Caitlin Hernandez / Courier An illustration with University of California President Janet Napalitano with a partial quote from her official response to the UCSC wildcat strike. The college's official position is that they won't reopen or alter the current barganning agreement to negotiations.
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The housing market in Santa Cruz is known to be one of the least affordable in the country. UCSC graduate student workers in the area have long struggled with financial burdens as a result of this issue. It’s ridiculous to think that despite the extensive labor they’ve contributed to the universities, such as research, teaching, and grading, they still struggle to pay for their daily needs. 

Current UCSC graduate student workers live in the terror of insufficient wages due to expensive rents, and the school doesn’t seem to show interest to raise student worker’s wages despite the strike since Feb. 10.

According to the 2018 UCSC Housing Report, the school currently offers about 9,338 beds for all enrolled students, which can only accommodate 48% of all enrolled students. The current housing couldn’t even accommodate all students. With approximately 1800 graduate students and increasing enrollment each year, it will continuously be harder to build campus housing for the students. 

Building houses in Santa Cruz seems unlikely to happen either. The area is too limited. The school has previously attempted to build 3,000 new beds for graduate students, however, due to legal challenges, the plan is currently frozen.

The school is well aware of the housing situation, however, it’s not doing enough to help support its students. The UCCPG has agreed to meet with UCSC President Janet Napolitano in response to the strike, however, she refused to negotiate contracts to increase wages. 

This makes you question what her agenda is. Could this be a strategy created as a short-cut to solve the housing crisis in UCSC—by potentially limiting the amount of student enrollment in the future? It doesn’t make sense why she’s refusing to negotiate the contracts if not for a hidden plan.

Most graduate student workers in UCSC spent about 60-70% of their wages to cover rent expenses, according to Jane Komori, one of the strike’s organizers. The current income for UCSC is $2,434 per month (roughly $21,906 per year) with an average rental price of $2,370 per month. No one needs a Ph.D. in math to see the issue here. There’s barely enough left after paying rent for other expenses. 

The students demand a raise of  $1,412 to relieve the rent burden, but of course, the school “just doesn’t have the money”. With around 1800 students enrolled, the total of extra money the school spends after the raise would be around $2.5 million per month. 

This may sound like a lot of money, however, if you consider that UC employees make salaries over $500,000 per year, according to an analysis by The Business Journals, $2.5 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money. The school could just have the money if it has the intention to raise student worker’s wages. It may be just a matter of allocation of money distribution, not insufficient funds.

“Bonuses and incentives awarded by State Fund’s board have boosted compensation to more than $500,000 each for its seven top managers including its CEO, whose annual pay is some $732,000 — more than three times the $210,000 salary of the governor,” according to the LA Times.

While the school doesn’t seem to be able to raise student worker’s wages, they seem to have no problem making expenditures that seem irrelevant to student’s learning and support. The school spent millions to bring in police to suppress the strike since Feb. 10. 

Executive vice chancellor Lori Kletzer stated that the cost of police presence spent by the university was $300,000 per day, according to a UCSC student-run Reddit post. UCSC would’ve spent an estimated $3,000,000—less than what could’ve been funded for a pay raise—on police during the week being on campus. If the school has no problem spending that amount of money, why are they unable to give student workers a higher wage? 

Graduate students shouldn’t have to worry about money. This problem is bigger than just Santa Cruz. It reflects the reality of housing affordability across California. The strike at UCSC is only the beginning of student protest against college affordability and housing crisis. Unless this issue is properly addressed and change is made, it will continue to escalate and become a nation-wide problem.

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