UCSB History professor Alice O'Connor facilitates class with UCSB Graduate and SBCC Trustee Jonathan Abboud. Focusing on the history of Isla Vista governance movements, O'Connor hopes to inform her students and prepare them to participate in November's landmark vote. Mathew Burciaga/Executive Managing Editor

Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

Isla Vista residents will vote this upcoming November on whether or not they want a Community Services District (CSD) to be formed in the area. Some potential voters, however, are current University of California, Santa Barbara freshmen — arguably some of the least informed on the local political developments of IV. UCSB history professor Dr. Alice O’Connor is looking to change that.

After incorporating a section regarding recent events in IV’s self-governance status into her “The History of the Present” (HIST 5) class last quarter, O’Connor decided that she had enough material for a stand-alone seminar.

“I decided that this would be the basis of a more extended class that would make a good freshman seminar,” O’Connor said. “The idea there was not only to inform them, but to kind of prepare them to participate.”

The seminar, titled INT 94SE, meets every Monday from 1:00-1:50 PM. O’Connor has taught a few sessions of seminar so far, and she’s had her students read up on the legal language of the bill looking to form a CSD.

“We’ve focused so far mostly on the kind of nuts and bolts of AB 3 and how it came about,” O’Connor said. “The first session was sort of setting the stage, and then [for] our second meeting they had done background reading on AB 3, how we got there, what the issues were that sort of brought things to the fore. Including not just the episodes of violence, not just the shootings, not just the so called riots, but also all the things that have happened in terms of the loss of revenue to do any planning in IV, and the long term problems of infrastructure.”

O’Connor is using various sources as reading material for her class, including Isla Vista: A Citizen’s History by Carmen Lodise, but pointed out that there is no general pool of information for those looking for it.

“A project I’m hoping to do is to hire a couple of grad students to help to put together a kind of annotated bibliography of all the resources there are,” O’Connor said. “I mean there is a website about IV where you can see references to all these things, there’s a special collections in our library, there are books on IV [and] reports on IV in the library, but there really isn’t a one single kind of comprehensive guide.”

When asked if the class aims to advocate for or against a CSD, O’Connor said that swaying her students to a particular conclusion is not her objective.

“The class is about … giving them the tools that they’re going to need to participate in the debate as opposed to advocating for one side or the other,” O’Connor said. “I’m trying to frame it a little less as only the CSD and a little bit more about getting to the issues that a CSD will supposedly [or] is being set up to address.”

Some of the issues her class will deal with include the relationship between UCSB Associated Students and IV self-governance, racial demographics involved in the political process and how history has recorded IV’s struggle for self-governance.

O’Connor gave an example of how the riots and burning of the Bank of America in 1970 were more than just protests against the war.

“They are often framed as, broadly, civil disobedience,” O’Connor said. “And they definitely were … but they were also very much about these issues of them having no say in things like how IV is mapped and zoned, and what regulations are brought to bear on landlords and things like parking. Those protests were as much about the lack of self-governance as they were about the bigger issues at the time.”

At the end the quarter, students will be required to give a presentation on how they think a topic of their choice can be resolved by a CSD — if at all.

“Their main assignment is to say what have you learned about this issue and … how would you relate this what the CSD is supposed to do,” O’Connor said. “Would you say, having done more investigation, that this move towards a governance structure is a step towards resolving this. And if so, what would you want to say to the people forming the CSD needs to be on the agenda.”

Hector is from Ensenada, Mexico, and is currently a sophomore majoring in English. After beginning as a staff writer his first year, Hector became Isla Vista Beat reporter. If he isn't reading a book or re-watching episodes of Breaking Bad, he's probably writing about Isla Vista.