by Jillian Wells
Other contributors: Alex Anderson and Dezmond Remington
In a powerful show of unity, students and faculty members gathered in the rain at Cal Poly Humboldt to protest the recent decision to evict students living in vehicles on campus. The protest, which took place on Thursday, Nov. 2, highlighted the larger problem of homelessness in Humboldt County.
The protest started at 11 a.m. in the G11 parking lot and lasted throughout the night. At 12 p.m., protestors marched to the quad in the rain chanting, “Hey, ho, hey, ho student eviction has got to go!”
The protest was led by Maddy Montiel and Brad Butterfield, the president and vice president of the Alternative Living Club, who were dressed as pirates because of a long-running joke of them being “land pirates” and their RV’s being ships on wheels. Furthermore, the initial eviction email occurred during Halloween week, and since then Montiel and Butterfield have been solely focused on securing safe housing, but didn’t want the situation to take celebrating Halloween from them.
“The university took a lot from us last week,” Montiel said. “We decided we wanted to keep one thing for ourselves and still dress as pirates and give our outfits a chance to see the light of day.”
The protest also featured an open discussion, where Montiel and Butterfield stated their list of demands from the university.
Their demands included the university allowing overnight camping or sleeping in vehicles through the end of the fall semester, at least, a formal apology for the dehumanizing language in the initial eviction email, the establishment of a committee for long-term solutions, more transparency in defining camping and its implementation, and evidence of the “unsafe and unsanitary conditions” that was stated in the email.
At the protest, Butterfield stated students living in their vehicles are open to finding a solution that works for them and the university, but that the university hasn’t been willing to negotiate. For the students living in their vehicles, protesting was a last resort.
“For the school to assume that they can just get rid of us and push us out onto the streets and we’re going to go away quietly, is wrong,” Butterfield said.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the University Senate passed a resolution that would pause the enforcement until the end of the 2023-2024 academic year; this resolution was sent to President Jackson’s office. It awaits a decision. Mark Johnson, the President’s Chief of Staff, who attended the meeting on behalf of Jackson, declined to answer any of The Lumberjack’s questions, as did Dean of Students Mitch Mitchell.
During the protest, various speakers articulated their concerns, frustrations, and demands, emphasizing the need for understanding and fair solutions. The protest featured many voices and perspectives within the community, stressing the importance of addressing the issue with attainable solutions and compassion.
Rouhollah Aghasaleh, an assistant professor in the School of Education, attended the protest and said that he sympathizes with the students who are being evicted.
“Living in a [vehicle] doesn’t make you less human.” Aghasaleh said.
Meheret Vasquez-Suomala, a religious studies major, expressed disappointment in the administration and hopes that they will listen and work with students, not evict them.
“You [Cal Poly Humboldt] are deliberately misplacing lower-income students and that’s what’s frustrating.”
Raymond Haeckel, another one of the speakers at the protest, questioned the accusations made by the university and stated that without proof of the unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Haeckel will continue to believe this is an effort to force these students into on-campus housing and collect housing fees.
“This is motivated by money and money alone,” Haeckel said.
Jules Tatum, another student at the protest, condemned the university’s decision to evict students.
“To say that these people are unsanitary, unsafe, dangerous individuals is just a slap in the face. The only dangerous conditions are being created by the institution,” Tatum stated.
Ultimately, the protest highlighted the need for realistic and attainable solutions that work with students, not evicting one of the most vulnerable student populations.
If you’re interested in learning more about this on-going issue, the Alternative Living Club is meeting on Friday, Nov. 10, at 3:30 in front of the library.
Disclaimer: Brad Butterfield is a member of the Lumberjack. He did not help write or edit this article.