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Senate Takes on Housing Community Standards

Senate Takes on Housing Community Standards
Photo by Lauren Rennecker / The Bottom Line

Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter

Last Wednesday, the Associated Students Senate unanimously passed a resolution denouncing what it perceives as “disability discrimination” from UCSB Housing & Residential Services, with the intention of rewriting the language of the “Community Standards of Conduct” to prevent further misconduct.

While any details of the alleged discrimination were omitted for protection of the affected parties, the resolution describes that “numerous students with mental illnesses have been removed/refused from UCSB housing on the basis of their mental disabilities.”

“We went into a closed session for a reason,” said Senator Anthony Pimentel, a third year political science major and co-author of the resolution. “She or he was really uncomfortable with even coming up to us in the first place about this, because for one reason, they don’t want to disclose their mental disability. And for two, they don’t want housing to find out, and their housing gets extracted from them.”

According to the resolution, UCSB Housing & Residential Services have been breaking contracts with students who have mental illnesses by citing the “Personal Care” clause of the “Residential and Community Living Community Standards: Policies and Expectations.”

The clause states that “residents are responsible for their own self-care and personal needs” and cites Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) as a student resource for “psychological assessment” and “crisis management.” However, the resolution counters that CAPS is “severely understaffed” and therefore not “an adequate source of relief.”

Kristen Burnett, Assistant Dean of Students and Associate Director for Residential & Community Living, explained how Housing handles contract termination with students it deems to have “behavioral concerns” to The Bottom Line. She said that cases are reviewed on a “unique” basis in order “to determine the most effective response plan and, when necessary, interventions.”

Burnett said that if a case is identified as “critical,” the Student Behavioral Intervention Team and/or the the Student of Concern Team review the case. Both are comprised of executive members from Student Health, CAPS, Student Mental Health Coordination Services, Office of Judicial Affairs, Disabled Students Program (DSP), and Housing, Dining & Auxiliary Enterprises.

“In extreme situations where we have determined that there is a safety risk to our community, we may impose safety requirements, as necessary,” Burnett said. “Safety requirements also vary and may include housing accommodations, relocation and, in most extreme cases, contract termination.”

According to the resolution, “the ‘Personal Care’ clause has been used to break/refuse contracts with students who have mental illnesses in the past, citing that they have not paid adequate attention to their ‘self care and personal needs’ whenever Housing detects the student is having a mental health episode, and are therefore a threat to the community.”

“The biggest deal about this resolution is ensuring the legality of that new clause within the residential and community living standard,” Pimentel said. “That clause is written very vaguely with a lot of gray area and also comes into direct contradiction with the Fair Housing Act, which is an actual law of California, and because the university is a public institution it’s basically illegal.”

According to the resolution, the senate “demands the elimination of the ‘Personal Care’ clause,” and will form a committee to write a replacement clause “through as many meetings as necessary.”

Senator Pimentel and Senator Sir, the two co-authors of the resolution, will be the committee chairs. The committee will consist of five senate members, a lawyer specialized in disability rights, two members from the Commission on Student Well-Being (COSWB), and a UCSB Housing & Residential Services representative. It is set to meet at a time that will be determined later this week.

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Starting at TBL her freshman year, Lauren Marnel stayed with The Bottom Line throughout her UCSB experience before retiring as the 2019-2020 Editor-in-Chief. As the previous Campus Beat Reporter (2017) and Executive Content Editor (2018), Lauren Marnel is passionate about covering student activism and bringing coverage to underrepresented campus communities. Though she had to move on from the home she found in TBL, she’s excited to see how much all of her writers and editors grow as leaders on this campus after she’s graduated.
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