The often-overlooked aspects of Isla Vista such as the elderly population at Friendship Manor have been the focus of a new writing course at UCSB for the last two quarters.
David Machacek, an academic coordinator in the Religious Studies Dept., has had students in his Writing 109 class conduct research projects on the quality of life in Isla Vista. Machacek started the course because he saw too many negative media portrayals of UCSB students and the I.V. population.
“I was inspired by events occurring last year after the David Attias tragedy and various events,” he said. “The media coverage of Isla Vista only focuses on its problems and anything wrong is attributed to youth and alcohol.”
Isla Vista is unique because the student population does not stay permanently, which makes it difficult to achieve a sense of community. Still, Machacek said there is a deeper sense of community in I.V. than appears on the surface because there is a shared experience of student youth culture, the homeless community, senior citizens, and low-income families.
“I.V. struggles with internal cohesion because people are coming and going,” Machacek said. “With internal cohesion there would be normative order in the community that would get people involved with improving the conditions out there.”
Student projects for Winter Quarter focused on the experiences of elderly people living in I.V., the effects of relocation on low-income families, the relationship between crime and alcohol and drugs, the lack of diversity at UCSB, homeless people in I.V., and political participation in I.V.
Machacek said students used different methods to accumulate data including surveys, personal interviews, questionnaires, observations, archival resources and county clerk records.
Junior Clay Daulton researched the experiences of the elderly in I.V. using questionnaires and interviews, and found the residents of Friendship Manor like living in Isla Vista with the students.
“The only concern they have is about bikes and skateboards on the sidewalks,” he said. “They get injured a lot and there is not much attention from IVFP. It causes them a lot of grief.”
Senior Alfredo Carlos researched the effects of redevelopment in Isla Vista, particularly on low-income families. He reported that many families have lived here for years, but have moved up to six or seven times because of annual rent increases.
“These families have very little representation on the I.V. Project Area Committee,” he said. “Redevelopment of Isla Vista would increase rent prices significantly.”
Senior Heather Daud researched the homeless community in I.V. and found that the homeless are an exclusive and well-organized group with a code of rules they follow. She said the average homeless person in Isla Vista has been there for 10 or more years.
“The homeless people are a family. A lot of them used to be residents of I.V. and know the community well,” she said. “The ones in the parks don’t sit out to beg, they are there by choice.”
Other research looked at politics in I.V. Senior Adam Down said he found that the popular conception of politically inactive students was wrong, as there have been consistent levels of involvement from UCSB students. Analyzing county clerk records, he found that Isla Vista has had on average 7,000 Democrat and 1,000 Republican voters since 1980.
Machacek said that the style of politics in Isla Vista has changed from a politics of protest to using the political system.
“The nice things in I.V. such as the bikeways to campus and the establishment of the I.V. Foot Patrol were demanded by students,” he said.
Machacek said the topics researched in fall quarter were completely different, showing that there are many aspects of Isla Vista waiting to be discovered. Because the class is only 10 weeks long, the projects are narrowly focused and the students can only get limited data, but Machacek said their findings are still worth consideration.
“The students have shown me the dynamics of an accepted community life out there that as an adult professor living in Santa Barbara I could never see,” he said. “It’s a remarkable community, which although students come and go, has a cultural history which is there to be discovered.”
Machacek said this class has changed his perspective about Isla Vista, and hopes to continue to teach this course at UCSB for a long time.