In a brief, one-page policy statement issued Friday by the Office of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, UCSB immediately banned camping on university property.
The ban, which prohibits individuals from sleeping on campus grounds overnight in a sleeping bag, tent or other temporary structure, cites safety and health concerns as the driving factors behind the Office’s decision. The new policy effectively eliminates the “tent cities” that were created by student activists this past year and establishes the university’s position against camping by members of the local transient population.
University of California Police Department spokesman Matt Bowman said while the policy addresses recent encampments by student activists, its major focus revolves around a growing number of transients sleeping overnight on campus.
“We have continual calls for service from people reporting transients setting up on campus,” Bowman said. “They are subjected to being the victims of all kinds of crimes [and] injury.”
In the 2006-07 academic year, UCSB was home to two major protests involving short-term camping on university grounds. Protesters frequently referred to these encampments as tent cities.
Recent UCSB graduate Jeronimo Saldana, an organizer and participant in both of the tent cities this past year, said he was excited when he heard the news of the ban.
“I think it’s great,” Saldana said. “I love it. The whole point of a tent city is civil disobedience [and] the fact that they were letting us do it didn’t give us the opposition we wanted.”
However, second-year history major Shauna Woods said she believed the causes promoted by the campouts felt removed from the concerns of average students.
“I never really understood tent cities,” Woods said. “I’d rather celebrate David Hasselhoff.”
The new policy is concise and states that, “No person shall camp or erect a temporary shelter on University property.”
In a written statement, Chancellor Henry T. Yang said he supported the new policy, emphasizing the careful consideration that went into the decision.
“The policy was discussed and reviewed by the chancellor, executive vice chancellor, vice chancellors, dean of students, and university counsel for the campus,” Yang said. “[It will] protect the health and safety of our campus community and [the] access to and security of university facilities and property.”
The updated camping policy is also consistent with Santa Barbara County ordinances against overnight camping, which prohibit any form of sleeping on public property, with or without actual camping equipment. The ordinance allows for criminal punishment, Bowman said.
“It is potentially an arrestable offense,” Bowman said. “[Violation] could result in a citation being issued or possibly a physical arrest and booking in jail.”
However, UCSB’s ban does not specify any repercussions to violations of the new policies. General campus policy lists consequences ranging from a written warning to monetary fines to expulsion from UCSB. Punishment is determined by the university on a case-by-case basis.
According to Saldana, the ban will have little effect on student activism at UCSB.
“It will definitely raise the stakes a little bit,” Saldana said. “But I don’t think it will change anything. We’re out here regardless of your policies, regardless of your rules.”
Last fall, the 16-day Tent City Jam Fest on the Women’s Center lawn across from Storke Tower centered on protesting the Cedarwood apartment evictions made by Conquest Student Housing in Isla Vista. Other topics discussed at the Tent City included workers’ rights and a revival of affirmative action at the UC. Students also marched on Cheadle Hall twice, demanding that Yang address their concerns and use his position to effect change in the community.
Another tent city formed in spring when members of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation set up camp outside Cheadle Hall in an attempt to pressure the UC Regents, a University board that oversees UC finances and policy, to cut ties with Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. The labs, co-managed by the UC, partake in nuclear weapons research. At this particular tent city encampment, students swore off solid food for the duration of the week-long protest which culminated in the group presenting its demands at the Regents meeting in San Francisco.