[4/27/2023 7:31 p.m.] This article has been updated to include the memorandum of confirmation from Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Kalawunn and a bill introduced in the Senate to release the fees] 

The Associated Students Senate unanimously voted on April 19 to place a temporary hold on the distribution of student-controlled Student Health Services funding until administration provides them with confirmation that the Ocean Road housing project will not disrupt health service offerings on campus in any capacity. 

Student Health at UC Santa Barbara was one of the areas providing protective masks. Jose Ochoa / Daily Nexus

The Ocean Road project — which aims to fulfill UC Santa Barbara’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) requirement to build more affordable faculty housing units by 2025 — recently drew the ire of students for its lack of specificity regarding the fate of on-campus Student Health buildings and services. 

At the April 25 Associated Students (A.S.) Senate meeting, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Kalawunn presented a memorandum of confirmation that “the replacement and relocation of Student Health is a component of UCSB’s Ocean Road Project” and “a new student health building will be constructed before we move the existing operations.”

In response, the Senate introduced “A Resolution Freeing Held Funds for a Campus-Designated Organization” that would fee Student Health student fees of upwards of $1 million dollars.

The Student Health Services (SHS) building, currently located on Ocean Road, will be demolished at an unspecified point in the future to accommodate new faculty housing. The proposed new SHS location is the ground parking lot next to the Lot 22 structure and will have “near to the same square footage as the current SHS building” with a multi-story building format, UCSB spokesperson Kiki Reyes said in a statement to the Nexus. 

On-Campus Senator and first-year computer science major Ephraim Shalunov authored the Senate bill, entitled “A Resolution Temporarily Holding Funds for a Campus-Designated Organization.” 

He said that the temporary hold on A.S. Student Health funding is designed to ensure administrators make good on their promises to senators to ensure no reduction of SHS for the campus community throughout the construction and demolition processes. 

“All we’re asking for in terms of commitment — which is something [administration has] already committed to doing — is a construction of a new Student Health building with a full capability of servicing everything that they’re currently doing,” Shalunov said. 

“And then [there’s] the demolition of the previous health building, which doesn’t appear to be adding any new pressure or limitations on the project … It appears that they were already trying to do that without a signed commitment. But we want the signed commitment, not out of distrust but out of the fact that it is our job to ensure that students have Student Health,” he continued. 

Reyes confirmed in a statement to the Nexus that while the Ocean Road project is still in its planning stages, “the new Student Health center building will be completed and operational before the current Student Health center is taken offline. There will be no time when there is not a Student Health center offering students services.” 

UCSB’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter has been hosting a monthslong campaign to save SHS and draw attention to what they described in a March 9 Instagram post as the school’s “convoluted and contradictory messaging” around the fate of the service. 

The Instagram post detailed the change in demolition of the original Student Health building from Phase 2 to Phase 1 of the Ocean Road project and no mention of the reconstruction of a new SHS as approved by the UC Regents at their May 2022 meeting. 

“What really interests us is what student health services are going to look like between the date of the destruction of the old building and the date of the construction of the new building, because the university has acknowledged that they would like to keep health services on campus,” second-year electrical engineering major and YDSA Political Education Chair Alex Lopes said. 

“Then the question obviously becomes, what are the facilities going to look like? Are they going to be temporary buildings? Are they going to retrofit the existing building? Are they going to be offered? Are they going to be able to offer all of the same services that they do now? In those buildings and those temporary facilities? We have no idea. There’s been no clarity; there’s been no communication,” he continued.

YDSA, in a statement to the Nexus, said the university’s affirmed commitment to keeping a Student Health facility active throughout the Ocean Road project was positive if true.

During the April 18 Senate meeting, before senators voted on the fund-holding bill, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn told attendees during public comment that the university was committed to providing SHS throughout the project. 

“I have been assured today, as was President [Gurleen] Pabla, that there was absolutely a commitment to that building and to making sure we could move from the current operation into the new building to preserve the care for the campus and on-campus location. No question about that,” she said. 

Shalunov said that the temporary withholding of fees will most likely not impact Student Health operations and that he expects the fees to be released with minimal delay. 

“It’s not a huge thing. It’s not a negotiation. It’s just saying ‘OK, yeah, totally fine. Let’s just make sure that you get your end of the deal; we’ll get our end of the deal,’” he said. “The fact of the matter is that it’s not a step that will in any way affect Student Health operations, assuming that the university follows through on what they need to follow through on.” 

The language of the bill requires administrators to provide confirmation of SHS by the end of the week, which Shalunov said the Senate expects will be by this Friday, in order for the million to be released. 

However, he also pointed to broader concerns that the Association does not have direct control or knowledge over the transfer and withholding of student fees within their purview, which are technically controlled by A.S. Executive Director Marisela Márquez. 

“You might ask the natural follow up question of how the body in charge of this money doesn’t know when this money will be transferred, and that raises a broader issue of a lack of direct financial control between the student government that runs Associated Students and the student fees that they administer,” Shalunov said. “Quite frankly, the de facto situation is that the money is controlled by the executive director, and that’s how it is in practice. Legally, the money is entirely within our jurisdiction to control in any direction.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the April 27, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Rusch was the University News Editor and co-Lead News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.