working on getting concrete assurances that the property will remain an educational institution. Stay tuned!