by August Linton and Camille Delany
On Feb. 4, CPH quietly updated the housing website without any notice to on-campus residents, leaving returning students to find out for themselves that they should not expect to live in the dorms or campus apartments for the remainder of their time at Humboldt.
On-campus housing will not be provided for any returning students. All on-campus housing will be reserved for new freshmen or transfers, starting in Fall ‘23. Should continuing students try to access housing through the university, they will be placed in temporary, off-campus housing.
“There was absolutely no email about it,” student Valeria Reggi said. “We found out by checking the website, which they updated with no warning.”
Due to a preexisting housing shortage that has left many students houseless, temporary options were explored in 2022 with the housing of over a hundred upperclassmen in the Comfort Inn motel.
A Feb. 6 email update stated that “because of the program’s success, we are excited to share that you now have the Super 8 and Motel 6 in Arcata as housing options managed by Cal Poly Humboldt.”
The email panicked current students, many of whom expected to return to on-campus housing in the fall. This prompted an immediate response. A post circulated on social media inviting students to gather that night to organize. At the meeting, a large crowd of students filled the Gutswurrack, voicing their concerns with over-enrollment and planning a protest scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Filling every square foot of available standing room, students even packed onto the balcony. Organizer Lars Hansen spoke using a megaphone, and called on members of the crowd to voice their opinions on the new policy.
“We wanna know what’s going to happen to our housing, what’s going to happen to our community, and what’s going to happen to Humboldt,” Hansen said.
“I can’t fathom why you guys are accepting this many students when you can’t support them,” student Julia Kurtz said.
She questioned the logic of reserving the on-campus housing for freshmen and incoming transfers.
“If you are proud enough to put your current students in that housing, you should be proud enough to put new students in that housing,” Kurtz said.
Humboldt has a well-documented problem with student houselessness, a situation that some students said the new on-campus housing rules will make worse.
“I can just sleep in my car on campus, because that’s not any shittier than living in a motel, and it’s 10 to 15 times cheaper,” student Sam Mah said.
Many are considering dropping or transferring out of Humboldt in the wake of this announcement, according to students in attendance.
“You have capacity that’s limited and you’re putting no limit on the flow,” Jack Williams said.
Some raised concerns that the massive influx of students into the community without adequate on-campus housing to support them would strain relationships between students, the University, and the community.
“It seems like you just shift responsibility of building up infrastructure onto the community,” Alan Cooper said.
One of the main issues brought up by students was the lack of basic amenities at proposed housing locations. The rooms at the Comfort Inn don’t have kitchens, which poses a serious problem for students on EBT and those with dietary restrictions.
Students with disabilities are concerned with accessibility at the temporary housing locations. They also raised the issue that those who gain access to on-campus housing through their accommodations would be outed as disabled to their peers.
“Every single upperclassmen that has disabilities or problems with mental health, what the fuck are they going to do with us?” one student asked.
The University administration was represented at the meeting by the newly appointed vice president for Enrollment Management & Student Success, Dr. Chrissy Holliday, as well as Indian Tribal and Educational Personnel Program (ITEPP) coordinator Sasheen Raymond and Stephen St. Onge, Humboldt’s Executive Director of Auxiliary Services.
Several of the students speaking purposefully gave admin a chance to respond to their comments, but often their response was lost, drowned out by the large crowd and interrupted by jeers. Holliday especially struggled to be heard over the crowd completely filling the Gutswurrack.
They offered little reassurance or explanation of substance, but expressed their sympathy for students impacted, and their commitment to hearing student perspectives.
“We will come and get beat up over it if we need to,” St. Onge said.
He explained that they were being required by the CSU to enroll more students in order to get funding.
“Now you need to hit this FTE [full time enrollment] and draft a plan to do it,” St. Onge commented. “We’re looking at some different options, hopefully in a week or two we’ll have some more information.”
Recent rumors and apparent email leaks indicate that the University is considering the purchase of a barge that would moor at the Eureka docks and house 650 students. At one point during the meeting, alleged evidence of the barge plan was airdropped to attendees’ smartphones.
University officials did not respond when asked for comment.
At the end of the day, the damage to morale was already done. Students felt betrayed by the administration. The school’s liberal reputation and reported recent influx of cash seemed incongruous with what many perceived as a shocking disregard for the housing policy’s impact on continuing students. At the end of the meeting, there was a call to bring the protest to the Arcata City Hall on Feb. 16.
“I thought ‘this is a school that’s going to see me, that’s going to hear me,’” Haley Kitchman said. “I’ve lived in motels and it’s traumatizing. It’s not easy, and it’s not okay.”
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