On Oct. 15, students met at the Social Science Plaza in order to discuss the future of student housing at the UC Irvine Student Housing Conference, sponsored by the Associated Graduate Students.
According to Brett Goldsmith, president of AGS and a graduate student in physics and astronomy, AGS, which represents over 3,000 UCI graduate students, serves as a ‘contact point’ for graduate students to discuss important issues. Central among these issues is housing.
In 2002, in response to a housing policy that limited guaranteed graduate housing to two to three years, graduate students pitched tents in Aldrich Park. Some of the students had made eight-year graduate program plans.
Housing is still a problem for both administrators and students.
Graduate students concerned with housing term limits are afraid that they will not be able to afford off-campus housing.
An invoice sent by Lisa Cornish, executive director of graduate and family housing, included general complaints raised at earlier housing forums. Among the complaints were that ‘graduates would find it difficult to afford living off-campus if they are forced to move out’ and that ‘student income is not keeping pace with the increased cost of living.’
Some graduate students at the meeting also expressed frustration with the behavior of the housing administration. One student at the meeting cited a case in which graduates were informed only one day before laundry prices increased.
Joachim Feise, a graduate student in computer science, found fault with transparency issues in housing.
‘People who signed the [housing] contract also had to sign an additional letter saying that there may be term limits,’ Feise said. ‘They weren’t told about this during the whole admissions process. They only found this letter when they came in here with the van with the furniture in the parking lot.’
Graduate students at the meeting cited income-to-rent ratios of 60 to 80 percent. With steadily increasing rent levels, students hope to pay within ‘survivable’ rates.
Eden Epstein, a graduate student in psychology and social behavior stated, ‘My biggest concern would have to be affordability. … My rent does increase every year and my rent is a significant portion of my income as a TA, and of course I can’t afford off-campus housing.’
Despite the difficulties involved with the housing issue, however, the problem isn’t unique to UCI. Katie Pine, vice president of internal affairs and a graduate student in the school of Social Ecology, said, ‘UC Berkeley, UCSD and UCLA all have similar problems.’
Student housing issues do not only affect graduate students. Some undergraduate students, represented at the meeting by the Associated Students of UCI, are frustrated at high housing costs, short housing contracts and placement in graduate student housing.
‘There are freshmen living in some graduate housing,’ said John Lee, deputy director of the ASUCI housing campaign and second-year computer engineering major. ‘They’re really upset because … the whole idea of the dorm is to live on campus which is like an experience I honestly can say I would never want to lose. … That experience was priceless to me.’
As the conference meeting proceeded, graduate students discussed possible solutions to their housing problems. Suggestions included quarterly housing forums, discussion with housing executives to increase cooperation between AGS and ASUCI and improve communication with the city of Irvine.
‘I don’t think the Irvine Company is aware we have a severe housing problem for students,’ said Andreas Gal, a graduate student in computer science and member of the Palo Verde Resident Council
Ultimately, graduate students hope for a housing administration that is more responsive to student needs, as well as affordability.
‘I think the long-term goal for everyone should be … to offer affordable housing to every student