Graduate Students Deserve Appropriate Housing

    Dear Editor,

    I am writing in response to the recent story in the Guardian and to the recent town-hall meeting on the policy changes to UCSD Affiliated Housing.

    First, I would like to thank Dean of Graduate Studies Kim Barrett and Director of Housing and Dining Mark Cunningham for taking the time to meet with students to attempt to address their concerns. I would also like to thank Graduate Student Association President Nick Saenz for moderating what promised to be a contentious meeting. I think that the meeting brought to light many of the concerns of not only current — but also future UCSD students — both in and out of grad housing.

    I also think that the attendance and statements made by hundreds of students both residing on and off campus — as well as those with families, and those from widely varying departments such as engineering, social science, chemistry, literature, linguistics, etc. — provide clear evidence that, by and large, graduate students think these changes are a bad idea. It became clear at the meeting that the changes are the result of an ill-advised interpretation of student surveys without actual student input. It also became apparent that while some agree with the goals, the time frame of the transitional policy is universally seen as unfair and raises the question: What’s the rush? Does this have to be achieved in five years? Is UCSD going to drop off the planet in 2012? A more gradual transition would seem to have the best interests of both current students and the university addressed.

    One comment that has stuck with me, however, is the likening of these changes to an experiment by Barrett. I do not think many grad students fancy being the administration’s lab rat in a community-building field study. Further, I found Barrett’s assertion that neither her office nor graduate students have evidence either way on whether the proposed changes will build community to be greatly flawed. The shift in policy, by administrators’ own admission, will create a dorm-like environment. I think evidence for the community-building merits of such an endeavor is available and speaks to the contrary quite loudly.

    Currently, the waitlist for One Miramar, a dorm-like graduate housing complex, is only about six months, compared to the two-and-a-half to three-year waitlist for the apartment-style housing at Mesa and Coast. This disparity is evidenced by the presence of first-year graduate students with their own apartments in One Miramar. I highly doubt they had the forethought to join the waitlist a year before One Miramar was completed and fully two years before they began their studies here. I think the lack of graduate student interest in One Miramar as a housing option is a bullhorn to administrators clearly indicating exactly how much grad students desire to live in that type of “community.” It seems the university’s response is, rather than fixing a housing project that is widely unpopular, to lower the expectations of students by bringing all housing down to that level. This embrace of mediocrity is definitely not something becoming of a university that prides itself on excellence.

    — Jesse Vargas
    Graduate student, biology department

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