by Angel Barker, August Linton, and Dezmond Remington
A housing protest on Feb. 8 in the U.C. quad drew hundreds of frustrated students, many of whom stayed for several hours. Dozens of students used the open mic to share their thoughts with the crowd about the housing crisis, and the impact of the university’s recent announcement that returning students would not be offered the option to live on campus in the fall.
In the end, the University relented, announcing on Feb. 10 that 600 on-campus beds in Creekview and the College Creek apartments would be reserved for returning and transfer students. In a meeting of the Associated Students Board of Directors, CPH Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Stephen St. Onge provided other updates on the University’s ongoing plans for student housing in Fall 2023.
Students will not be penalized for leaving on-campus leases early, and will receive partial refunds if they choose to live elsewhere.
St. Onge said that the University is working on an amenity package for those students who will be living in the ‘bridge housing’ off campus. There are no details yet on what this package will include, or when this information will be available. The housing website explains that students are collaborating with admin on this.
Students were frustrated by the lack of concrete answers provided by St. Onge on some pressing subjects, as he avoided speaking definitively on any topic outside of specific updates on housing.
At the Feb. 8 protest, Ashe Kolden talked about their experience with being homeless. They moved up to Humboldt right as classes were starting in 2020 with their partner. They weren’t able to find a place to live, so for a period of a whole month they lived in a tent with their partner in a campsite in Samoa. The housing coordinator on campus wasn’t able to help them, but they were eventually able to independently find a spot they could afford.
“I’m really lucky to have a tent, I’m really lucky to have a camping stove, and I’m really lucky to have [been homeless] while school wasn’t in,” Kolden said. “I’m imagining students living in those situations while school is in….I’m just scared for every student here who’s going to have a similar experience that I did, because 99 beds at the inn is not enough for all the students who are about to be kicked off campus.”
Plenty of people simply let their feelings loose about the decision, condemning the university administration. University president Tom Jackson in particular was a target, even though he was not present. One student yelled, “Tom Jackson, if you’re listening, fuck you, you’re a little bitch.”
Some of the comments were more hopeful. Associated Students At-Large Representative Gerardo Hernandez spoke to the crowd, saying that the Associated Students were there to help.
“What I say to [a fifth of CPH students being homeless] is, that’s bullshit…we’re here to advocate for you,” Hernandez said. “We’re all screwed…we need to stand together.”
Chrissy Holliday, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, says the University’s goal is to provide roughly 1000 off-campus beds for returning students, adding an additional 650 beds. Where those beds will be located is unknown.
The themed housing communities on campus, including Rainbow/Gender Inclusive, Sankofa House, Native American Living, and La Comunidad will maintain their number of students, including returning students, according to St. Onge.
“There are groups from, I would say, some of the more vulnerable populations, members of the BIPOC community, LGBTQ community, foster youth,” St. Onge said. “We will save spots on campus for them to continue on campus should they desire.”
Lower-level administrative positions have been on the front lines of the university’s response to controversy in the wake of last week’s housing announcement.
“I know I, myself, the folks who work in housing, our campus administration, we hear the concern, and we feel it,” Holliday said. “None of this is anything that we do lightly. We are doing everything we can to put the pieces together for our students in a way that alleviates as much of the concern and the negative impact as we can.”
“There’s not going to be as many beds as will probably fill the need, but we are going to open some up,” St. Onge said.