UC Berkeley student participation in city affairs will improve quality of life for all

COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: Engaging with local issues will not only benefit current, future students, but also Berkeley residents

Illustration of 5 people working together to lift up a puzzle piece that completes the image of Berkeley at sunset.
Jericho Tang/Staff

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How separate are UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley?

In many ways, campus and city flow together — the town and gown are inseparable. The city economically relies on the student population, which makes up about a third of Berkeley’s residents. However, UC Berkeley students are generally unable to fathom themselves as part of the larger Berkeley community because they’ll be gone in four years.

In conversation and online, students are always grumbling about what makes them unhappy about Berkeley. It’s housing; it’s public safety; it’s homelessness. College towns are transitive by nature, but UC Berkeley students should take an interest in local affairs, not just to fix the issues they moan about, but also for the well-being of future students and Berkeley residents.

Many students may not be registered to vote in Alameda County, but the lack of general knowledge about and disinterest in city affairs is a detriment to students’ lives. The issues up for debate in the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board is a good case in point — if you want to understand your rights and legal options as a tenant, tuning in to a meeting is the best place to start. 

Rent board, City Council and many other groups have forums for residents to air their grievances, but few students ever do. However, accessible resources do exist. The ASUC external affairs vice president attends all City Council meetings and can point students in the right direction to raise concerns. Better yet, scroll through The Daily Californian’s news coverage of city affairs to stay up to date.

The 2020 census represents another easy opportunity for community engagement. Students living off campus who elect not to fill out their form go uncounted, reducing the amount of federal funding that enters into the city. Not only would students dodging the census deprive themselves of possible resources, but they would also siphon money away from the next decade of UC Berkeley students and all of the city’s residents. It’s not enough just to be responsible students; we must be responsible citizens as well.

Students must also be conscious of how they exacerbate the impacts of COVID-19 within Berkeley. As young people, we may not be as heavily physically impacted by the disease. But as possible asymptomatic carriers, we threaten the general population. It’s a moral imperative — it should not take enormous road signs and a ban on frat parties to discourage our level of irresponsibility.

Students, campus and city officials unfortunately cannot read your minds. Although both authorities should publicize avenues for students to raise their concerns, we must integrate ourselves into Berkeley’s ecosystem and actively participate in the city we live in. We cannot complain and passively await change.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.