The UC Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865, held an on-campus demonstration yesterday afternoon to demand better wages and protest rising housing costs, as well as the imminent closure of Rita Atkinson and Single Graduate Apartments (SGA) housing for graduate students.
Rita Atkinson, located behind the medical school campus, will be repurposed for transfer students as part of UC San Diego’s Long Range Development Plan in 2020. It is unclear why UC San Diego is closing the SGAs, which currently consist of 25 on-campus apartments in Warren College that are designated for graduate students.
Around 50 protestors gathered outside Jacobs School of Engineering at 1:30 p.m. before marching down Library Walk with posters and drums. The students then walked to the Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) building in Revelle College, where they sang the union solidarity song.
Organizers went into a HDH Associated Residential Community Housing (ARCH) Advisory Committee meeting to present on housing affordability, but the committee went into closed session after the presentation.
According to a handout provided by HDH and UCSD Communications, only 37 percent of graduate students live on campus. The university plans to increase that statistic to 55 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025.
The handout further explains that there are 1,500 graduate students waitlisted for on-campus housing. The Nuevo West and Nuevo East apartments, opening in 2020, are meant to resolve some of the issue by offering more graduate housing. The university has also stated that displaced graduate students from Rita Atkinson will be subsidized to cover rent differences in their new housing assignments.
Despite university actions to create more graduate student housing, UAW 2865 believes that housing insecurity remains a problem because graduate student salaries have not increased in proportion to rising housing costs. According to union members, the closure of Rita Atkinson and SGA housing would also exacerbate the issue by removing more affordable options.
“Since 2016, the average price for beds for UCSD graduate housing has increased by 22 percent, but TA salary in the same period [has only increased] by six percent,” UAW Affordable Housing Committee Member and second-year PhD candidate Drew Steeves said at the demonstration.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lists affordable housing as housing that takes 30 percent or less of an individual’s income. A pamphlet provided by UAW 2865 states that housing costs at UCSD are now around 40 percent of their wages.
“The growing discrepancy between rent and income has been due to rent increases greatly exceeding the annual TA/GSR [Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student Researcher] pay adjustments, and due to the replacement of affordable housing options by larger but considerably more costly ones,” the UAW Affordable Housing Committee said. “While growth of the graduate housing portfolio is warmly welcomed, it cannot come at the cost of affordability.”
Ethan Coston is the Assistant News Editor of The Triton. He was present at the demonstration. Ella Chen is the News Editor of The Triton.