My Arbor Walkway Anxiety: Scammers Don’t Help

Photo courtesy of Tia Trinh

Tia Trinh

Contributing Writer

I think we’ve all felt it by now, the looming anxiety that comes with walking down the stretch between the library and Girvetz Hall. Who knows what will get you first: a paid petitioner shoving paper angrily in your face, other students recruiting for organizations, or even worse, being in the background of a Hot Ticket photo when you know your outfit was better. 

Walking past the tabling for student-run clubs and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) affiliated organizations is nothing new; in fact, it’s become a great way for students to learn more about UCSB as a whole and become more involved in this beachside community. While these organizations will approach students walking past, they never push any further than asking a question simply to pique someone’s interest. That can’t be said, however, for the signature-hungry petitioners that have appeared along the Arbor walkway.

Situated at the corner between the Arbor and the walkway towards Storke Tower, large red and blue flags were strung up behind a blue tent with petitioners holding clipboards as they beckoned students forward. It’s easy to be drawn towards them with their promises of advocacy; however, it wasn’t long before students began to notice the false promises these people were advocating for.

As written in white bold lettering that stands out from the colorful background, the petitioners would claim to support education and help fast food workers (two different tents). Students are lured in through these false promises and asked to sign multiple pages as well as write down their addresses. However, it quickly came to light that the petition was in favor of lowering the minimum wage for fast-food workers. According to one student, the website provided was fake and clearly put there just for show. The petition, supported by fast food corporations like McDonald’s and Burger King, seeks to retaliate against Governor Newsom’s recent signing of legislation that would increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $22 per hour. 

This news quickly spread by mouth and through social media, but most quickly through platforms such as Instagram, Reddit, and Yik Yak. On these platforms, students shared stories of being verbally and physically harassed by these petitioners who would approach them with a flurry of papers. Because these petitioners are being paid per signature rather than by the time spent petitioning, they have become more forceful in trying to gather signatures. One student on the UCSB Reddit page claimed that they were being yelled at and followed while another was physically stopped by a petitioner whose forceful stubbornness created an uncomfortable and unwanted situation.

As someone who has worked in food service and customer service in general, I’m well aware of the various conditions that I and other students have found ourselves in. From dealing with poor equipment to your daily round of rude customers, food service workers truly don’t get paid enough for the work they do each day. 

These false claims that are made by the petitions are incredibly misleading for students, especially those who may be in a rush to get to their classes. This isn’t the first time fake petitioners have tried to dupe UCSB students, as we had a similar situation in 2007, as reported by The Independent. Petitioners claimed to be in support of cancer research, but in reality had an extra page on their petition that supported bans on eminent domain, rent control, and other subjects that students were unaware they were also signing for. Clearly, these petitioners, and by extension, corporations, are unafraid to try to take advantage of students. 

Perhaps it can be argued that these “petitioners” are forcing students to stay more informed about politics and not simply “signing without reading.” However, with our busy lives as students, sitting down to read through a five-page petition outside the Arbor isn’t exactly the best use of time. Students may feel pressured into signing these petitions with the false promises that these petitioners are offering. I am sure that at first glance, many of us felt sympathetic towards their cause as such issues as minimum wage is a concern that many students have to think about. 

Without further information, this serves as the perfect guilt-trap tactic for the petitioners to use — luring in students with false promises. With this in mind, some students might not even be interested in particular issues but are persuaded by the thought that they are doing something good. 

Although the school year has just started, the Arbor walkway has quickly become a hectic place. With students coming in crowds to get to and leave classes and the many tables that are set up along the walkway, it can feel overwhelming to walk through. Some students may choose to not walk past the Arbor and instead choose to take a different route to avoid all of this mess. 

Perhaps in the near future, these harassing petitioners will leave campus and the walkway will begin to clear up. At least then, it’ll get easier to walk through without feeling anxious that you may be pulled aside for an organization not affiliated with the school. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be featured on Hot Ticket and your “Arbor Walkway Anxiety” will be cured.