Student group UC Santa Barbara 4 Cost of Living Adjustment — also known as UCSB 4 COLA — protested UCSB’s housing crisis on Sept. 27, organizing over 40 students, faculty and local community members to voice their concerns and anger over UCSB administration’s handling of the housing shortage.

The protestors — which included COLA organizers, Food Not Bombs community leadership and Union United Auto Workers 2865 (Union UAW 2865) members — first rallied at the base of Storke Tower at noon before marching to Cheadle Hall. 

“The decisions made by the university scope over many thousands of people, as they also have a role as major landlords in the area,” said Micah Pedrick, fifth-year mathematics graduate student and UAW 2865 Santa Barbara unit chair. 

“[They own] the various dormitories, graduate student housing, faculty housing, family housing,” he continued. “The prices set by them, the availability of bed spaces there and the choices made about developing new buildings and the timescales for developing these — like opening these new housing opportunities — has a major impact.” 

Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, UCSB Chicano and Chicana studies professor and department chair, spoke at the protest in front of Storke Tower. According to Armbruster-Sandoval, the reason behind the creation of COLA — cost of living adjustment — lives on in the current housing crisis. 

“COLA for one, COLA for all. The reason why that took off was it’s not just a grad student thing, undergraduates understood that very clearly, staff understood that very clearly and even professors understood that,”Armbruster-Sandoval said. “[The administration] acts like [the housing crisis] is an accident … COVID-19 didn’t cause the housing crisis. That’s a bald-faced lie.”

“These problems didn’t fall down from the sky. They’re structural, endemic crises that have been happening for 20 to 30 years,” Armbruster-Sandoval continued. “Students have been living in cars, they’ve been couch-surfing, they’ve been doing all that shit for decades.” 

In a Sept. 24 email sent to the campus community, UCSB administration informed students and community members that as of Sept. 20, all students who applied for a housing contract had been offered housing through the university. In addition to campus housing, the university is offering student temporary housing in nearby hotels. 

However, some students, like one third-year speaker, said that hotel housing feels inadequate for students struggling to find long-term housing. 

“This housing agreement … that they have with the hotels is temporary. In three months, what will we do? Then we’ll be stuck in the exact same position, UCSB will be stuck scrambling for another short term solution,” they said. “They need to give us a long-term solution now.”

The speaker said they had been looking for housing since March with no university support. 

“This is my first full year back on campus. This was supposed to be what I’ve been looking forward to, after a year and a half of being stuck, alone, isolated, to come back to school and feel safe,” they continued. 

“I am in Santa Barbara, because I have to be to attend school. And if I had a choice, I wouldn’t be here. If I had a choice, I would be somewhere safe, where I knew that I could go home and have a place to stay where I was certain I could have a stable roof over my head. And I have none of that. I’m couch surfing. I’m living with friends. And I don’t know what roof is gonna be over my head next week, or if I’m even going to have one.”

A version of this story appeared on pg. 8 of the Sept. 30 print edition of the Daily Nexus. 

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Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the University News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.