National Beat Reporter
The University of California Student Association revealed the launch of two campaigns for the 2016-2017 academic year at the Student Organizing Summit this past August: UC Sustain Our Students and Diversify the UC.
Every year, UCSA votes on a campaign to pursue and lobbies the UC administration and California government to incite change. The reason behind the dual campaign approach this year was the close race between the two campaigns — UC Sustain Our Students received five campuses’ votes and Diversify the UC received four.
The SOS campaign plans on addressing basic needs security among UC students like restricted access to nutritious food and affordable housing.
A 2016 UC study reported that 19 percent of UC students surveyed experienced very low food security, which is described as “reduced food intake at times due to limited resources.” Additionally, 23 percent of UC students stated they had low food security, meaning that a total of 42 percent of UC students experience some sort of food insecurity during their college careers.
The SOS campaign is, “holistically tackl[ing] issues from the bottom up,” wrote third-year psychology major and UCSA organizer Hannah Houska on a Facebook post.
“This includes measures to reduce wasted food, decrease building operating costs by implementing sustainable overhauls and provide fresh, socially responsible, nutritious foods to students and communities with the expansion of food banks and community gardens,” Houska wrote.
UC Santa Barbara is undergoing housing woes of its own in recent months — the yearly increase of admitted students has run resources thin for both on-campus and off-campus housing. Nearly 85 percent of on-campus dorms are triples this year.
“At UCSB this year, almost every room is a triple,” said resident assistant Nawar Nemeh in a phone interview. “And we find that to be unacceptable.”
Nemeh, a third-year history of public policy major, attended the UCSA summit as a UCSB delegate where he and other activists from various UC campuses proposed the SOS campaign.
The SOS campaign aims to utilize environmentally and socially sustainable means, which will not be a challenge for UCSB, being the third greenest campus in America.
“For example,” Nemeh shared, “we want all new residence halls to be at least LEED gold certified and have solar panels along the roofs.”
Another crucial goal for the SOS campaign is to have universities commit housing to 100 percent of their student body. “We want housing that is affordable and cheap but also competitive in quality,” said Nemeh.
Diversify the UC, this year’s second campaign by UCSA, is promoted and executed by the student-led organization ReIGNITE. The organization’s name is tribute to a previous UCSA campaign called IGNITE: Invest in Graduation, Not Incarceration, Transform Education.
“We love and respect IGNITE,” said Nushi Yapabandara, the campus campaign director of ReIGNITE.
“[We] want to make sure we pay homage to the ones who set the stage for us by maintaining a sense of their identity along with ours as ReIGNITE,” said Yapabandara, a third year psychology and philosophy double major.
ReIGNITE’s goals include actions to end the school-to-prison pipeline; however, its main priority is executing Diversify the UC campaign.
A strategy proposed for the Diversify the UC campaign is to promote outreach to youth living near the UC system, including Richmond youth near UC Berkeley and Carpinteria and Santa Maria youth for UC Santa Barbara.
In light of recent police brutality incidents, such as the tragic deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott, Diversify the UC aims to address the growing tension between students of color and law enforcement.
“One of our goals,” said Yapabandara, also the director of programming at Associated Students at UCSB, “is to instill a diversity training that all school law enforcement and school administration must take — not just at UCSB, but UC system wide.”
The mission of UCSA is to “advocate on behalf of current and future students for the accessibility, affordability and quality of the University of California system,” according to its website.