I was going to dedicate this week’s column to the election — you know, vote or die, rock the vote and such — with an added emphasis on the issues and candidates I care about. Then I realized that by the time my column actually runs, the votes will have already been tabulated and whether I like the outcome or not, the election will be over. Sure, I plan on voting. Voting is not only a responsibility and a privilege that we must exercise in order to keep our democracy alive, but it is also an opportunity to score one of the best accessories Uncle Sam has to offer — those cute little “I voted” stickers that tell the world that you just had a hand in deciding the course of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Forget the fact that you can shotgun a beer in 10 seconds flat or score straight A’s on 10 minutes of sleep, being able to vote (and vote intelligently) is a pretty awesome ability to have.
But just because I vote, and even vote intelligently, it doesn’t mean the whole election is going to turn out exactly the way I’d like. Sure, every vote makes a difference, but let’s face it, not everyone makes the same choices I do when perusing their sample ballots. This got me thinking. So often in our lives as college students, decisions are made that have a direct impact on our lives but we are given little or no chance to participate in them. At least voting gives us the opportunity to have some say, no matter how small it may be. But how about decisions like how much a year of college is going to cost us, how generous a professor’s curve is going to be, and how high Freebirds can mark up the price of its nachos? As much as we’d like to think we have some control over our day-to-day lives, the reality is that there is at least as much happening on a given day that is out of our control as there is in it.
That’s not to say that everything is out of our control — as much as it may seem like it on those days when your rent is due, your phone bill is late, your paycheck is short a few hundred bucks, and your roommate won’t get out of the shower so you can pee and brush your teeth before the class that starts in five minutes. In fact, when it comes to two of the most common complaints of students in I.V.— the battle to make ends meet at the market and the battle with lazy landlords at home — there are local resources specifically designed to help students get back some control over their daily lives.
We all pay way too much for pretty much everything in our lives, from textbooks to tuition fees, from rent to the recently raised cost of parking on campus; it seems like everything costs students more than it did before. And, unlike the whole Uggs and skirts thing, this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. For most of us, who are living off of low-paying part-time jobs that barely cover the cost of food, gas, and the occasional keg, making ends meet is a monthly battle that involves bargain-hunting, coupon-cutting, and the occasional tearful fit at the supermarket — yes, that was me crying in the cleaning supplies aisle, let’s not make a big deal about it. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Lucky for us, I.V. is home to a decades-old institution that offers organic, wholesome food at Easy Mac and Ramen prices. Yes, I’m talking about the Isla Vista Food Co-Op. Founded in the 1970s, this one-stop shop is a haven for health nuts, hippie kids, and smart shoppers alike, all of whom flock to the little store on Seville Road for its selection of good-for-you groceries; environmentally friendly cooking, cleaning, and self-care products; and out-of-this world deli offerings. With plenty of vegetarian, kosher, and vegan products on its shelves, the co-op offers all the selection of a specialty store at prices that prove it belongs in I.V. For an even better deal on their inventory, ask about becoming a member — for just $30 a year, you can get a ton of benefits, including daily discounts and access to special member-appreciation days at the store. And, since the co-op is run by students and residents, for students and residents, you know your grocery money is going toward a good cause, rather than just another corporate yacht for the big guys at K-MART. For more information about the co-op, check out www.islavistafood.coop.
If a lackadaisical landlord is the dominant problem in your life, finding a good deal on locally grown produce isn’t really going to help. But the fine folks at the Isla Vista Tenants Union (IVTU) can. This group of students and local residents is dedicated to making sure that everyone in I.V. gets a fair break when it comes to rent and renters’ issues, so even though we may be only temporary residents of the most beautiful slum in California, we’re not treated like it by our landlords. The IVTU is skilled at helping students sort out landlord issues, roommate problems, and more. And, with their new office right next to the equally useful Associated Students Legal Resource Center on Pardall Road, the Tenants Union is better equipped than ever to help you take back control of your apartment, if not your life.
The high cost of living and the high likelihood of living with a less-than-stellar landlord are just two of the problems we deal with on a daily basis in I.V. Although solutions exist to help wayward students regain at least a little control over both of those individual issues, the underlying problems that caused them will continue to frustrate students and local residents alike until fundamental changes are made to the way I.V., California, and the nation are structured. Let’s face it, from a disastrous war abroad to devastatingly low minimum wages at home, America is rife with problems that — for most of the year — are largely out of our control. But, thanks to the beauty of democracy, we do get at least one day when we have a say in things. And even if the outcome of the election ends up sending you straight to a big bag of cookies for comfort, at least there’s a place nearby where you can get those cookies cheaply and chock full of organic ingredients. Ain’t democracy sweet?