Article: UC Santa Barbara’s Callous Treatment of their Resident Assistants
Have you seen the recent calls of #GiveUsEmpathy about our local UCSB Resident Assistants?
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Due to recent spiking of COVID-19 cases in Isla Vista and inadequate planning and testing from UC Santa Barbara, the contracts of over 130 Resident Assistants have been terminated, a mere two weeks before their September 19 starting date with no prior warning of termination communicated over the summer. This decision came as a shock to many RAs and community members.
Many RAs are financially dependent on the university housing provided in their contracts. The unexpected contract termination has left 65 percent of RAs facing financial insecurity and countless houseless. This decision came as much of a surprise because RAs were filling out hiring paperwork right up until the notice of termination, Sept. 2, and had no hint that they would be left without housing.
With some students having move-in dates of Sept. 1, this created a situation where some students’ contracts were terminated just days before or even the day after their move-in date, allowing for no planning to be made to combat this decision. One RA said, “I remember I had my identity verification interview not long before the email came out and was shocked when they canceled the contracts so abruptly.”
This especially poses a problem for RAs who cannot return home, have no home to return to, or are international and in the United States on Visas. The university's decision has forced many students into risky and in some circumstances, life endangering situations. Some RAs are immunocompromised and will be forced to live in Isla Vista where they will be much more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 due to lack of university safety guidelines.
Other RAs cannot return home because they need to work to keep themselves financially afloat during a pandemic, or have family members back home that are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, those who rely on the EBT food program are no longer able to get these benefits as their EBT cards were cancelled when they signed up for the RA meal plan.
UC Santa Barbara’s email stated that there would be an exception for special housing given to those in “special circumstances.” RAs were given this offer, but only had 48 hours to decide whether they wanted to apply for housing from the university. This new deal would lock them into new contracts that would require them to pay rent for the very same housing that they had been planning for months would be free.
The uncertainty of winter quarter and whether or not their jobs will be reinstated further complicates the housing situation for RAs. If a RA found housing in Isla Vista now, they would likely need to sign a year long contract with one of Isla Vista’s many egregious leasing companies. In the event that the university decides to reinstate RAs and return their free housing, RAs who signed leases would be forced to continue paying rent for their IV Housing, or find a subleaser.
RAs play an integral, but often under appreciated role at universities. They assume an essential role in helping first-year students transition to university life, serving as first responders to resident crises and organizing events to facilitate a sense of community. While working an average of 35 hours a week, certain residence hall RAs are only paid a $40-$50 stipend every two weeks.
RAs are currently rallying public support using the power of social media. As they cannot unionize due to their contracts, spreading public awareness of their cause is paramount to holding the UCSB Administration accountable and achieving change. There is currently a Change.org petition demanding that the UCSB administration reinstate RA contracts with over 900 signatures. Additionally, an Instagram and Twitter page, @ucsbracoaltion, has been created to spread awareness of RA concerns and demands towards UCSB admin.
The RA Coalition Instagram currently lists short term demands that the university provide their housing and provide a stipend for those who cannot return to the position. For the future, RAs demand that the university be transparent with information and create a long term plan that addresses RAs in order to prevent this situation from occurring again.