Campus is trying to resolve issues without listening to its community

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: Whether it’s in regard to affordable housing or academic accommodations, UC Berkeley must listen to the people that it’s supposed to be helping.

Illustration about affordable housing, DSP support
Amanda Tsang/File

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While UC Berkeley has made efforts to address the immense number of issues facing the community, it falls short when it comes to truly listening to students’ needs. Housing is the greatest crisis affecting students, yet campus has failed to promise affordable housing and has ignored calls not to build on People’s Park. Many students have asked that campus incorporate better hybrid learning options. Instead, campus is running the Tang Center both online and in-person — a model which has been met with frustration from students.

The Daily Californian had the opportunity to sit down with Chancellor Carol Christ, and it became clear campus needs to listen to students’ requests and demands.

Many students who qualify for campus’ Disabled Students’ Program, or DSP, are not receiving the support they need amid the transition back to in-person learning, which will likely be exacerbated next spring. DSP is understaffed and overwhelmed by a 50% increase in requests for accommodations this semester. While campus is looking forward with plans for its Disability Cultural Community Center and other projects, it’s not addressing students’ current needs.

The Tang Center is still primarily offering remote services for public health and convenience, according to campus spokespeople. However, convenience isn’t what many students are experiencing, especially for necessary, regular medical appointments. If campus is going to attend to “convenience” and public health concerns in this circumstance, it must also consider these concerns when establishing academic accommodations.

The working conditions of campus faculty are the learning conditions for students. While campus is not heavily involved with policy or negotiations with the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, UC Berkeley’s attitude toward the matter has been indifferent. According to Christ, the choice about whether to stay employed in the UC system — and be compensated under the low-income level — is one that every individual must make.

UC Berkeley houses the lowest percentage of students within the UC system and is hoping to help remedy this problem by building additional housing. But housing isn’t affordable enough and is more expensive than rates in the surrounding area. Campus’ strategy to support students is to provide individual financial aid instead of lowering the overall cost of housing, which leaves many students who may not qualify for financial aid unable to afford campus housing. Students will still be incentivized to find cheaper housing off campus, which will continue to negatively impact the local housing market. While their intentions may be good, campus is ignoring huge swaths of its community.

Campus is addressing several major issues in hopes of supporting its community, many of which are unique to UC Berkeley. It doesn’t seem, however, to be listening to those it’s supposed to help. It’s time for campus to go back to the basics and put their listening ears on.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.