Last week, hundreds of UC San Diego students went online at the times they were assigned to try and select a room in which to live for the the 2018-19 year. It was made out to be simple enough: All of the information needed to log on had been available for weeks, along with videos taking students through the room selection process step-by-step.
As one of those students, I was unconcerned. I’d gone to every meeting about on-campus housing and my prospective roommates and I had been talking for months about which buildings, floors, and rooms we wanted. We had plans A through Z down, and all our alarms were set for our lottery times. There were four of us, so we planned to take up an entire apartment in Eleanor Roosevelt College (ERC), three of us going in with our earliest time at 1:25 p.m., and the final roommate, me, logging on at 2:10 p.m. to take the final opening in our apartment.
After both of our times, my roommates and I were split between two buildings, but we quickly learned that we were all lucky to even get a space in ERC. By 2:30 p.m. there were no rooms available in any apartments open to women in ERC. Many students waited in limbo to be assigned to any room, including triple dorms and graduate housing, anywhere on campus.
In ERC specifically, this problem is related to a slight imbalance of gender in the makeup of the college, but this problem is reflective of a larger issue surrounding gender segregation and on-campus housing. At UCSD, nearly all suites and apartments are segregated by gender, with the exception of the LGBTQIA+ Living Learning Community (LLC) in Muir, which requires an application process and a handful of exceptions granted to students who request co-ed living situations directly with the Residential Life offices of their respective colleges.
The norm amongst many universities is to keep people who identify as the same gender in a single room while having co-ed floors. Some universities, such as the University of Southern California (USC) and San Diego State University (SDSU), offer gender-neutral housing in which students with any gender identity can live in the same room.
While the information regarding gender-neutral rooms for USC and SDSU (as well as the countless universities nationwide that offer such accommodations when students fill out their housing paperwork) was easily available online, it is incredibly difficult to find any information about co-ed or gender-neutral housing at UCSD. There is no mention of either on the room selection or on the Frequently Asked Questions page. If you simply type “UCSD LGBTQIA housing” or “UCSD gender-inclusive housing” into Google, the first result is the LGBT Resource Center on campus, which has a blurb stating that “Gender Inclusive Housing is available for continuing groups of undergraduate residents in all seven apartment living areas at UC San Diego. This option meets the needs of all of our continuing residents, inclusive of all genders, gender identities, and expressions.” Beneath the blurb is a list of links to the various colleges’ residential life websites, which link to the homepages of those sites and not to any specific information regarding gender-inclusive housing. The information is also only geared toward continuing residents, meaning that incoming freshmen do not have these options. The other top result is the LGBTQIA+ LLC, which is also only open to continuing students.
While ERC is in the unfortunate position of running out of housing on-campus for women specifically due to these outdated arrangements, the lack of housing for students who have been guaranteed space is campus-wide. In fact, this year 300 transfer students were placed in graduate housing (North and West Mesa) two miles off-campus because there wasn’t enough space in The Village. While this situation is far from ideal, it became worse in February when renovations began in West Mesa. Because these students were guaranteed housing, they were offered spaces in the dorms until spaces in The Village or International House (I-House) became available. The lack of space in The Village, which is typically reserved for transfer students, was due in part to the incoming class of first-year students who were housed there when there was not enough space to accommodate all 7,600 of them in the dorms of their colleges.
One of the major points UCSD makes when advertising to prospective students is guaranteed housing for two years. Rentals in San Diego are notoriously expensive, and for many students, the promise of room and board as well as the convenience of on-campus dining is a major factor in deciding where to go to school. The fiascos in recent years with overflow housing demonstrate that the housing guarantee is not as concrete or simple as it is made out to be.
While housing space is clearly a campus-wide issue, it is exacerbated by the lack of transparency between the university and students, as well as by the archaic gender regulations. If UCSD cannot provide all its students with housing, then it cannot continue to assure students that on-campus housing is guaranteed. If students knew that there was a very real possibility they would not be be housed in their college, or even with other undergraduates, then they could look into off-campus housing options earlier and potentially find other affordable solutions. The current system promises security and choice that simply isn’t there, meaning that many students don’t know if their guaranteed housing will be anywhere from their college’s apartments to graduate housing until it’s too late.
With recent increases in admission rates, the problem of housing students on campus is only going to get worse. There are many solutions that other universities have implemented to address this problem, including, but not limited to, constructing more housing (instead of more research buildings) and purchasing La Jolla apartments nearby as emergency housing at a reduced rate. No matter what the university decides to do, it cannot be allowed to continue down this path.
Paige Prudhon is the Assistant Opinion Editor for The Triton.