By Meghan Imperio
LOS ANGELES — On April 2nd, I received an email from UCLA’s Office of the Chancellor, giving me the information that I had been anxiously waiting for regarding what to look forward to in the coming 2021-2022 academic year. But for me and my fellow transfer students, it wasn’t good news.
After delaying any housing decisions for the 2021-2022 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA sent a campus-wide email on Friday morning with some answers about what campus might look like in the coming academic year, including the plans for housing.
This announcement lays out a plan to offer some housing, first and foremost, to incoming freshmen and students with an institutional need, such as athletes, former foster-youth, veterans and those who have academic allocations. Next, they plan to prioritize incoming transfer students as well as sophomores, who did not get the on-campus experience they were expecting when applying to UCLA.
However, despite promising the current first-year transfer students guaranteed housing for their first and only in-person year at UCLA, the administration shared that they will not be giving returning transfer students priority housing. Low-income or high financial need students were also missing from the housing priority list.
This news came as a surprise and sparked campus-wide conversations with the administration through letters and petitions advocating for housing priority for returning transfer students, led by the USAC Office of the Transfer Student Representative (TSR) and the Transfer Leadership Coalition (TLC) at UCLA.
Current transfer students wrote a letter that stated their frustration that the transfer student population had yet again been overlooked by the administration when they failed to uphold the year of guaranteed housing being available to the transfer class of 2022:
“Transfers have historically been excluded from decision-making spaces and the housing priority process only reaffirmed these exclusionary practices. Before the Transfer Town Hall, hosted by the Transfer Leadership Coalition during winter quarter, there were no transfer student representatives on the Housing Priority Committee.
During the Transfer Town Hall, transfers voiced their concerns with respect to housing, financial aid, distance learning, and the lack of transfer representation across campus. This prompted the administration to reach out and appoint a transfer student to the committee. This type of reactionary effort towards transfer student demands is heavily embedded into the institution and should be addressed with implementing measures that include transfers into these spaces.”
The letter goes on to describe that like the returning sophomores who were given priority housing, transfers have been deprived of the on-campus experience that is vital to the college experience as a whole. The difference, however, is that the transfer class of 2022 only has one year left to experience the resources and community that UCLA has to offer.
The email from housing neglects to acknowledge that the transfer class was also robbed of this first-year experience, and this harmful rhetoric contributes to the way that transfers are often overlooked by the administration and the rest of the student body.
“This type of language ignores transfers who also did not participate in the traditional first-year on-campus experience and further shows us that Senior Leadership does not respect the diverse experiences of the transfer community,” said the letter.
Furthermore, the housing application was initially released without the option to participate in the Transfer Living Learning Community (LLC), which offered a community for transfer students to live amongst each other and share their experiences with the community. The Transfer LLC has since been added as an option for the upcoming school year, but the lack of the option in the first place is a prominent example of the ways in which the transfer community and experience has been forgotten and neglected.
In addition to the letter to the senior administration, there is a petition that has received over 1,200 signatures as well as email templates which can be sent to the senior administrators which demand that the needs of returning transfer are met. These demands include priority housing for returning transfer students, an apology from the administration for ignoring the concerns for the transfers with an explanation as to why they were disregarded in the first place, identifying Transfer LLC leadership so that the community may be offered to incoming transfer students.
These demands are necessary to be met in order for UCLA to uphold their promise for diversity, equity and inclusion by giving transfer students the experience that all other UCLA students have had and will have the privilege of receiving.
This decision by housing not only robs the returning transfers of their invaluable on-campus experience, but it puts the entire community at risk of not being able to find housing at all, or being put in the dangerous position of finding housing in an unfamiliar city and navigating to a campus which they may have never set foot on.
As one of these first-year transfer students, I looked forward to the promise of experiencing even a semblance of what campus life looked like before the pandemic, even if it was only for one year. But the promise of a semi-normal college experience wasn’t the only thing that I counted on when I was guaranteed and reassured that me and my fellow transfers would have housing next year.
Like many others, I am limited in finding the proper accommodations that are necessary to be able to attend in-person classes next year due to the high cost of living in Westwood and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately for the transfer students who are impacted by this, it means that they will have the additional financial strain of figuring out how to pay for an off-campus apartment, and if they are unable to afford it at all, it is possible that they will never be able to experience Westwood, and UCLA’s campus and in-person classes if the school continues to offer online classes in addition to the in-person classes.
In speaking with my fellow transfer students, it was comforting to know that I was not the only transfer student concerned about what my last year of undergraduate education might look like and how the quality of our education might be compromised as a result.
Herman Luis Chavez, a current 1st year transfer student from out of state running for Transfer Student Representative and currently working for the USAC Transfer Student Representative Office and the Transfer Student Center, shared how this might affect not just his experience, but the experience of returning transfer students as a whole.
“Transfer students were absolutely blindsided by the administration’s decision to provide housing priority only to incoming students and rising sophomores. As transfers were promised a one-year housing guarantee before they applied, after they were accepted, and throughout 2020, we never thought that the administration would go back on their promises and deny housing priority to those who need it most. Transfers in the class of 2022 are unique in that not only will next year be our first year on campus, it will also be our last,” said Chavez.
“We deserve to have a UCLA experience and to graduate feeling like we are Bruins,” he continued.
“Personally, as an out-of-state transfer who lives half a country away from UCLA, being so distant has made me feel so disconnected from the community I’m supposed to be a part of, and the prospects of not having housing for my only year at UCLA breaks my heart. Transfer students go through so much stigma, displacement and struggle just to be told no over and over again, and these actions by the administration further demonstrate that UCLA doesn’t care about its transfers. Transfers in the class of 2022 are owed the housing they deserve,” Chavez said.
Chavez also described the negative impact that this will have on returning transfer students not just socially, but also financially.
“This isn’t just an issue of belonging, either. Data from UCLA’s own SAIRO demonstrates that transfers are more likely to experience housing insecurity and financial burden compared to their direct-entry peers. Additionally, many transfers are not from the LA area and some are not even from California, and so we don’t know Westwood well enough to have the resources to find off-campus housing on such short notice, much less afford the outrageous prices,” he stated.
This decision by UCLA may also affect students who choose to commute because they do not have the resources or financial means to find an off-campus accommodation.
“Transfers who are forced to commute may be put in situations of late-night public transportation or long hours of driving that put them at higher risk for danger. Thus, housing is also an issue of student safety. We need housing to feel safe and included in the single year we have on campus,” said Chavez.
When asked how the recent housing decision would affect her and her college experience, Harmonie Yacob, a current first-year transfer running for Transfer Student Representative in the upcoming USAC election, described her frustration with the administration. She feels that she was falsely promised housing in order to reel her in to the institution for her tuition money.
While she understands that protocol will be different, and in fact should be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels as though they are not living up to the number one school for transfer transfer compatibility that they promote to their applicants.
“Transfers are always overlooked and UCLA Admin are consistently playing into that. I worked so hard to get here and for the school to just not value my experience having literally one year left of the whole college experience is really disheartening,” said Yacob. “I have one year to have a college experience and doing it online isn’t going to provide me any type of skills to go out in the world with this degree.”
When asked if she thought that the administration would give transfers the housing they were promised in the coming academic year, Yacob explained the importance of the influence that the transfer student and ally voices might have on the administration.
“I think if people keep talking about it, especially publicly, they’ll be swayed because they won’t like the bad image of it all. I think the administration just doesn’t get it and they don’t seem to care either unless it risks the perfect image of UCLA,” she said.
As a solution to the transfer class of 2022 being overlooked in the recent decision, Peter Angelis, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Housing and Hospitality Services, offered his support by way of low-cost dining hall meal tickets for the weekends.
However, it is not the dining experience that my fellow classmates and I are looking for or need, and the cost of these low-cost tickets wouldn’t solve the problem of the additional financial burden that we’re now facing.
In fact, this kind of offer ignores the actual problem at hand, and further shows how the needs of transfer students continue to be ignored despite more than a thousand voices demanding to be heard.
Transfer students should not have to beg the administration to be seen, understood and given the proper chance at a college experience when all other students receive that privilege the second they open their acceptance letter. If the school promises the students equity and a college experience when they commit to UCLA, it is not unreasonable for us to expect the administration to follow through on that promise.
While I can’t speak for all the students who also transferred at such an unfortunate time, I can say that personally, if I had known that my needs as a transfer student would be not only overlooked, but not even open to a discussion or explanation from the senior administration, therefore making me feel unimportant to this institution, I would have reconsidered my decision to transfer to UCLA in the first place.
Meghan Imperio is a writer for the LA Vanguard’s social justice desk. She is an English major at UCLA, originally from Glendale, CA.
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