Student activism leads CSUMB to waive the winter housing fee

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) was requiring its students to pay an $800 fee in order to stay in their Main Campus residences over the 2020 winter semester, but after hearing the concerns of many CSUMB students, decided to waive the fee.

CSUMB Student Housing and Residential Life sent out an email on Oct. 17 announcing the details about the winter housing process and the fee that was required to stay on campus during the winter. The email explained “continuing students who will not be staying over break are allowed to leave their belongings in their assigned space but will not be allowed to access that space during the dates listed above,” unless they, “complete the winter housing application [and] pay the winter housing cost of $800.”

This was the first time the winter housing fee had been implemented, and the news surprised many CSUMB students, residential advisors (RA’s) and faculty members.

To further express the troubles the fee may cause for students, the CSUMB faculty advisor for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Daramola N. Cabral, sent out an email to spread awareness about winter housing titled, “The Winter Housing Insecurity.”

The MEChA organization further explained they and Jasmine Morin, a CSUMB RA, “worked in collaboration to spearhead the advocacy part of this issue” by creating a Google Forum and attaching it to the email. The forum left a place for students to write about the issues they have with the housing fee.

“Over 300 students who have filled out our form to discuss their situations and how this new policy change will negatively affect them,” said MEChA. “The biggest recurring issue that we saw was many students were planning to stay over the Winter Break to be able to work and stay financially stable for next semester, but they now will not be able to.”

They said they had also “shared the forum with Housing Officials, but hadn’t yet seen any action by them on publicly addressing this issue,” until later on last week.

Other RA’s besides Morin were concerned about how the fee would’ve affected their residents, but didn’t have the opportunity to speak publicly about it. Kait Gruber, the Community Director in the Promontory Apartments, said that RA’s were “unfortunately unable to give interviews without permission” from the officials of the housing department.

Leaders of the MEChA Organization discuss the concerns around the winter housing fee. Photo by Sydney Brown.

MEChA decided to take their advocacy a step further by hosting a demonstration on Friday, Nov. 1 called the “Residents, Not Revenue Demonstration.” Students were encouraged to talk about their concerns with the winter housing fee. They provided markers and paper for participants to create signs where they could write down any of their thoughts about the fee. Many participants held their signs up and gathered around the lawn, giving their attention to the individuals who decided to speak publicly to the crowd of the demonstration.

“Housing, help me,” was the first phrase CSUMB student, Jaime Damian, declared as he spoke in front of the crowd at the demonstration. Damian said he’s “tired” of the fees appointed by the housing department.

“I want to do something so my voice is heard,” said Damian. “I don’t want to be homeless for four weeks. I need to be able to financially support myself.”

Later on during the demonstration, a representative of MEChA read some of the statistics they found through the Google Forum they created, announcing that 52.2 percent of students who filled out the forum can’t afford the new cost.

The demonstration was held outside of the Office of the Student Housing and Residential Life, and upon hearing students speak out, Jeff Cooper, Director of Student Housing and Residential Life, came to say a few words.

“Thanks for coming out here today,” said Cooper. “We (the housing department) care about what you have to say and I’ve been taking notes. I want to hear what you have to say. I’m going to try to find solutions to better meet you needs.”

After his statement, students proceeded with the demonstration to further exhibit their displeasement with the fee. “What do we want?” cheered students, replying, “Affordable housing!”

They held up their signs, asking, “When do we want it?” They replied unhesitantly, saying, “Now!” Participants marched through main campus, continuing that same chant as they went.

The day after attending the demonstration, Cooper sent an email announcing that he’s “agreed to waive the fee for this term.” He also said that Student Housing and Residential Life “will reevaluate the need for a winter housing fee and roll out a communication plan for any changes that might occur next year.”

Housing and Residential life will also be “committed to hosting a housing forum in January 2020 to communicate any changes that may be implemented for the 2020-2021 year.”

To stay on campus for the winter term, students must complete a winter housing application on their My Housing portal by Nov. 7, but will no longer be charged a fee of any kind.

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