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Lawsuit threatens drop in 5,100 UC Berkeley undergraduate admissions

Photo by Tom Galetti

A lawsuit won by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, a community organization concerned with the increase in homelessness as a result of UC Berkeley’s housing practices could cause the University to cut undergraduate admission by at least 5,100 students for the incoming freshman class.

The University informed applicants via email, saying the news was “incredibly disappointing” and a “dire situation for prospective students and our campus.”

Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, said the University has mismanaged its budget and increased student enrollment without providing adequate housing for years and said the organization filed the suit because it felt the University was making a ridiculous claim in suggesting that adding 11,000 students to the city of Berke- ley would have no effects on the surrounding environment.

“We would like the University to sign a legally binding agreement that they will only increase enrollment by the amount of housing that they build,” Bokovoy said.

Bokovoy said the city’s housing shortage is a result of the University’s financial troubles, including overspending on what he calls a “white elephant football stadium,” which he said doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover the interest on the loan for the stadium.

“What (Cal) has done to try to escape their financial problems is they’ve tried to force those costs onto the community, instead of figuring out how they can bear those costs themselves,” Bokovoy said.

The court case found that there was a strong correlation between UC Berkeley’s increase in enrollment and the 33% increase in Berkeley’s homeless population from 2015-2019. Without a proportionate increase in housing, more students lived in places previously occupied by Berkeley’s lower income residents, forcing many of them onto the street. As a result, the University announced it will likely have to drastically reduce enrollment.

Paly College Counselor Janet Cochrane said she believes this dispute could have a negative effect on college admissions for the class of 2022, both through Berkeley’s restrictions and the ripple effect it could have on other colleges.

“Students who would normally have gotten into Berkeley are now not getting in, and then maybe more likely to go to one of the other UCs that they get into,” Cochrane said.

Kirtana Romfh, a senior and UC Berkeley applicant, said she was initially disappointed at the news but recognizes the reason for the lawsuit.

“There are rumors that there isn’t enough housing for current students, much less a whole new applicant pool,” Romfh said. “So in some ways I kind of understand where it’s coming from, but as an applicant, it’s frustrating because it affects my chances of admission at a school I really want to go to.”

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