Graduate and PhD Students Protest at Chancellor’s Mansion Against Rent Burden

UC San Diego academic workers and their supporters participated in a march on Wednesday, Feb. 16 that began at Pacific Hall and concluded at Chancellor Khosla’s residence. The protestors demanded the University of California act on the housing crisis that has put a financial burden on many academic workers.

Some attendees of the demonstration said that they were focused on developing a bargaining process with the University of California to lower rents, have greater availability of housing, and provide housing stipends for academic student workers. Demonstrators also expressed frustrations involving the fact that Chancellor Khosla received an over $100k raise in his pay while living rent-free in his La Jolla mansion across from campus. 

It’s important to note that San Diego has recently passed San Francisco as the most unaffordable housing market according to a recent report by OJO Labs. Not only did the report mention affordability but the lack of housing supply has all contributed to a greater housing crisis. San Diego also has a reported shortage of affordable rental housing with average cost being $2,009 a month, thus making the off-campus housing alternative highly difficult to come across and an expensive option. 

“Our goal is ultimately to negotiate with the UC on the matters of housing. The Chancellor told us that this is a student issue and not a worker issue,” stated Kaden who is a biological sciences PhD candidate at UCSD. “The UC is also our landlord in terms of housing so then this is an employer and employee issue. Civil disobedience is necessary sometimes to bring attention to some of the issues that we face.”

Many PhD candidates and other graduate students have faced a housing market crisis across all of San Diego in both  availability and affordability. Some even stated that many of them were overworked and some had to live within their labs or other places of work. Academic workers are now spending an average of 30% of their income on housing alone with most being rent burdened. Those living within UC graduate housing have faced sudden increases in rent costs, with the average being a 31% increase and the highest reaching up to 85% for some units. 

Demonstrators said that if these costs aren’t covered in a timely manner, then this leads to holds on their student accounts. For many graduate students, this means that they are not able to sign up for classes and are not able to work.

“We can’t let the university continuously ignore the housing crisis that they helped perpetuate,” said Ahmad Aktar, a graduate student in the UCSD physics department. “Through really exploitative housing practices, like raising rents exorbitantly on graduate students, we’re here to really fight on this issue and force the UC to respond to it with real solutions.”

“I think if we don’t take action now and start bargaining with the UC to get affordable housing  for our workers then the university will continue to profit off of us and not take students’ and workers’ best interest at heart,” commented Lauren Bibi, a fifth year graduate student in the UCSD biological department. “The university really extracts profit from us and we need to take a stand.” When asked if the university has given them any justifications for the increase in rents, she simply stated no. 

The only claims for the raise in rents on graduate housing was to cover the costs of new housing and other structures for the university’s influx of students. Due to the fact that the UCSD housing department doesn’t receive federal, state, or tuition funding, the costs of these mortgages and staff salaries are being covered by student rents. The only remedies offered by the university’s housing department to make up for the raise in rents was giving students the option to double up in rooms and apartments.

If one is in dire need of emergency housing on campus at UCSD, they may rely on Basic Needs. The process begins when one fills out a Basic Needs Assistance form but they may also email [email protected] for temporary housing.

Photo courtesy of Millie Root for The UCSD Guardian.

One thought on “Graduate and PhD Students Protest at Chancellor’s Mansion Against Rent Burden

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