UCSB YDSA marches to request stimulus checks from chancellor
A crowd of UCSB students marched from Storke Tower to Chancellor Henry Yang’s on-campus residence for money they say they not only need, but deserve.
Led by the leaders of UCSB’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, several students rallied together Saturday afternoon in support of $900 checks for every student at the university, using its CARES and CRRSA Act funds that the activists say the administration has been “just sitting on.”
“Right now, UCSB is still charging full tuition and full student fees for on-campus services like the library and the rec center, which most of the student body doesn’t have access to because they’re not even on campus,” Taylor Clark, co-chair of YDSA, told the News-Press. “A lot of us are going deeper into debt because of that, so this demand to redistribute the money that was given to UCSB from the federal government is really just giving back to students what they deserve and the money that’s really theirs having paid for services they haven’t received.”
He said the student organization requested meetings with the Office of Budget and Planning, the Vice Chancellors and the Chancellor himself, but all requests were denied or ignored — that is, until Friday night.
“We sent our first demand letter to the administration a month ago, and we only just got a response last night,” Mr. Clark said. “Essentially what they said is they cannot give us these stimulus checks because they plan on using the stimulus money to balance the university’s budget.”
According to YDSA’s demand letter, they calculated and are demanding that $400 checks be cut from the remaining $10 million in CARES Act stimulus funds and be sent to every eligible undergraduate and graduate student — including 10,000 students who were left out of the first round of stimulus — and $500 checks cut from the CRRSA Act funds to be distributed to students directly, or $75 a month.
The students said they learned that the school received a total of roughly $50 million for COVID relief from the two acts, and half of it was legally mandated to be paid to the students and the other half was discretionary, but UCSB hadn’t spent most of the discretionary funds.
“We were like, ‘Look, if you’re not spending it, we can come up with something to do with it. We can just give it to students,’” Patrick Fiarbanks, the secretary of YDSA at UCSB, told the News-Press. “Nine-hundred dollar checks in everybody’s pockets? The students know what they need. The school doesn’t know what each individual needs, but each individual student knows what they need for themselves.”
In addition, the students said they learned the state government is raising the UC’s budget by $80 million and the school will receive more from the American Rescue Plan coming from the federal government.
“The fact they’re claiming they can’t give any of this money to students when we know they’re already getting massive amounts of money in excess of what they’ve been getting over the past few years is ridiculous and not really logical,” Mr. Clark said.
The organization’s demand had more than 500 students on board via petition at the time they sent the demand letter, and gained support from the associated Student Senate and president, representatives of UAW 2865 at UCSB and the COLA/Cops Off Campus graduate student organization. And, they said they don’t plan to slow down.
Mr. Fairbanks said that in his mind, the school has two options: to be a business or a social institution. If it’s a business, the students are paying for a service or product which is their education, so they’d be getting a worse product for the same money so they should reduce the product price. If it’s a social institution, the students are the focal point of the institution and they work for the students, so they have an obligation to help the students, or at least be more communicative.
“I speak to a lot of people who get turned off by the ‘socialist’ part of us, and I get that and everybody’s got a different feeling…But when I talk to people about this, they all agree that, look, we’re getting ripped off whichever way you slice it,” Mr. Fairbanks said. “Maybe this isn’t exactly what they would want to see happen, but at the very least, we’re trying to get the school to be responsible for this money that it was given instead of just kind of sitting on it.”
Cody Nunn, the treasurer for YDSA, said UCSB displayed a lack of accountability from the start, and from the beginning, there was always a “vague promise” that the school would do something, whether it be refunds or lower tuition, to compensate for the online alternative.
“Then, the quarter after that, they raised tuition,” Mr. Nunn said. “They’re just refusing to acknowledge the fact that we’ve been pretty much robbed of the purpose of coming here, but because of interest rates and things like that with our student loans, we don’t have the option to just take time off until it resumes in person.
“They present it as if we have some kind of choice, like if we don’t like the online school, just don’t do it. But for a lot of people, that’s not really the reality.”
The students chanted and carried signs as they marched to the dorms to Chancellor Yang’s residence, but said they assumed he wasn’t inside, and won’t respond any time soon.
“I think that the university will only respond in proportion to how much students are able to mobilize around this money,” Mr. Clark said. “I think there’s going to have to be more fighting for it.”
Mr. Fairbanks spoke to the value in students organizing for a cause and working to see it through.
“They probably will not give us these checks,” he said. “And we know that, but we’re trying to basically make a point about the school being more transparent and responsible for its students and to have more democracy on campus — more democracy in more parts of our lives, control by the people as opposed to unelected chancellors who we have no control over who will just ignore us and not listen to our concerns. That’s what this is really about.”