Yesterday’s column outlined the university’s belief that adding to enrollment could increase revenue by between $38 and $50 million a year to help the flagging university, struggling to find funding coming out of the Great Recession. The university, we felt, could be criticized for failing to plan for the needed housing.
What becomes clear when we pour through coverage from September 2011 – two months before the Pepper Spray incident – housing was not anticipated to be a problem at all.
The reaction to her speech in which Ms. Katehi would outline a future that included new “innovation hubs” at the university, that would partner with companies in the private sector creating new ventures which would expand job opportunities in Davis and other communities, was overwhelmingly positive.
Don Saylor, a Yolo County Supervisor, said, “I appreciate (Katehi’s) comment ‘Enough is enough,’ and her statement that the university is taking its future in its own hands. I applaud the tone that was set today … and I pledge ongoing support from Yolo County.”
Michael Bisch, then a co-president of the DDBA (Davis Downtown Business Association), called the chancellor’s speech “right on the mark.
“In times of economic uncertainty, you have two choices,” Mr. Bisch said. “You can retract and operate out of fear. Or you can gather your resources and move forward. The course she has set is the right way to go.”
But what catches your eye in retrospect were the comments by then-Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson. She said that she believed the addition of 5000 new students and 300 faculty members would have a positive impact on the university and the community.
“In the last few years, we have seen an increased vacancy rate for housing within the city, it has been a real hit,” Ms. Swanson said. “As the economy has fallen, some people have had to choose to leave school. With diminishing family resources and grant resources, where you used to see two people in a two-bedroom apartment, now you see four people.”
Ms. Swanson believed that the then higher than usual vacancy rates for student rentals, combined with on-campus housing that was still being promised at West Village, would allow for enough room for additional students.
Just over two months later – the campus exploded with protests after student protesters were pepper sprayed.
But it is important to remember what those protests were about – in 2009, the UC Board of Regents approved a massive 32 percent tuition hike for 2009-10. A week after the chancellor’s September 2011 speech, the occupy movement began in New York with protesters protesting the growing gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of the population.
The students at the time saw huge tuition increases, mandatory furloughs and firing of lower-tiered workers, as well as highly publicized raises for the highest paid administrators in the system.
The state budget meant that UC Davis was subjected to a 40 percent cut in its general funding and a $130 million deficit in 2011.
All of this forms a backdrop to the 2020 Initiative which sought a way to avoid devastating continuations of tuition increases.
The concern at that time was not over-enrollment and scarcity of housing, but rather declining enrollment.
Housing clearly wasn’t the primary concern. In addition to the belief that enrollment overall was not a problem, there was also belief that the university planned to add 2800 or so beds at West Village and another 1200 beds at Tercero Phase 3, both of which were scheduled to open in 2014.
Ms. Katehi at the press conference acknowledged that “we will need to build more” to accommodate the 5,000 new students she planned to bring in during the next five years, “but not as much as you would think.”
The comments by the ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat at the time sum up the student view. He called her plan “a positive thing.
“It means we’re growing,” he said. “I understand why the chancellor is doing it. Adding students and faculty will make us a very competitive university.”
He was more concerned that the future would be more uncertain “if UCD has to keep relying on the state for funding that might be cut.”
While all of this was less than six years ago, it illustrates how quickly the world can change. The year 2011 was in the middle of a long period of time, by Davis standards, where land use issues took the backstage to financing issues.
In less than six years we have gone from a situation where housing issues seemed manageable to the university, and community leaders and student leaders alike were more concerned with funding than homes, to now in 2017 where we see that the landscape shifted very dramatically – to the point where housing is a huge crisis, both off-campus and on-campus.
The vacancy rate in recent years has plunged. Students are unable to find housing. And the systems are set up such that neither the university nor the city are equipped to respond to these crises – which neither foresaw quickly enough in 2011.
Food for thought, anyway.
—David M. Greenwald reporting