Janna Haider is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the History
Department here at UCSB, researching South Asian immigrants to the
United States in the early 20th century. When COLA started, she was in
her first year of the Ph.D. program and became one of the people who
would report back to the History department about updates regarding
COLA after general body meetings.
So hello, my name is Danyela Nayelli Ornelas. I am part of the Living History Project and I’m currently with Janna Haider to interview her about her connection to COLA. All right. So thank you so much for joining me. I really do appreciate it.
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, thank you. What year were you and what major were you studying when you first joined COLA?
It was my first year of the PhD program in history here. Yeah, I was a small baby. Yeah. So I was very new to campus when it started.
Wow. Were you nervous like it was your first year in your PhD program? Were you nervous to just join like a huge organization that was about ensuring that TAs get the appropriate pay to live in Santa Barbara, essentially?
No. I mean, I was nervous because it was you know, it was a major action. But before I started a Ph.D. at Santa Barbara, I did a master’s at the University of Washington in Seattle. And while I was there, the TAs organized under a different UAW local went on strike. And that was the movement that I was part of. And I also like do have a background in like community organizing. I’ve been in a lot of community organizing spaces before coming here, so it was different but not new, I think was kind of the way that I felt about it.
Yes. You had at least had some background where you felt somewhat prepared, but I understand that you felt somewhat nervous because you just kind of like lunge yourself into this organization when you first started your Ph.D. program, which I imagine
has been wonderful but also crazy at the same time.
Very, very that. Yeah.
So who introduced you to COLA?
At the time I was a member of the Asian and Pacific Islander Grad Student Alliance and now like now three years later, I’m the president of API GSA. But, but at the time I was a member and at the time Vice President Naomi, and I’m going to leave her last name out, she was in the same department as one of the people who was most central to organizing COLA on this campus. And Naomi brought that organizer to one of our general body meetings to explain to us what was going on, because we didn’t know. We didn’t know what was going on. This was before the firings at Santa Cruz. I don’t remember exactly how long before, but this person who, based on their identity categories, was not a member of the Pacific Islanders Grad Student Alliance, came and talked to us a little bit about what was going on and then left. And then as an organization still in our meeting space, we kind of closed the door and try to figure out just like what the hell is going on.
And there was a moment that I really remember. This was before the strike vote was called also because there was a moment where somebody floated the possibility like, oh, are we going to go on strike? And then Naomi said, “oh, we’re not there yet.” And then Dana, who at the time was our president, said, “you say that we’re not there yet, but this morning there wasn’t a picket at Storke Tower, and now there’s a picket at Storke Tower. So like, we don’t know how quickly this is moving.” That was kind of like my first understanding of what was going on. And after that is when I started going to organizing meetings.
Okay. You did mention that you were a part of a few organizations even back in Washington. COLA was not your first experience in this situation. So I wanted to ask what caused you to join the organization?
I was poor and I wanted a raise.
Oh, I hear that.
Like, that was kind of it. And it’s like. It wasn’t my first community organizing thing, so I felt like I kind of knew what to do and what the space would be like. So, yeah. Yeah.
Okay. And what was your role?
I wasn’t in what I would call, like, a leadership position, I guess. But I did kind of become in a leadership position in my own department, which is history. It was me and two other women
of color who were the most central to the organizing in our department after a while. It was a lot of going to general assemblies and then reporting back to the department for a while.
Yeah. So basically you and two other people who remain anonymous were essentially like the speaking heads for COLA for the history department.
Mm hmm. Yeah.
And what was that like? Was the department excited for this organization? Were they a little nervous?
No. This is a department that, like, specifically knows a lot about labor history. Like most of the UAW-2865 head stewards in the past few years have been out of the history department. At some point, there were conversations like “you got to get your department strike ready.” They’re here, like, tell us what to do next sort of thing. Like this was a department that was very ready, ready to go, like from the jump.
Oh, that’s phenomenal to hear, especially as a history major myself. I respect that a lot. Thank you. And did you participate in all the protests? I know you mentioned that they began a few pickets here and there. So I imagine you were in at the very, very beginning. But did you participate in the other events going on?
Yeah, it was. So not all of my memories of the COLA movement are necessarily positive because there were a lot of really white spaces where whiteness kind of became the default action and the first kind of moment that we as a department came to understand that that was what was about to happen was the night that the strike vote was called, we were all in this conference room in the history department, zooming in to the General Assembly. That was happening, I believe, in the GSA lounge when the vote was taken and as a department. And so the way the ballot was set up was there were three options of actions to take. Option one was to immediately suspend classes, go on a wildcat strike, do a full work stoppage and option two was just a grade strike. To continue working through the end of the quarter but promise not to submit grades, and then option three was to do nothing. As a department, we had come together because we knew that those were going to be the options on the ballot. So as a department, we had all agreed and we are the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, so we have a high concentration of graduate students. We had agreed that we were going to rank grade strike first, work stoppage second, and doing nothing third. And so we all got out our little phones and voted on the little Google form.
So what happened was that the grade strike was by far the most popular option, and then the people in the General Assembly space called a full strike anyway. And it was this very, like, this is illegal. Like, we are in breach of our contract right now. And also because it was an illegal strike international students who participated could be subject to deportation. Undocumented students who participated could be subject to deportation. Any of us could be fired at any time, including parents with young children, of which we have a couple in our department. And it was this moment of like, wait, that’s literally not what the numbers are telling you to do, and you’re doing it anyway. And it turned out to be the first in a series
of situations in which white people would do the things that they felt safe doing, which often was not the thing that anybody else would feel safe doing. So it wasn’t this moment of a victory. It was this moment of dread. Like what have we gotten ourselves into? Sort of thing. So I wasn’t TAing that year because it was my first year, but I was doing a supplemental readership for a professor who at the time was my advisor and I was doing the grading for this upper-division class. It was me and another grad student doing all the grading for this upper-division class– the professor wasn’t doing any of the gradings and we said that we were going to grade strike.
We didn’t have the ability to cancel class as graders, but we were out at the picket a lot and I don’t think any history TAs canceled sections except for on very specific days like the day of the march. But I don’t think anyone did a full work stoppage because it wasn’t what we had voted for. It wasn’t what the majority had voted for. And then a bunch of people from the history department kept going to these organizing meetings and being like, for the love of God, what is the plan? And the response that we would get from mostly white people was the plan is to get a COLA by spring quarter. It was winter quarter at the time. And it’s like that is not a plan. That is a goal. It’s not a plan. And it became very, very frustrating. It became exhausting. To those of us who know a thing or two about labor history, like in this department, on this floor, we knew that this was not going to work. But like, as I said in several meetings at the time, my mother didn’t raise a bitch. And if this is what we’re doing, then it’s what we’re doing. And we got to figure out a way to make it work.
Yeah. That must have been completely frustrating. I can’t imagine what the department was thinking at the time, especially when you guys filled out a Google form that said “We’re going to go do this.” And then everyone was like, “No, that’s a good plan. But no…” I remember I was a freshman when this occurred, so I remember strikes, and pickets were the most vocal around the latter half of fall quarter going into winter. As you said, that’s when the grade strike was like somewhat in the works because I remember a few classes that had TAs withholding grades. I can’t necessarily remember if my own TAs were withholding grades, but I would like to say maybe a few professors were in solidarity with you guys. And while they didn’t necessarily take away grades, they did provide forms saying like, please be educated on what they’re doing. It’s very important.
Yeah. Yeah. Most of our faculty in this department, were actually very cool about it because a lot of these faculty or labor historians, where it became difficult was the two largest cohorts in the history department ever are the 17 series of the US History Series and then the 2 series, which is the World History Series. That winter quarter both of the professors of 17B and then whatever 2 class was running really, really wanted all of their TAs to be on the same page and in the 17B TA cohort there was one in particular who really wasn’t, and this guy was the fucking worst. He’s a former cop, he’s former military. He was just is a dick in general, and he was the holdout– like he was the one who didn’t want to go on strike. So it became a very tense situation in that space because the faculty didn’t know what to do and because we didn’t know what to do in a lot of ways. And so it became after a while, it started to feel like we were putting on a really good front like that the strike was going to be successful, that we were going to get our COLA or whatever, whatever. But like all of that was like we were faking all of that. Like, that’s not how anybody felt internally.
Wow. That’s really interesting to hear. I always imagine COLA to be more organized from what I understood from my previous interviews. There was some tension, but I had no idea it ran that deeply.
Yeah. So the last General Assembly meeting that we had before the pandemic was in the San Clemente Hall grad student living community center. So there’s a clause in the TA contract and this is very standard in all labor contracts that says the management of the university cannot negotiate with anybody but the union, and the union cannot negotiate with anybody other than management. And this is very, very common in union negotiated contracts. It’s very common language, but the thing is, since this was a wildcat strike, the union was not involved. The union would be subject to lawsuits by the university if the union got involved. And in fact, there were a couple of lawsuits. The school administration
wanted to deal with somebody, like they just wanted to deal with somebody. So who they wound up dealing with was grad students in various elected positions on campus, like the GSA president was involved, like stuff like that. So then what happened was that those grad student in those elected positions. If the agenda of this meeting had been set up differently, none of what happened next would have happened.
The first question that they asked the body to consider was, do you approve of us as the people that the campus level administration wants to deal with. Do you approve of us to go deal with them? And then the second question was, what do you think we should talk about with them? And if they had reversed those none of this would have happened because it was the first item. “Do you approve” got voted down because nobody knew what they were going to say once they were in there because of the way the meeting was organized. So it got voted down. And then after that, the GSA president at the time, Cierra Sorin, took everything very, very personally. She just ended the meeting in a fit of tears, so we didn’t even get to the next stage. My goodness. Yeah. And that was like fucking 2 hours. It was, it was exhausting.
And then. So, like, we didn’t even get to “what do we even say to administration?” And by then it very much felt for those of us in the history department, that we were better organized than whatever central COLA leadership there was at the time because
this department will not let you graduate with a PhD unless you know how a goddamn union works. It’s just a thing that happens to everybody. I study immigration law, and it’s still a thing that I have to know about because everybody teaches to it. So we had a couple of department level meetings which were like, okay, well, if the University of California Office of the President, with whom we actually have our contracts, is not going to negotiate with us and the campus is not empowered to give us raises, then what are we asking for? As a department we came to the decision that the thing that we have the most power to push for and the thing that the campus level administration has the most power to grant is that they expand graduate student housing.
Right now the deal with San Clemente is that rent is capped at way lower than market value, but the tradeoff is they kick you out after two years. That’s for San Clemente. For family student housing it’s different. They get way longer leases because the University of California being responsible for evicting grad students and their young children is not a good look. But single grad students, whatever, evict them, who cares? So the thing that we were going to ask for was more San Clemente style housing. We had just started organizing other departments to make that ask with us when the statewide stay at home order was issued. And I’ve never been part of a wildcat strike in a global pandemic before. I don’t think anybody had. So there was a solid two weeks where nobody knew what was happening. And also like I think it was week nine when the stay at home order was issued. It was week nine or ten of winter quarter.
It was. From what I remember, it happened in spring. It was like, you know, when they were giving ordinances saying like, oh, we’re going to have an extra two weeks for spring break while we figure out what’s happening.
Yeah. From what I can remember, the stay at home order was issued while classes were still in session, but like, barely. While they were still in session, winter quarter. And so we were one of the last U.C. campuses to shut down. I think Berkeley shut down first because the Bay Area got hit hard really early by COVID and then LA. So we could kind of see other campuses shutting down. We knew it was coming. So the history department came together and we were like we can’t grade strike if there’s a global pandemic. This is not a thing that like these kids like– they might die. Their parents might die, like we might die, like we can’t. This is not the circumstances under which we can withhold grades ethically. We have an obligation to our students. So as a department, we came together. We wrote two statements. One was a public facing statement that we were going to issue to the rest of COLA, and the other was a template letter that every TA was going to send to their students. It was all the same language. It was very unified. And then over the next couple of days before the statewide order hit, we as a department, we got so much shit from other departments. Like we got called scabs. We got called strikebreakers. And it’s like. Nobody knows what the ethical thing to do is under a global pandemic. We had never been in one before. But the ethical thing did not seem to be to continue to give the undergrads a climate of uncertainty. Like that seemed like the wrong thing to do.
Now your hands are basically tied. It’s unprecedented. Like we’ve never, as you said, we never experienced this global pandemic.
Yeah. And then we know that in other departments, the faculty turn to the grad students. Like, “History is like releasing grades– What’s wrong with you?” sort of thing. Which we weren’t proud of and we didn’t do it to put pressure on other departments. But that’s what happened anyway, because again, we’re the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts. And I think by the end of winter quarter, maybe 50 TAs across campus withheld grades. So then there was spring break into spring quarter. Just a lot of a lot of Zoom meetings, the possibilities of a digital picket. This is very naive, but I do remember that the idea was floated that when we reopen in-person in fall quarter, we would just open the quarter with a campus-wide shutdown. Then we did the entire next year on Zoom, so that didn’t happen. It was like being on a train and the train is going super fast, but the track is being laid just barely in front of the train. Like you don’t know where you’re going until you get there sort. I don’t know if this is similar to other stories that you’ve heard about COLA, but the way that I remember it is that it was deeply chaotic and deeply racist.
Oh, I did not hear that whatsoever. Yeah, I’m completely interested. One of my questions was how would you describe COLA?
There were some really uplifting and powerful moments. I’m not going to say that it wasn’t. I’m a historian. So in the 2018 round of contract negotiations for UAW 2865. The
bargaining team… did a lot of things wrong. So our contract always expires June 30th, which means that the timing is always awkward because bargaining has to open by March 1st. Because the idea is that you reach a contract before the contract expires so you can just renew the contract. So that didn’t happen. They didn’t reach an agreement by June 30th. No one expected them to. And then they went into summer, which is always difficult from an organizing perspective. Like that summer between expiration and coming back with no contract because no one’s there. Buying is very low. And what happened was during that summer, the bargaining team traded away a provision that would have severely cut the funding for UCPD in exchange for truly the most bitch ass bullshit raise package. It was a 3% rate, like we got a 3% raise every year. Like, fuck you. That’s not cost of inflation. I wasn’t there at the time. This was a year before I got there, but they made that deal during the summer when no one was there to see it happen. It was not a transparent process. So what happens is that the two bargaining teams, management and labor reached what’s called a tentative agreement on the contract. And then the contract goes out to the members and the workers vote on it.
The UAW bylaws say that 51% of workers can approve a contract. The problem is that the UAW bylaws were written imagining… UAW stands for United Auto Workers. That’s who we’re unionized under. So the bylaws were written imagining like one factory as a
local. So all of the workers are talking to each other. They’re all very much on the same page. So achieving 51% is not not hard to do. 51% in either direction, either to approve or to fail a contract. All nine undergraduate serving campuses at the University of California are under the same local, which means that 51% of 19,000 people who live in different places and experience different material circumstances. A 3% raise goes further in Merced than it does in LA. Like those are the people who have to approve a contract. And what happened was that Santa Cruz, which has one of the highest cost of living areas, almost nobody on that campus voted in favor of that contract because a 3% raise would do nothing to help them keep their housing, but the contract passed with a 51% majority. Actually, it passed 52 to 48, which is not good. This is the back story since everyone at Santa Cruz was really disenfranchised with a 2018 contract. That’s why they were the first campus to go on wildcat strike because they were the ones who needed a raise the most. It started out with systemic inequity across U.S. campuses, and that, too, was how it ended.
You did mention there were some significant events that happened, some influential experiences that you faced. Would you mind talking about them, like the most significant that you that you found in COLA despite it being rather chaotic.
The 1,000 person march was very cool to be a part of and it was very cool to see. A lot of our faculty were out there with us, which was really great. I saw a couple of my undergrad students out there. And it was really meaningful. But even then, the cracks were starting to show because the march made its way towards Henley Gate. And there were cops. I remember at the time, I was walking next to one of my friends who was an international student, and he immediately saw the cops and he was like, I need to leave because if I’m arrested, I will be deported. I don’t know that the march organizers had thought of international and undocumented students, both the kind of risk that they would be at and like U.S. Citizens who were parents. We don’t know if they had been told that there were going to be cops, that there was a risk of arrest and they might not have had any plans for child care or the ability to afford child care, which is why we were on goddamn strike. And again, I had been in spaces like that before. So there very much was like me being like, “Hello, white friends, you need to stand in between us and these cops like now.” And they did it. Like, this is not a department of assholes, but while it was a very meaningful moment, it also wasn’t perfect.
Yeah. I remember. I went to a few strikes because I actually had a friend who was part of COLA. I remember joining in that march. So you did mention your undergraduates and how proud you were. Would you mind talking about the undergraduate support? How important was it for COLA to have undergraduate support?
Very much so because a lot of the rhetoric that the university was pushing at us was, how can you do this to the undergrads? Like, how can you make the undergrads feel so unsafe? How can you punish the undergrads? Whatever, whatever. So it was very cool to see like a lot of the undergrads be like “Fuck you I think that they should get a raise and I don’t want my grades actually.” And I just think this happens a lot in higher education labor organizing. The undergrads get infantilized in a lot of ways as if you’re not adults with brains. And also just like the purpose of strikes is to be disruptive. That’s what they’re for. Like, that’s the point.
So just an extra perk for undergraduates to be a little bit more disruptive.
But I assure you, as an undergraduate, as a history major, I feel strongly that I can speak for all the undergraduates that we were in full support of COLA. We understand the importance and it just insulting to hear that that is what the university said. You guys had a reasonable list of demands and very little was met.
And it’s weird now because, like, as a person on the 2865 bargaining team, we’re staring down contract expiration. We’ve got six more weeks under the current contract and it is… It is time to talk about strike readiness and there’s a lot of people who feel like what they were doing and what they wanted to do got cut short before it could reach its full potential. But there’s also a lot of people who genuinely feel deeply, deeply hurt by the way COLA was organized. Yesterday I was talking to a grad rep from a department that I’m trying to organize a town hall with so we can talk about strike readiness and she was like nobody told us that the wildcat strike was illegal because the department in question has a high percentage of international students. Like nobody told us that this was illegal. And they got this very scary letter from the graduate division basically being like, hey, you’re all subject to deportation, by the way, if you do this. So that department, given its demographics, like folded immediately, like stop participating, which was fair. And the way that like white people in central organizing spaces gave them shit was like horrifying to hear about. And so then like in this conversation that I had with this person, I had to be like, okay, so that’s why that was illegal and this wouldn’t be. Workers would be protected if we strike under a contract vote– like that’s very different. But like people were terrorized by the administration and they were guilted over feeling that terror by a lot of white organizers in the COLA space, many of whom then got their asses elected to UAW leadership positions. So now there’s a decent chunk of people who don’t trust the union.
This sounds very frustrating and terrible. The whole point of being a representative is ensuring that you’re the voice for all people. You’re listening intently.
Yeah, I ran for this bargaining team position very much out of spite, and then I got it out of spite. I’m seeing my role here to make sure things are done differently this time, because we have a lot of people who are very justifiably upset, but we also have had a lot of leadership turnover in the last two years. And it’s like, what can we do better now?
So yeah. Thank you so much for that. I imagine it’s not an easy job whatsoever.
It’s not. My sentiment is a minority one on this campus, but it’s not a minority sentiment on the bargaining team overall. The bargaining team is comprised of 18 people because it’s two reps from every undergrad serving campus. It’s a very commonly felt sentiment within the group of people that are actually writing the new contract.
And you mentioned there may be a town hall meeting somewhat soon to talk about strike readiness. Do you feel that COLA will finally rise up once again? Or at least will there be some awareness of this organization?
Yeah, I do. Like the material conditions are worse. Cost of living is worse. We went through a whole pandemic with no increase to our health care. Like, in fact, the dental clinic is being shut down as of June 30th.
I remember that. Like the vision care.
Yeah. And so stuff like that is worse now. And I do think that. Honestly a response that we’ve been getting a lot because we’ve done some like softball events as a union this year, like an April Fools Day party to congratulate the chancellors on their raises and like they’re very poorly attended events, honestly. And the response that we’re getting from people is like, “Call me when you go on strike.” Like, “We’re ready. Just let us know.” So I think yeah, I think it’s coming back and hopefully we can do it better this time.
I hope so too. I almost forgot about the Chancellors’ raise.
Yeah, it wasn’t a uniform raise. Like they all got different amounts again. I don’t know if he got the biggest one, like the biggest one in dollars or the biggest one in percent. But it was one of them. He got a 23% raise. Yeah. So he’s over half a million dollars now.
Oh, goodness. That is. I don’t know how to feel about that.
Oh, my goodness. And speaking of Chancellor Yang, he is a relatively– from what I’ve seen as an undergraduate– a relatively silent person. He likes to do things in private. So how do you feel about his silence? And also the school’s silence to COLA in a public
setting because there’s no messages, no emails, none. Nothing to inform people.
It’s kind of not worth getting upset over. Like we know who this man is. He’s been in that job for, like, 30 years, like, literally longer than I’ve been alive. There’s a pretty common understanding that the person who actually has power on this campus is David Marshall, the executive vice chancellor, but also our job is not to convince them of anything. Our job is to make their lives so uncomfortable that they have to change their behavior. That’s a tactical thing. You know, like, the only way to make your lives uncomfortable is to get as many grad students as possible to understand that there is collective power to be had. And when that collective power is organized well and deployed well, strikes work. There’s a reason that the United States government has spent the last 80 years trying to strip labor unions of of their rights and of their power. It’s because they work. As long as we can remind people of that, I think we’ll be okay.
So how did you feel about the the other events going on? You said the 1,000 person march was was your most significant to you. How did you feel about say the Ortega
All Smiles No Swipes event.
That was great. Give people free food, that should absolutely happen. It’s also an indicator that like the reason that union strikes work where wildcat strikes don’t in a lot of ways is that unions sympathy strike with each other. So like the union that protects janitorial and kitchen and other sectors, that union on this campus is AFSCME. So AFSCME let All
Smiles, No Swipes happen because AFSCME was willing to support the wildcat strike because they were they were the ones who run that and other unions, like other workers, are only legally protected in doing those sympathy actions if the striking parties are
union organized. Sympathy strikes are legal. Anything else is just not doing your job. So like. The UAW absolutely has its problems, but also we’re all safer when we strike under union purview.
Also for in terms of faculty, I understand professors played a role. Would you say you
guys get any support from faculty?
At the beginning. And then when it became clear that we didn’t really know what to tell them because we didn’t really know what we were doing, that support kind of started waning. I said earlier that history grad students would show up places and be like, “What is the plan?” And the answer would be, “the plan is to get a COLA”. And it’s like, I can’t take that back to my professor whose support I’m asking for like. But we, in this department in particular, we had a very young member of faculty who I won’t name– He was the most junior faculty in the 2020 school year. He had been a labor organizer in his own graduate student union. So he very much was like this is the thing that you could try doing, and then he would like leave the room. So the expanded grad student housing thing was actually his idea.
Oh, that’s interesting. So I want to ask you about what you would change about COLA.
Anything in particular that you felt didn’t work as efficiently?
I would have loved to see on the Santa Barbara campus the sort of efficiency that the Santa Cruz grad students had. Like every single thing that happened at Santa Cruz was coordinated and planned ahead of time and had broad reaching consensus. Like,
I would have loved that. And that’s what we’re trying to do now. Like, that’s the goal.
So yeah, would you say there was just too much conflict to really create a sense of unity in COLA?
Yeah. And I think it’s and this is always a thing in social movements like. Activism spaces are not immune from social power dynamics that exist in the society that creates them. It’s why you see so much like misogyny in the Black Panthers. This is just a thing that happens. White people in COLA spaces didn’t want to take criticism, from my recollection. They didn’t want to understand why some of the actions they were taking were more dangerous
for some people than others. And that is definitely something we’re going to have to deal with this time around.
Would you say like you guys are hopefully going to focus more on ensuring the safety for international students?
Yeah, that is a thing that I have made my problem. Like I told you, I ran for the bargaining team out of spite. That’s one of the things that I’m that I’m going to insist on. And it honestly shouldn’t be that hard because there’s a lot of members of the bargaining team who are themselves international students.
Yeah, I can’t imagine how how frightening it was for them to want to fight for what’s right, But also there’s this looming fear of I could literally be kicked out right now.
Yeah. And that’s like, it’s one thing for it to be the international students who are safe to say “I’m not a US citizen.”The undocumented grad students is a whole different thing because they can’t even say that. They’re feeling vulnerable.
Yeah. I’m glad for when COLA does rise up again. Like you at least know what didn’t work last time. What you can focus more on now are your strengths because overall support from all graduate students is ideal, especially for those who, as you said, may not feel comfortable to mention their statuses.
Yeah. So having having a movement with varying levels of participation is not a thing that really existed during COLA, but we’re going to build out this time. So help me God.
Wonderful. I hope so too, goodness. I hope so, too. Especially now, considering you’re still in your PhD program, you’ve seen there’s no real change despite all this work you’ve put in.
That must be incredibly frustrating.
I mean, onto the next, you know, that’s all there is.
So I wanted to ask someone who is part of COLA, how do you feel about the current housing crisis going on in UCSB and Isla Vista?
Bad. I just. It sucks because this cohort was touted as the most diverse class to ever be accepted to the University of California. Two things: by accepting a class of that size without building up the housing infrastructure, the university has created a narrative that, by seeking diversity, it’s disenfranchising people for housing. And the fact that that’s happening on the backs of students of color is terrible. The other thing is that the increased student body size led to an increase in funding and also membership for the UCPD when it’s a class with more people of color than we’ve ever had before. Like. Bad. And there just
doesn’t seem to be a plan to build more housing that’s, like, fit for human habitation. Like, there’s been no ground broken anywhere. There’s been no negotiation with the like four landlords that control everything in Isla Vista. There’s no foresight. When Alameda County sued U.C. Berkeley, a lot of us here were like “do us next.” Like, that would be super funny. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t imagine it’s not in the works somewhere. But like this is unsustainable and it’s happening specifically on the backs of like brown kids, which is terrible.
Yeah it is. I imagine considering COLA was all about cost of living, it must seem extraordinarily frustrating that… Here we are in a housing crisis. Nothing is being done. Rent is higher.
Yeah, my rent is 43% of my income.
Oh, my gosh. Thank you for sharing that with me. So just one last question. Any final words or any topics you would like to say regarding COLA or to the university itself?
Not really anything to the university because I mean, again, like labor organizer, one of the initial founders of the UAW said that the point of labor organizing is forcing management to say yes when they want to say no, and they will not be persuaded into that. So the goal is not to persuade them. The goal is to make them uncomfortable. And we’re coming.
Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you for continuing to speak out and help people listen to the people of color, especially for those who are undocumented and who are international students.
Thank you. I’m trying.
Interviewed by: Danyela Ornelas