The Graduate Student Association (GSA) held a public meeting Thursday in the GSA Formal Lounge at the MultiCultural Center to discuss the role graduate students play in improving Isla Vista.
GSA held the meeting to determine specific ways for graduate students to help improve I.V., discussing the possibility of working with Associated Student’s External Vice President of Local Affairs Cameron Schunk and his staff to gain a better understanding of I.V.’s needs in order to see how graduate students can help to meet those needs. During the meeting, GSA representatives also said it is essential the association hold regular monthly meetings concerning issues surrounding I.V. that are open to public input and discussion.
GSA Vice President of Student Affairs Jason Hopkins, a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology department, said the first step to having graduate students become more involved in I.V. involves determining what the I.V. residents want from graduate students through a some form of assessment of I.V. residents’ needs.
“We need to take concrete action steps to make a lot of our ideas realized,” Hopkins said. “If we are going to do things that are a little bit more involved and impactful, it would be important to know what the students want. There are over three-thousand grad students that want something to do.”
GSA Vice President of Committees and Planning Matt Sayball, a Ph.D. candidate in the philosophy department, said graduate students should help support local small businesses and break certain norms that accompany being a teacher’s assistant, such as refraining from reaching out to I.V. residents.
“Grad students live like homeless people in Isla Vista,” Sayball said. “It’s a cool place. It’s funky and it’s got freedom of expression to it that people associate to the UC system and California. We need to support that however we can.”
GSA Vice President of External Affairs Yanira Rivas Pineda, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of political science, led the meeting and said her biggest concern is that by taking action the GSA might offend someone or encroach on the lives of I.V. residents.
“We want to be more present in Isla Vista, but we have to be really careful,” Pineda said. “We can’t treat the residents there as test subjects for our research.”
According to Shari Sanders, a Ph.D. candidate in the comparative literature department, GSA should take steps to have more of a presence in Isla Vista.
“We should go to the more meetings and say hey, we’re GSA representatives and we plan to be more active in the community,” Sanders said.
Hopkins also said he had specific ideas about actions GSA can take to improve Isla Vista.
“We need to print bilingual fliers to give to the residents of Isla Vista and try to make parking more accessible by providing parking permits.”
Hopkins also said he hopes to see specific improvements made to the GSA website to further promote graduate students’ involvement with I.V. by the end of the year.
“At the end of the year we should see a volunteer corps that publicly announces what different organizations need so graduate students can help provide those services,” Hopkins said. “By the end of the year, I’d like to see the GSA website have a list of these organizations.”
According to Pineda, GSA should hold more social events increase graduate student presence in I.V.
“I think a lot of graduate students feel like outsiders,” Pineda said. “We’re isolated. The more you experience I.V., the more you’ll care and want to help out.”
[Correction: A previous version of this article quoted Sanders as saying “We need to print bilingual fliers to give to the residents of Isla Vista and try to make parking more accessible by providing parking permits.” Sanders did not say this. The statement was actually made by Jason Hopkins. The article has been updated accordingly.]