Eviction Notice

    Literature graduate student Joo Ok Kim found a letter on her door the morning of Oct. 21 notifying her of a new housing policy requiring that she vacate her South Mesa apartment by December. Over 600 graduate students with secondary tenent status received the same notification. (Joshua Meador/Guardian)

    Over 600 graduate students may be evicted from university-owned residences by December under a policy approved by UC Affiliated Housing late last month.

    The new contract — which affects about a fourth of the 2,178 graduate students housed in all four of the university’s graduate and professional communities — will limit guaranteed housing for incoming graduate students to one year in lieu of the previous housing policy, which guaranteed students a place to live for the entire duration of their graduate studies, providing that academic qualification was maintained.

    Those students who will have resided in university housing for over a year come December now face having their stay cut short by the new policy.

    According to Dean of Graduate Studies Kim Barrett, the purpose of the contractual reform is to foster graduate unity and assist new students, especially those from outside the San Diego area, in finding housing in the private sector.

    “The ultimate goal, which is consistent with the [Graduate Student Association] survey, is to offer and guarantee two-year housing, build community among incoming students and allow interaction between students of different areas of study,” she said.

    Although the eventual goal is a two-year contract, only a one-year contract will be available during the transitional stage to accommodate all students currently waitlisted for housing. With new graduate housing complexes nearly complete, 400 new beds are expected to be available by March 2009.

    Barrett added that these policy changes will not affect graduate students living in family housing or students who were guaranteed housing or waitlisted before Sept. 30.

    “[The plan] would help recruit graduate students if all of them got housing and got to keep it, but when they realize they’re going to be kicked out at the end of the year, it’s not very meaningful,” literature graduate student Benjamin Balthaser said. “I think this is incredibly ill-advised. It does a great deal of harm to current graduate students.”

    Secondary tenants — residents who are not listed as the primary contact on the lease — will face eviction upon the primary tenant’s departure. Currently, the housing contract gives secondary tenants a “permanent resident” status after a 12-month stay in Affiliated Housing. Because the new policy is retroactive, though, residents who have already fulfilled their year requirement still face potential eviction.

    “They want to vacate hundreds of secondaries when their primaries move out,” Affiliated Housing Advisory Committee representative Reece Peck said. “I find that very troubling, considering that the secondaries made their decision to live in on-campus housing in terms of housing stability. I see that as extremely unfair to retroactively make them move out.”

    GSA unanimously passed a resolution on Nov. 4 against the new housing policy, calling for the immediate suspension of the plan, which the group labels “excessively restrictive and unfair to the transitional cohort.”

    The resolution condemns the plan on the grounds that students signed the current contract without knowledge of the proposed changes, forcing them to give up other housing options that may no longer be available.

    “What’s troubling to me in debating this new policy with the administration is how consistently the debate is framed solely in terms of availability rather than in terms of affordability,” Peck said. “What this new one-year residence limit does is drastically reduce graduate students’ access to and occupancy in the only housing options that are semiaffordable.”

    According to the resolution, the change is a violation of the UCSD Principles of Community and goes “against the best interests of graduates and students.” The GSA contends that the policy was passed without “significant graduate student or faculty input or oversight,” preventing a proper committee review process and the support of either the Affiliate Housing Advisory Committee or the Grad Life Steering Committee.

    “The university is violating its own contract,” Balthaser said. “This policy was enacted behind closed doors with no consultation with the graduate student body. If [the plan] is so beneficial, why didn’t [Barrett] consult with the Graduate Student Association?”

    In response to the new policy, graduate students have circulated a petition opposing the change, gathering over 1,000 signatures so far.

    A meeting to discuss the policy changes — which will be attended by GSA President Nick Saenz, Barrett and Director of Housing and Dining Mark Cunningham — is scheduled for Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Price Center Forum.

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