United Automobile Workers (UAW) 2865, Student Researchers Union, UC San Diego Resident Coalition and The Faculty Association held a Housing Justice Rally on Friday, October 1, with the aim of building momentum and d ” increase the visibility of the movement to fight the UCSD housing crisis.
About 60 students gathered in front of the Geisel Library at noon, holding cardboard signs and a stark banner reading “UC Scam Diego: Affordable Housing Now”. Amid a backdrop of joyful drumming, attendees and passers-by watched various organizers take the stage to express their indignant anger at UCSD’s housing policies.
In March, Housing Dining Hospitality announced plans to increase rent only for incoming students, making college attendance much less affordable for prospective graduate students. Initially, he had planned to impose a “single rate adjustment” for almost all residents of graduate students, but changed this policy shortly after a very negative response from students, residents and faculty. Students cited HDH’s lack of transparency and lack of stakeholder involvement as the reasons for their dissatisfaction. In addition, it would impose more of a population of graduate students already burdened with rents.
UCSD also admitted a record 40,616 freshmen and 12,330 transfer undergraduates this fall. Despite the opening of the new North Torrey Pines living and learning district with 2,000 new beds, the large number of students, along with COVID-19 housing precautions, has forced many students to leave campus.
Affordable housing has long been a point of contention between the UCSD administration and students. In February 2020, UCSD university students walked from the library to the Chancellor’s Office as part of the UC System-Wide Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) movement. They were protesting the rent increase HDH had imposed on graduate students and called on authorities to keep student housing affordable.
Fourth-year graduate student Dillon Travis, who previously spoke to The UCSD Guardian at a UAW-led protest on graduate housing, said he continued to be frustrated with the management by the UCSD of the housing crisis.
“Being overburdened with rent puts too much undue stress on graduate students who are already much more stressed than the general population,” Travis said. “UC keeps making things worse… [UCSD] accepted tens of thousands of new students without being able to accommodate them, forcing them to enter an already tense housing market… There are students begging (themselves) to stay in people’s living rooms.
Other graduate students said they were also angry with HDH’s decision to increase rent on graduate student housing during the pandemic. In an interview with The Guardian, third-year graduate student Zach Goldberg described the dire housing situation that graduate students face, as well as the latent anger it has created among the graduate student body.
” We are here [at the rally] because to start [around March], HDH [announced] insane rent increases, around 40% on average, but ranging from 20 to 85%, ”Goldberg said. “You just have to make life here totally unaffordable. ”
In an email to The Guardian, Associate Director of University Communications Leslie Sepuka reiterated UCSD’s commitment to continue doing its best to accommodate as many students applying for on-campus housing as possible.
“UC San Diego is in control of what it can by providing strong financial assistance, continuing to invest in the construction of student housing, and providing on-campus housing to students at rates more favorable than the local rental market. ”Sepuka said.
Sepuka also told the Guardian that there are many ways for students and the administration to communicate about housing issues.
“Accommodation, food and hospitality meet with the Undergraduate Housing Advisory Committee (UHAC) every week during the academic year,” Sepuka wrote. “HDH, along with UHAC, hosts a quarterly open forum where updates on accommodation and dining are shared. Students are encouraged to ask all questions. In addition, HDH directly accepts suggestions and ideas from all residents.
However, the students at the rally tell a different story. According to Sen. Ian Fosth of Seventh College AS, efforts to negotiate with the university have been extremely unproductive.
“(We) had presented a resolution, which received nearly a thousand signatures, detailing a list of requests and suggestions… speaking to the administration, [HDH members and representatives]”Said Fosth. “We received little or no donations, and we received little or no provisions. None of our requests were met.
For example, Fosth explained that he and his colleague had offered to create a couch surfing registry to help students who couldn’t find accommodation in La Jolla’s competitive housing market. However, they were told this could not be implemented due to COVID-19 precautions and directives from the fire department.
“[Yet], for graduate students, these same precautions [and guidelines]) were put aside, ”Fosth explained.
Goldberg echoed Fosth’s frustration with UCSD and said the students made several attempts to contact UCSD.
“We have had other rallies,” said Goldberg. “We held meetings. We sent letters and resolutions… University [administration] is quite united in their total opposition to our movement, so we are working to strengthen our power, so that they ultimately have no choice but to listen to us.
Students who need additional resources to achieve housing stability can contact the off-campus housing office, where they can schedule a housing consultation to review off-campus housing options.
They may also explore the UCSD Basic Needs Emergency Grant, which is available to students who do not have sufficient funds for food or shelter due to a medical emergency, the impacts of COVID-19 or any other urgent financial need.
Photos by Irvin Yang for the UCSD Guardian