California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of SB 118, overriding the court’s decision to cap UC Berkeley’s enrollment this coming school year, has amassed mixed reactions from the larger campus community.
As approved by both the state Assembly and Senate, the bill allows the campus an 18-month period to address the environmental concerns raised by the California Environmental Quality Act before any further decisions are made about enrollment numbers. Although Chancellor Christ has thanked California’s legislators for this bill, not every student shares in this attitude.
“When resources are already scarce, where is the thought process behind this?” asked campus sophomore Jasmine Lozano. “I don’t want to see future students struggling constantly to access the already limited resources the university provides. It’s already hard to do so with the population now.”
Despite campus’s claim that it is engaging in “a comprehensive effort” to address the housing crisis by doubling the number of beds, Phil Bokovoy, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods president, continues to share Lozano’s concerns, citing that campus does not have a clean record of living up to its promises.
Students also raised concerns about campus’s role in the gentrification of the city and the increasing displacement of residents and communities that surround campus. Lozano noted that Berkeley is a college town second and it is students’ “civic duty” to find solutions to the aforementioned issues.
“Students don’t face the repercussions of gentrification beyond their four years,” said campus junior Diana Choi. “People are being forced out of their homes and communities that they’ve been in for generations.”
Others, like campus sophomore Cecilia Lunaparra and senior Jacob Dadmun, agree that campus plays an undeniable role in Berkeley’s housing crisis, but don’t see why the incoming students qualified to attend campus should be held accountable for it.
Lunaparra specifically critiqued the original lawsuit by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods to have been done in “bad faith” and made to protect long-term homeowners who are usually wealthy and white rather than the low-income residents and students of color they claim to want to protect.
Dadmun also pointed out that campus is too reliant on tuition and wealthy donors for funding. Therefore, an increase in enrollment is necessary to build more housing. Although he sees the bill as a “good move,” he hopes to see more people rethink the funding structure of the university and “make Berkeley a truly public school again.”
With campus welcoming thousands of new students in the fall, political science professor Sean Gailmard chose to see this as an opportunity for any one of them to “make the world a better place.”
“The more smart and qualified people that get access to this great resource, the better,” Gailmard said in an email.