Students, AS Office of Local Affairs drew inclusive maps for redistricting. I dare the council to silence them.
Our district, our representative. Well actually, the wealthy white man’s district, the wealthy white man’s representative. This is the reality many college students see when they turn to their local governments. During redistricting when election lines are drawn, minority-serving institutions are almost twice as likely to be split into multiple districts or packed into districts where students’ voices are overrun by white landowners. We minority students attend these institutions by the thousands, yet our grievances and proposals are seldom embraced by those who currently claim to represent us. With their lawsuits against UC San Diego for increasing housing density and price gouging, exclusivity remains the affluent Whites’ aim.
Youth-led solutions are often thought of as unrealistic and ignorant of others’ circumstances and points of view. Even fellow students often shy away from supporting youth-backed plans due to feasibility concerns, but students’ ideas do have a place in this reality. It is our time as students to find allies, take action, and prove that our solutions are practical and serve those without the time or money to superficially boost an elite-backed proposal. Our ideas are not limited to preserving the well-being of students. While such a movement may take time to proliferate on a grand scale, UCSD students are spearheading such a cause on the local level.
The district lines as they stand now grant unfairly high population density to some districts that have grown tremendously since the last census 10 years ago. For students in particular, we are bound to District 1, which disproportionately represents the privileged La Jolla community. From speaking over students, to obstructing high-density housing plans, La Jolla and their money, matters more than the students’ plight. These homeowners, however, are NOT more important than students and any notion that they are is disgraceful. In fact, it is reminiscent of the U.S.’s colonial past where landowning white men were the only people who could vote. Before, this was a concern that was being ignored as students were alone in their battle.
With a median income of $118K, the priorities of La Jolla landowners vary drastically from those of the student body. As student Tommy Jung stated at the commission hearing, their wants of “soccer fields, field trips, and arbitrary ownership of Rose Canyon” are incompatible with students’ basic need for a city that hears our concerns on affordability and representation.
The feasible option is to drastically change these lines. The feasible option would be to continue to empower historically underrepresented voices. But by playing on the notion that students are irrelevant, the San Diego Redistricting Commission preliminarily approved a map made by their chair that tries to maintain the districts as the richest on the coast want them.
But coalition building and listening to others’ needs outside of the student body only strengthened our cause. This is how we broke the legitimacy barrier that the monied elite had created to stop us.
A map that was supported by eight out of nine commissioners initially, was shot down by a majority, 5–4, this past week.
In a historic battle, a map proposed and made by students in conjunction with community leaders and activities has taken center stage. Here, UCSD will be drawn into District 6 containing Mira Mesa and Convoy to create an AAPI empowerment district. Additionally, the map would also make other districts into Latinx, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ empowerment districts. An equitable map we drew could become the standard for a decade of minorities to come.
Why? Because we sought allyship. Because instead of saying that the disenfranchised were again silenced, we showed them. Maybe they could ignore one student. Maybe they could ignore one Asian-American. This week we saw what happens when dozens of student organizations, of BIPOC organizations, of LGBTQ+ organizations among others call them out. At the Nov. 4 redistricting commission hearing, passionate testimonies from the linked arms of students and underrepresented groups forced the commission to check their privilege and their bigotry.
The results thus far have been a powerful testament to our undeniable place within political decision-making. We have seen the power of a conjoined struggle that is empathetic towards multiple causes. We have shown that students are not just show ponies that the neighboring communities can profit off of. We are no longer their pets. We are the vermin that the political elite can no longer ignore. From being caged by oppressive districts to taking control of the redistricting conversation, students have shattered the bureaucracy’s glass castle to make way for the people’s palace.
*Sparky Mitra works at the AS Office of Local Affairs
Art by Yui Kita for UCSD Guardian.