In an effort to ease the strain of Berkeley’s housing crisis that will only be made worse by the incoming 750 extra students this fall, the campus recently announced a partnership with Mills College and Holy Names University to expand campus housing options. This student housing option, however, is miles away from UC Berkeley.
The 50 to 100 students to be housed at Mills College and Holy Names University would be eight to nine miles away from campus — at least a 20-minute commute. Though that may seem short, one also has to take into account the cumulative effect it will likely have on students’ health.
As Stephen Dubner discovered in his “Economics of Sleep” project, small daily sleep losses have significant effects on performance and labor return. The inconvenience of this housing solution could potentially take away three to four hours of sleep per week for the commuting students. In addition to experiencing the effects of sleep loss, the students living in remote “on campus” housing would undoubtedly be subject to acute feelings of alienation.
Students forced to live far away from campus who depend on public transportation will also be highly inconvenienced should they ever need to stay on campus for a late-night study group. Any necessary but forgotten item could mean the loss of an entire day of productivity.
When all the drawbacks of campus housing offered miles away from UC Berkeley are taken into account, it seems ridiculous not to offer this option at a discount to the students placed there. If this were done, however, low-income students — eager to shave expenses wherever possible — would have to overcome yet another obstacle on their already difficult paths. This “solution” creates a new problem for each one it purports to resolve.
The negative implications of this housing “solution” go far beyond the probable damage to students’ health and well-being: A threat to student health is also a threat to the campus’s prestige and accessibility. If students are impaired from fulfilling their potential because of situations outside of their control, the campus could potentially experience a drop in its graduation rates, which could affect its precious rankings.
Moving students to far-off locations also begs the question as to why the campus hasn’t instead considered expanding partnerships and improving relationships with private and nonprofit student housing. These sorts of public-private partnerships have the potential to be a sustainable and accessible option and have far fewer negative implications for students.
No undergraduate at UC Berkeley should have to shoulder unnecessary hardships in order to make up for campus administrators’ inability to create sustainable, comprehensive solutions to the current housing crisis. Offering “on-campus” housing that is, in fact, not on the UC Berkeley campus, is a solution with so many holes that it seems not to be a solution at all.