From the editorial board of The Lumberjack:
Cal Poly Humboldt’s administration has proven that the university is insensitive to its most vulnerable students and their precarious situations. The eviction of students living on campus parking lots in their vehicles is inhumane.
The university has posed several solutions to these students, like temporary housing or staying in RV parks, but these options are unrealistic and unaffordable for most students living in their vehicles. These students have sacrificed many comforts in order to attend this university and have found a creative solution that allows them to earn their degree despite economic hardship. Many of these students will be forced to drop out if they are no longer allowed to live on campus.
Housing in Humboldt has always been a problem. Digging through old Lumberjack archives from the ‘70s reveals articles about housing insecurity and crises 50 years ago. There’s a reason these students don’t live under a roof. Very few, if any, of them are choosing this option voluntarily. Living here is expensive and tuition is expensive. The allowance of overnight camping has allowed impoverished individuals to earn their degree with a lower cost of living.
Pushing the students out would be at their detriment and only serve to clean up the image of Cal Poly Humboldt administration. Admin also neglects to realize the opportunity for mutually beneficial change in infrastructure as the campus grows. This is simply forcing students from campus out into the streets, where they will be shuffled around by law enforcement. It’s ignorant to assume that van lifers can just find an apartment after being evicted, especially with the limited options in Arcata. Campgrounds are also not always an affordable option for students. In addition, they are often far away and far from safe.
This is dehumanizing and unjustifiable. This will directly affect the lives of these students for the worse. They have made great sacrifices in order to attend Cal Poly Humboldt and deserve the right to remain on campus without being harassed.
If the university really is for a “high quality and affordable education” and a “just and sustainable world” like their Strategic Plan claims, then they have to consider how this will affect those students they’re evicting. How will they manage to study or turn in assignments if they don’t know where they’re sleeping that night? Or without WiFi? How will they stay healthy mentally without the security of a safe and reliable place to park their vehicle each night?
It’s definitely not ideal that there are students living in parking lots. The administration cited “unsafe and unsanitary” living conditions as being a driving force for the sudden enforcement of parking regulations, but the evidence provided is far from conclusive. They also mentioned complaints, but as of now, they are staying silent about what those complaints are, or who exactly they came from. It is obvious that the issue is rooted in a lack of affordable housing and the competitiveness of applying for on campus housing, not in the students themselves.
It looks terrible, especially a month away from finals. The students living in their vehicles are not requesting any significant accommodations or services from the university—they are able to live sustainably and independently and want to be left alone.
Houseless students have been living in their cars for decades. People view it as a viable option. In fact, several students who are getting evicted were previously told by members of the parking patrol that they would not be ticketed, towed or bothered if they slept in their vehicles.
This is a problem with no simple solutions, but even the absolute bare minimum is still better than the amount of assistance the university is offering. If outdoor cooking is an issue for university officials, then it should have been communicated clearly to those doing it. If the officials think the houseless students are unsanitary, give them 24/7 access to showers and bathrooms on campus. There’s a completely empty football locker room with showers that could be put to use.
These vulnerable students deserve help from the administration in their effort to earn their degrees. They should not be cast out, degraded, and othered.
The actions of the administration will only leave the university buried in even more terrible press. This is an opportunity to do something wonderful for the students who have to live in vehicles, something this community can be proud of. We, the editorial board of the Lumberjack, urge the university to come up with a real solution to this problem rather than degrading and displacing its most vulnerable students and hoping people will forget about it.
If the administration truly is committed to the “just and sustainable world” they claim to be, then it’s time to prove it.