The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is playing catch-up with accommodations. The Title IX Office is struggling to find emergency housing for survivors. Both are necessary resources for students and both are trying to navigate recent enrollment increases with the resources they have at UC Santa Cruz.
Triples are becoming quadruples. Quadruples are becoming quintuples. As more and more students pour in to the UC Santa Cruz campus, rooms and lounges fill with students, leaving little wiggle room, especially for those with specific housing needs.
When the flooding of Stevenson College Casa 4 happened earlier this quarter, the limited availability of emergency housing was brought to light. Ninety people were forced to relocate to makeshift rooms and lounges across campus while repairs were made to the building.
This fall, there were only 47 unoccupied beds available for emergency housing and relocation, according to assistant director of Student Housing Services Kevin Tresham. This is an 81 percent decrease in empty beds from last fall, when 248 beds were available. Housing services personnel were forced to convert more lounges into living areas, which affects housing accommodations provided by the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and Title IX Office.
“Everybody knows and acknowledges that it’s gotten very dense,” said Dave Keller, director of Housing Services and Facilities. “We’ve reached the stage of converting all the designed rooms that could have capacity added to them and at that point we had to turn to the floor lounges […] to convert them into sleeping rooms.[…] It’s gotten tight, the residential facilities are at capacity.”
Exacerbating this already fragile housing situation at UCSC is UC Office of the President’s (UCOP) and Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate to enroll 10,000 more students in the UC system in the next three years. In fall 2016 UCSC enrolled over 800 more students than fall 2015, with more increases to come.
New housing construction is not predicted to be available until 2020, resulting in a campuswide housing shortage. Campus staff are now forced to prioritize which students receive necessary accommodations. Increasing enrollment and demand for empty beds pose problems for accommodating living situations of DRC students and students protected under Title IX.
Disability Resource Center accommodations
DRC director Rick Gubash encounters many obstacles accommodating students with disabilities in the midst of a housing crunch. A vocal advocate for a universal design approach to housing, Gubash finds the DRC having to do reactionary work instead of proactive work to accommodate incoming students.
“We design environments for the average person, but there is no average person,” Gubash said. “We have this balance between what would be ideal and what we can actually do. […] Universal design would be where the housing works for anyone.”
To accommodate a student, the DRC determines their eligibility for resources by examining their individual case and recommends housing accommodations to the Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES) office.
“If you had three roommates, and you could function in that three-roommate unit, then all of a sudden now that same space has four roommates, that might just push someone to the edge,” Gubash said. “[…] Adding more people to the mix and increasing the number of people in a room actually creates more barriers for someone who might otherwise be able to manage.”
Housing accommodations are largely dependent on a student’s housing guarantee, according to Dave Keller, director of Housing Services and Facilities. Incoming freshmen are guaranteed two years of on-campus housing, provided they do not receive Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) or transfer student status.
If a DRC student no longer has guaranteed housing, they’re prioritized at the top of the housing waitlist and placed in on-campus housing, space permitted. However, their options for accommodations are more limited, Keller said.
Gubash hopes to implement the universal design model and create more inclusive spaces in new housing developments such as Student Housing West.
“That housing can’t be built fast enough. […] The challenge is unless you’re personally impacted by it, unless you have a sibling with a disability, a parent with a disability, unless you have a disability yourself, these things don’t become important until you’re impacted by it,” Gubash said.
title ix Emergency Housing
Students who report sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence and request to be transferred to a different campus housing location have the legal right to be moved under Title IX. While students are guaranteed relocation under Title IX, students cannot be guaranteed immediate on-campus relocation with so few extra beds. It’s not uncommon for the university to move a student to a hotel immediately after a request for relocation is made. Once a room is made available on campus, the student is more permanently relocated there.
“It’s really about whether or not the person who’s making the request is under some sort of imminent physical threat, because the rooms are so limited,” said interim Title IX officer Cherie Scricca.
This means if a student is emotionally but not physically at risk after being sexually harassed or assaulted, they aren’t prioritized for campus emergency housing.
There is currently no official relocation process at UCSC due to the sporadic nature of emergency housing requests, Dave Keller said.
“My ideal would be if we had substantially more housing capacity to keep some rooms offline and available for this kind of thing but in the current housing environment, that’s just not practical,” Keller said.
Once a student reports to the Title IX Office requesting a housing relocation, they’re usually put in contact with housing services at their college. CHES identifies available rooms on campus by coordinating with the residential colleges.
“If there’s no available rooms at the university, then we would work with our community partners to see if there’s any available housing space within the Santa Cruz community itself,” Scricca said.
To date, the UCSC Title IX Office has successfully relocated each student who requests a housing change, but not without complication and inconvenience.
Availability of emergency housing is affecting the relocation process of students who are protected under Title IX.
“We’re dealing, essentially, with a resource problem,” Scricca said.