A Place to Call Home: The Question of Transfer Housing

OpinionStaff Op-Ed

Photo of The Village dorms at UCSD, where transfer students will live until it turns into Seventh College.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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I vividly remember one day early last year, barely into my first quarter as a transfer student at UC San Diego, when I had to go into Sixth College Advising in Pepper Canyon Hall. I took the 27-second elevator ride down from the 13th floor of the Eastern Tower in The Village and then walked for 25 minutes, past Eleanor Roosevelt College (ERC) and through Marshall College. I made special note of the intimate settings and closeness of everything. I then continued on past Geisel Library, through Price Center, and then finally to the second floor of Pepper Canyon Hall. I waited for five minutes, spoke with an adviser for ten, and then headed back the way I came in less than half an hour.

When I returned home, I found my flatmates working on their essays. One was for Muir College’s transfer writing course, MCWP 125, and the other for Warren College’s transfer writing course, WCWP 100. I retired to my room and worked on a presentation for Sixth College’s upper-division writing course, CAT 125.

At the top of that tower, I felt isolated from any community that Sixth College could have offered me. Unlike ERC or Marshall, my advising wasn’t nestled minutes away from my door. When I came home, I wasn’t surrounded by Sixth-ers, eroding the smaller, more intimate community that the colleges were designed for. This separation undermines the importance of the colleges for transfer students and points to the inefficacy of transfer-centric housing on our campus.

Back in 2017, 300 transfer students experienced an extreme case of this lack of community, when they were placed two miles away from campus in graduate student housing in West Mesa on the Health Sciences campus. They were separated from not only their college community and events but the professional staff and resident assistants who were supposed to support them, all the while hoping that a spot would magically open in the neighborhood that was built specifically for them. Managing school, work, and adapting to a new community is hard enough without the fear of housing insecurity looming over them.

Now, transfer students will experience this lack of community on a grander scale, it seems, as the university continues its pharaonic expansion. Upon the approval of construction on UC San Diego’s seventh residential college, the UC Regents cast transfer students out of their only home at UC San Diego. From the forsaken towers to the north, transfer students will now relocate to the barren wastes of southern and eastern campus, in far-flung corners of the map.

These new locations won’t be much better. Rita Atkinson Hall is South of Osler Parking Structure, which is in the heart of the Medical Campus. The Pepper Canyon settlements would be hidden beyond a canyon and a light rail station, far from any of the communities in the corridor running from Revelle to the new home of Seventh College. Transfer students will not only be removed from their home bases in the colleges, but also from one another.

This literal marginalization—being pushed to the periphery of UC San Diego’s campus—combines with other factors to amplify the isolation that echoes among transfer students. Transfers are already asked to have a full and meaningful experience at UC San Diego in half the time of a first-year student and are largely left out, ostracized, and treated as second-class in many aspects of student life.

The question of how to support transfer students on campus is not something UC San Diego alone struggles with. Within the UC system, schools like UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis promote transfer-specific communities, just like The Village, but allow any student in upper-division standing to live there, largely defeating the purpose of a transfer-centric community.

UC Berkeley, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Transfer students are heavily encouraged to live on campus but are given the freedom to live in any of the on-campus living arrangements, allowing them to join the campus just like any other new Golden Bear. Cornell University provides a similar solution, offering residence halls, apartments, co-ops, and themed homes to transfers as well as first-year students. These options empower transfer students precisely because they don’t treat them as a separate entity, but rather as any other group who wishes to find belonging and community at their new university.

These alternatives lend themselves perfectly to UC San Diego’s ambitions for its residential communities. The university has already stated that it intends to offer students four years of guaranteed housing on campus with competitive rates, so it just makes sense to cease the partitioning of transfer students and integrate them into the greater community of our campus. Transfer students should live alongside first-year students in their college, foster a stronger connection to those communities, and have a closer relationship to their little homes on campus.

At the end of the day, the physical location of transfer students doesn’t matter as much as the efforts that UC San Diego undertakes to make transfer students feel like we truly belong here. The administration can fling us all over campus, but this issue won’t really be resolved until we finally have a sense of belonging.

Thomas Ebrahimi is a Contributing Writer for The Triton.

Correction: October 9, 2019 at 1:35 p.m. A previous version of this article misspelled Rita Atkinson Hall as Rita Atkison Hall. We apologize for this error.