ASUCR passes bill meant to increase protections and provide for family housing for student-parents on campus

Ryan Poon /The Highlander

On Jan. 27, ASUCR held their fourth meeting of the quarter where they discussed the revocation of UCR’s federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI), an update on ASUCR’s Black Lives Matter donation and a senate resolution meant to increase awareness on the need for more family housing on campus. 

Vice President of Internal Affairs Angelica Garcia read a letter to the senate bringing awareness to UCR losing its federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institute for 2020 after the previous individual responsible for submitting documents to the Department of Education required to certify UCR’s HSI designation left the university during the summer of 2019. The interim appointee in the position was not made aware of the comprehensive submission requirements, thus causing them to miss the January 2020 filing deadline. In the letter, members of ASUCR and the Diversity Council condemned the university’s failure to formally address and acknowledge the mistake made by the Office of Planning, Budget and Administration. “[We] believe that the campus administration’s indifference to this situation, the way the situation has been handled and its blatant lack of transparency is disrespectful, impetuous, and malicious,” stated the letter. In their demands, ASUCR is urging students to keep campus administration accountable by signing their petition, organizing to ensure that adequate consequences are faced and to bring the issue to the attention of larger entities within the UC system and the U.S. Department of Education. 

ASUCR’s Diversity Council also announced that they are planning a town hall with the faculty responsible for the mistake and other campus administrators to discuss their lack of transparency while also highlighting other important issues on campus.

During Public Comment multiple student-parents expressed their support for SR-W21-006 Resolution Regarding Non-Traditional Student Housing Needs, to raise awareness for the need for more family-housing on-campus and shared anecdotes about the adversities they have faced as student-parents at UCR. Jazmin Garcia, a student and resident advisor (RA) for Oban family housing urged the senate to vote in favor of the resolution. When she first transferred to UCR, she had to take a year off due to housing concerns because she didn’t have a place to live near UCR. Once she finally was able to obtain family housing and be readmitted into UCR, she became an RA and has since been a mentor for other student-parents at Oban, has helped others move in and furnish their units and has even helped with child care and cooking. 

Many others shared their stories and experiences with homelessness as student-parents because the waitlists for family housing like Oban would exceed the amount of time a student could be enrolled at UCR. Many low-income families struggle to meet the requirements to be approved for houses or apartments outside of campus.

“I think that UC Riverside, as an institution should be doing everything in its power to ensure that there are safety nets, for the disenfranchised, at risk communities that it washes over,” stated Alonso Roman, student and member of the Diversity Council and the Student Veteran Organization. 

Deidre Reyes, a fourth-year public policy major expressed that she is currently experiencing homelessness and living in a motel due to her inability to obtain on-campus housing. She is number 373 on the student-housing waitlist. She was advised that it would take her two years to reach the top of the waitlist, but by then she would have graduated from UCR. “I find it to be heinous and egregious that homeless students and parents are not prioritized,” she stated.

During the Finance Hearing, the senate revisited a grant allocation for the Undergraduate Business Association to book an event with Jonathan Javier, a UCR alumni and the CEO and founder of Wonsulting, a company focused on teaching others about professional development. Previously, the allocation failed to pass after concerns were raised by members of the senate regarding sexual assault allegations against Javier publicized in a Twitter thread last summer. The same person who publicized the claim later tweeted that the allegations against Javier were “false and unfounded.” 

GSOE Senator Stephanie Zeng stated that while the allegations may have been unfounded, she still had reservations about approving the allocation and did not feel comfortable voting in favor of it.

CHASS Senator Christopher Kent questioned Vice President of Finance William Wang on the committee’s methods for approving allocations for clubs on campus. Wang stated that the Finance Committee does not do background checks or ask for further information from clubs about speakers they want to bring to campus. “We have no idea what their money is going towards,” stated Kent. Wang and Kent discussed possibly changing the requirement for grant allocations to include specific information on each organization’s proposed event.

CHASS Senator Juan Morales also had some reservations about the speaker and encouraged the Undergraduate Business Association to find a different speaker to talk about professional development. He also urged the senate to reconsider their vote and take into consideration the reason why it did not pass the first time. The grant allocation for the Undergraduate Business Association failed to pass with a vote of 3-11-4; CHASS Senator Nelson Aguirre, CHASS Senator David An and BCOE Senator Connley Neufeld voted yes on the allocation.

Finally, the senate voted on SR-W21-006 Resolution Regarding Non-Traditional Student Housing Needs. Authored by student-parents, members of the Diversity Council, ASUCR President Luis Huerta and CHASS Senator and student-parent Alyssa Marchan, the resolution outlined the economic hardships students have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including housing insecurity. According to a study by the UCR School of Public Policy and the Inland Center for Sustainable Development, it was found that 12% of mortgage holders and 18% of renters had missed their respective payments in the month of July 2020. The resolution outlined the hardships faced by student-parents in particular and highlighted a pre-pandemic study conducted by Temple University that demonstrates the economic instability that they face. The study surveyed over 23,000 student-parents at 56 four-year institutions and 171 two-year colleges and found that 8% of student-parents are housing-insecure, over 17% experienced homelessness the previous year and over 53% were found to be food insecure.

The resolution states that more emphasis should be placed on providing nontraditional and parenting students with affordable on-campus housing. The senate calls on UCR officials to support these students by providing housing assistance including but not limited to securing Falkirk Apartments for nontraditional student communities, prioritizing student-parents who have experienced or are at risk for homelessness, student-veterans and the formerly incarcerated community, allowing student-parents to stay in family-housing units up to six months after graduation and providing regular monetary grants for student-parents in order to meet their housing needs.

ASUCR will also work with interested community groups, institutions and UCR in order to advocate for the fruition of the aforementioned requests to assist student-parents. SR-W21-006 Resolution regarding Non-Traditional Student Housing Needs was unanimously approved with a vote of 18-0-0.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:48 p.m.

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