After another round of public comment two weeks ago, Molly Mermin of College Democrats pushed back on Monday—posting on Twitter a 90-second montage of public comments from the recent discussion.
She tweeted, “This is the kind of vitriolic anti-student rhetoric you hear when you try to get more housing built in Davis. Students are part of Davis too, and we desperately need more housing, but instead of support for the most vulnerable members of our community, we get this.”
This is the kind of vitriolic anti-student rhetoric you hear when you try to get more housing built in Davis. Students are part of Davis too, and we desperately need more housing, but instead of support for the most vulnerable members of our community, we get this. Take a listen. pic.twitter.com/7D3rcRF06S
— molly mermin (@mollymermaids) August 3, 2020
This isn’t the first time this year students have taken issue with community rhetoric. In May, a commenter on the Vanguard referred to students as a “pestilence.”
The comment made on May 21: “I personally think students are a social pestilence…” He added, “I do believe it serves the city of Davis to push UCD to house it’s own students. It’s not like they’re not going to walk or ride downtown and spend their money anyway. Davis would thrive if it catered to working professionals and not poor students.”
“I feel the need to comment on the language I have seen in regards to this and other housing projects,” said Gwen Chodeur, the external Vice President of the Graduate Student Association. She noted that “an online commenter on the Vanguard last week referred to students as a ‘pestilence’ and students have been referred to as public nuisances.
“I think we all recognize that the student population is much more diverse than the remainder of Davis residents,” she said.
It was a point that Mayor Brett Lee jumped on as well—when he was discussing defunding the police.
He said, “UC Davis, the students, the pestilence. Never mind that in our region probably the biggest agent of social change is UC Davis.” He said, “40 percent of the students there are from first time college families.” And “we have people in our community, comfortably calling students a pestilence. That’s not the police. Why aren’t those people called out?”
Don Gibson, the former GSA rep, on May 26 pushed back, “I rarely post on the comments section of the Vanguard even for the articles I write. That line you wrote was an incredibly hurtful thing to say. There are honest disagreements about land use planning in Davis but calling half of the population of a city a pestilence is beyond intolerant.”
The original commenter responded: “I like the students too. I respect them. Most of them are smarter than me. I just don’t want to live near them.”
Of all the points here, Don Gibson’s is important to keep in mind. There are legitimate differences of opinion on land use issues, but it seems when it comes to expressing those differences we go from intellectual arguments to personal ones very quickly.
Those opposing housing are called NIMBYs, those supporting it are termed tools for the development or, perhaps, pestilence. When students come out in support of a project, it is assumed that the developer is paying them.
The reality that some miss is that students are pretty mobilized on this issue. Many of them have been actively advocating for housing since 2015.
I had a pretty good conversation last week with a community member who asked why UC Davis students support all housing projects. Their view of University Commons is that it would be unaffordable.
Mary Martinez, the external Vice President in a guest commentary on the Vanguard pointed out, “UC Davis students are just as much of the community as those who may have lived here all their lives. However, the housing shortage hits us students the hardest, yet we are not the decision-makers in this process.”
She writes: “I do not have every answer to solving the housing crisis, but I do know that to reject dense housing next to campus is the wrong answer. Less housing only increases the risk of housing insecurity and student homelessness.”
I think this captures a lot of the student concerns and their thinking on the University Commons issue.
They see a housing shortage in town that impacts them probably more than any other group that is actually residing within the city limits. At the same time, they lack influence and power other than to show up in numbers.
Like me, they see University Commons as dense housing next to campus, where they don’t need cars and don’t have to worry about transit to get to and from school. That’s a huge asset.
For those who argue that this is already the fifth such project—I get it. But it’s across the street from campus. It’s not like you are going to create housing for families with small children there. You might be able to get some workforce housing and I would in fact argue we should rent by the unit to allow some non-students to rent there—but predominantly it will be students there.
I think most students see the location as a huge advantage. They also see the need to provide more housing supply—even if there is plenty of housing in the works. Students are living in cramped conditions, with lack of privacy, high rents, substandard conditions, and in some cases doubling, tripling up and sleeping on couches and in living rooms.
The townfolk critics of these projects argue that this housing will be expensive. Strangely I have never heard a student complain that these apartments will be too expensive. That is something to consider. Perhaps the students figure they can adapt or perhaps they figure by easing the supply crunch, the prices will take care of themselves.
In any event, the students are angry right now at the rhetoric flying from some quarters of the community. That’s something people might want to consider the next time they leave a public comment.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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