On Sept. 10, Berkeley City Council is set to make a historic vote on a student district. The City Council has already expressed its approval of the creation of such a district, so the question we face is what would it look like?
One would expect such a district would include residents of student dorms, co-opso and fraternities/sororities, thus making the new district as inclusive of students as possible. However, under the current proposal, the Berkeley Student District Campaign map, major student housing groups are split apart, with most of the co-ops, Northside student tenants, several dorms, and International House excluded. A plan to have a student district while leaving out so many students is unfair and illogical.
As of now, students are split across multiple districts, with student housing split across four of them. The city of Berkeley consists of eight districts that each elect a council member. District 7, which would be adjusted to include more students, is currently centered around Telegraph Avenue and includes the UC Berkeley campus and Northside.
The district already has a student supermajority, with a student-age population (people between the ages of 18 and 29) more than 70 percent, but excludes many of the dorms, fraternities and sororities. Although the BSDC map attempts to address this problem by adding fraternities and sororities to the district, it does so at the expense of Northside, which is home to many co-ops and student tenants. This is not necessary, as there is a way to include both Northside and Southside in District 7.
In a July 11 editorial, The Daily Californian said “the district should ultimately encompass students living in cooperative housing and dormitory housing on the north side of campus.” The United Student District Amendment, is an amendment to the current proposal that unifies Northside and Southside, creating a student district that better represents the student population of UC Berkeley. Students living on Northside do not have to wait 10 years for them to be included in a student district. It can be done right now under the USDA.
The Berkeley Student Cooperative understands the importance of student inclusion. Having successfully fought to have Northside included in District 7 during the 2000 redistricting process, the co-ops are at risk of being kicked out of the student district. The USDA map includes a total of 16 co-ops containing 1,112 students.
By comparison, the current proposal only has five co-ops containing 484 students. And 626 students living in Co-ops, including many living on Northside, will not have a voice in the student district if the amendment fails. It comes as no surprise that the co-op board has voted to support the USDA map.
The Berkeley Student District Campaign has done a great job of raising the issue of a student district. Its map is a big step towards achieving this goal. However, there is room for improvement to make sure this student district comprises a wide range of students and student housing. Two of the main goals in the creation of the United Student District Amendment map were to make it as inclusive as possible and to use the BSDC map as a template. Many of the districts have little to no change compared with the BSDC, as the focus was on improving District 7. The BSDC map is a good start, but the USDA fine-tunes the map to make sure Northside and more student housing are included. By changing just a few blocks from the BSDC map, the USDA map is able to accommodate many more students.
The USDA map brings the total student age population of District 7 to 90.3 percent. This is an increase from 86 percent under the BSDC. More importantly, it guarantees that official student housing will be included. This means that many of the blocks added to the amendment will have housing that comprises 100 percent students.
In total, the USDA adds 11 co-ops, three dorms (Foothill, Bowles and Stern) and I-House. At the same time, it includes all the official student housing in the BSDC, which has five co-ops, six dorms and many fraternities and sororities. It is of great importance that groups, whether they be students or neighborhoods, are kept together to ensure they have a more democratic and unified voice.
For too long, students have not been properly represented in the city of Berkeley. Since districts were introduced in 1986, students have been divided into different districts, making it hard to mobilize on city issues. Now there is a choice. We can have a student district that is as inclusive as possible and includes both Northside and Southside. Or we can have a district that divides students and does not represent the student population. You can make a difference. Join us on Sept. 10, and tell the City Council that you want a district that accurately represents the students by supporting the United Student District Amendment.