Op-ed: An open letter to San Jose State University on unhoused students
San Jose State University's Tower Hall. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

The Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collaborative, a collective of clergy representing multiple faith communities, urges the administration of San Jose State University to keep the promises they have made to address the collegiate homelessness problem.

An education is one of the best ways to end the cycle of poverty, for an individual with a college degree has greater earning potential and more job opportunities. But when young adults are saddled with exorbitant debt upon graduation, this financial burden often negates the advantages their education provides.

SJSU Cares’ actions are potentially devastating to homeless and underhoused students. Asking students to take out loans only after staying 48 hours in an emergency bed on campus further destabilizes these students. Students should be allowed to stay in a campus emergency bed until a more permanent plan can be worked out.

Similarly, requiring students to max out their loans before receiving assistance is counterproductive. Students who need assistance are more likely to come from financially compromised situations. Requiring students to max out their borrowing potential will set them up to fail.

In addition, the administration must lower the barriers to student access to emergency beds. Students should not have to be enrolled full time—12 units—to receive this assistance. For many students, housing insecurity is precisely the reason they cannot enroll full time.

Finally, the decision-making process has not been transparent and fair. We agree with the students who demand a restructuring of the Advisory Board Committee. These students must have agency in the process. It’s time to end their marginalization. Similarly, the SJSU Cares website must be redesigned to provide easier access, and a mobile application must be added.

In solidarity with the students, we demand these changes be completed by Dec. 15, before President Mary Papazian leaves SJSU.

In faith and justice,

Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collaborative

The Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collective is comprised of Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, Rev. Steve Pinkston, Fr. Jon Pedigo, Rev. Ray Montgomery, Rabbi Dana Magat and Rev. Dr. Bryan Franzen.

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