By Eliza Partika
ASUCI Housing Security Commission has begun a series of projects for the year, including a social media-based endeavor: gathering student testimonials on housing insecurity. The commission initiated the campaign on their Facebook page on Oct. 9, encouraging students to raise awareness for the issue.
“We are trying to more intimately understand student struggles so that our advocacy can best reflect the issues students face on a daily basis,” said Cassius Rutherford, head of the ASUCI Housing Security Commission.
The Housing Security Commission is also asking students to evaluate UCI’s performance in the area of housing insecurity in order to improve the university’s response, evaluate student perception of administration, and to see if there have been any negative experiences when attempting to get support from the housing office for issues of housing insecurity.
In addition to the surveys and testimonials, the Housing Security Commission released the first episode of their campaign “Anonymous Anteater,” where students can share stories of housing insecurity on social media. The campaign is centered on creating a compelling platform to raise awareness of student struggles with housing insecurity.
Students’ testimonials for the campaign are completely anonymous, but stories shared in the Commission’s Facebook page include this one from an anonymous graduate student: “My research may take me longer than 5 years to complete, and I am very scared that I will be kicked out of graduate housing, as I definitely cannot afford to live anywhere in the nearby vicinity on my stipend and getting a part time job would even further extend my time to graduation.”
Another student said, “As a low-income full time student, housing shouldn’t have to be this expensive. This institution is NOT serving me as a Hispanic if I have to constantly be worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to pay next month’s rent. I should NOT have to worry about my next meal due to the fact that my money was all given up for rent.”
Rutherford and his colleagues decided to model their campaign on the popular photojournalism project “Humans of New York” to create the most compelling and visceral experience possible. Rutherford believes that this format will be more impactful for students because of its emotional qualities.
“There isn’t a culture of activism and community engagement on campus, and we want people to be see that there are struggling students all around us who have a story to tell,” he said. “Even if the person next to you in class looks put together, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some struggle, whether it be with housing insecurity, food insecurity, or mental health, that they are experiencing.”
The show’s primary target audience is students, along with a secondary audience of community members. Rutherford believes that by sharing the stories of real students, the impact on both the community and the student body at UCI will be much more powerful than in previous years, and will hopefully motivate even more sensitivity to the issue of housing insecurity on college campuses.
During week seven, the Housing Commission will be having an open mic event and town hall meeting to allow students a chance to be vocal about their experiences with housing insecurity at UCI.