UCSB housing department sees 93% drop in campus housing
National Beat Reporter
Since the start of the stay-at-home order that rocked Isla Vista and the state of California, to a greater extent, thousands of students have left UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) in droves. As a result, the dorms are virtually empty and life on campus seems distorted to many.
The Bottom Line conducted an interview with Jill Hurd, director of Residential & Community Living at UCSB, who explained that “93 percent” of students living in dorms have canceled their contracts. She also explained the wide scope of this issue across housing: 59% of students have left apartments, 19% of graduate students have left San Clemente, and eight families have moved out of the UCSB family housing complex.
“The grand total includes graduate students and undergraduates, so across all university accommodation we had 7,278 cancellations and we have 2,356 remaining,” Hurd said. “For the residences, we have, as of Friday… 348 students staying and 5,351 [cancelling]. ”
The school had to struggle to accommodate students in university accommodation and decide what would be the best course of action. The first email from UCSB University and Housing Services was sent on March 13, a day after the university announced the quarter’s transition to online distance education. Expressing that they “worked diligently on the logistical details”, the students were offered three accommodation options: continue to live in their dormitory or apartment, stay away until the end of April only, or cancel their contract.
This sudden announcement surprised students living in housing on campus. A resident of Santa Ynez wanted to analyze the situation over time to see if there was still a possibility of living there, but ultimately decided that leaving would be the best solution. “Although there is a silver lining in my cancellation, it all explodes,” Nathan Molayem said. “It sucks, but it could be worse.”
The next email arrived just three days after the first email and ruled out the option to stay away for April only. This email also informed the students that they could be moved to another dormitory or apartment if they decide to stay and that services are changed.
On April 1, students were told that people living in the 100 and 300 in Sierra Madre and Santa Ynez “should move, so that we can return empty buildings to support the government’s response to COVID-19.” Students who decided to move would be transferred to either the Santa Catalina Residence or the San Joaquin Apartments, depending on the accommodation they had previously.
Fourth-year history major Nova Nicole said roommate moves were the reason she decided to cancel her contract. “I canceled my contract because I just got an email from the accommodation saying we have to move by Friday or be moved to a new apartment with a new roommate and no roommate,” she said . “I’m already back home, so I figured if I had to go back there to move my things, I’d rather just take them home with me. “
Many students have struggled to decide whether to continue their university accommodation contracts or cancel them and return home. Allana Karstetter, a third year psychology and brain science student, was living in a college apartment before deciding to cancel her contract.
“I was reluctant to come back because I wasn’t sure I could complete my homework effectively at home,” she said. “I rely a lot on school resources like lesson reserves and library computers to complete lessons. “
Demetria Jones, a first-year math major, found the relocation process stressful. “The [Residential Housing Association] was very poorly prepared. So, between being stressed by the finals, packing, everyone is panicking and not knowing if I was going to get the money back from my accommodation, [it] was very overwhelming, ”she said.
Although Hurd didn’t know the exact amount the school would lose, his priority was to reimburse the students. “The housing department is taking a loss, but you know it’s the right thing to do.”
The decision to cancel housing contracts comes with a huge emotional burden for many students. Administrators and students want to ensure the safety and health of the community, which is why these decisions were not taken lightly. Students also need to accept that the term they once expected will be drastically different.
“I am sad that my last trimester at [UC Santa Barbara] must be done through video chats and recordings of experiences, ”Molayem said. “But I also understand the complexity of the situation and that moving would be the safest option.”
Noe Padilla contributed reporting.