Students at UCSB rallied Monday afternoon to protest a lack of housing and the university’s response to what many are calling a “housing crisis.”
When the need for on-campus housing exceeded residence hall capacity, the university secured hotel rooms at the Ramada by Wyndham in Goleta.
But participants in Monday’s rally contend the problem existed long before the pandemic.
In late February 2020, a group of graduate students known as “UCSB for Cost of Living Adjustment” held a strike. They protested graduate-student wages and expressed frustration spending most of their income on rent.
Demonstrators Monday reused signs from the COLA rallies.
“The university does not respect us. They’re telling us that the pandemic caused the housing crisis,” Sam Salour said to dozens of protestors. “We made most of these signs before the pandemic; the housing crisis has been here for years.”
In 2010, UCSB agreed to build more student housing by 2025 or when the undergraduate class size reaches 25,000, whichever is sooner.
For the fall semester, UCSB admitted almost 31,000 freshmen and over 10,000 transfer students.
Two years ago, the university admitted almost 28,000 freshmen.
Chancellor Dr. Henry T. Yang said in a message to campus that the university has not increased its enrollment beyond pre-pandemic levels.
Dr. Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, professor and chair of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, said UCSB students have been desperate for housing for 20-30 years.
“Students have been living in cars, people have been couchsurfing. They’ve been doing all that … for decades,” he said. “How can you … study for your finals if you’re living precariously from couch to couch?”
Izzy, a third-year undergraduate student, said she felt lucky to have friends that allow her to sleep on their floors.
“I am in Santa Barbara because I have to be to attend school. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be here,” she said, expressing her frustrations with a lack of online courses.
“The university has required us to come back to school with no guarantee for what we will do,” she said.
Graduate student Sheila Kulkarni referenced campus communications from Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Stopple.
In his Sept. 8 message to campus, he wrote: “Although the safety and well-being of the campus is our primary responsibility, we also have to be mindful of the potential risks of not reopening our campus — risks to our students, who have faced educational, psychological, and social challenges during the prolonged isolation of the pandemic.”
Kulkarni, who uses they/them pronouns, said counseling and other mental-health services have not been increased during the pandemic. The wait time for a counseling appointment is around two months, they noted.
They said Dr. Stopple is “leveraging very real pain to force (students) back to in-person learning.”
Dr. Stopple sent a message to instructors and deans Sept. 20 regarding Disabled Students Program accommodations with regard to in-person learning.
DSP “anticipates approving a very limited number of students for remote instruction as an accommodation for a disability,” he wrote.
Classes began Thursday at UCSB.
The university did not respond to a request for comment.