Although Utah’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation currently, over 10% of the state was without a job at the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19.
Southern Utah University students were no exception to being hit by the financial crisis. Several students lost their summer jobs or graduated without the potential for beginning their careers.
With fall semester approaching in September, many university students are concerned about the financial means it requires to attend college, including living expenses. Jaxton Maez, an SUU junior studying mathematics and philosophy, has started a petition to eliminate rent for students in the upcoming school year.
Although the petition has just begun to gain traction, primarily through Twitter, Maez hopes to gain the approval of other students struggling financially.
“I started a petition to ‘Cancel and Reduce Rent’ because I know what my generation is up against…Canceling rent means what it sounds like, and isn’t a new idea…Simply, for the duration of the pandemic and economic crisis, students do not pay any rent,” Maez explained.
Maez feels that most college students live “below the poverty line” and are not in a financial position to rely on the little money they might have been able to save throughout the pandemic. SUU also recently switched to a trimester system, which shortens the length of time students are in Cedar City, without reducing prices of rent.
Thus, Maez hopes that if enough students voice their inability to pay for their living situation in Cedar City, landlords will exempt them (or at least reduce the cost) from paying it until better suited financially. The key to his plan? Unity.
“I would like to see a significant amount of money stay in students’ pockets to be spent on essentials this semester, not on landlords and banks…What that looks like is up to the specific tenants in each complex, but we get nothing done unorganized and divided,” Maez said.
Maez believes that with enough signatures and a collective realization that it is possible to unite as tenants, students will be able to negotiate with landlords.
“Right now the focus should be on uniting. If one student doesn’t pay rent, they will be evicted, fined, and left with a sign on their back preventing them from renting again. If the entire complex does not pay rent, negotiations can be had and everyone benefits,” Maez said.
Besides getting the word out via Twitter, upon arrival at SUU, Maez plans on creating flyers and collecting signatures from students on campus. Although he has encountered little opposition, he fears he might be putting himself in a position of being evicted or losing trust with his own landlords.
Thus, Maez and his roommates plead for support from other students as school approaches quickly.
“Once we have enough support, demands from the bottom up can be solidified and acted upon. Understand that 2020 will prove critical economically, politically, and socially. Be a part of that,” Maez said.
Those interested in signing the petition can do so by scanning a QR code on the attached flyer, or by contacting Maez personally on Twitter at @JaxtonMaez.
“The takeaway is to unite – in your apartments, at your jobs, in the classroom, as minority groups, etc. It is the only option we have left,” Maez concluded.
Story by Amanda Walton
Photos Courtesy of Jaxton Maez