On Friday, Nov. 5, hundreds of UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students and faculty gathered in front of the Davidson Library to protest the construction of Munger Hall and the eviction of students from local hotels by the end of fall quarter.
Students claim they are frustrated with the university’s inadequacies as they deal with the housing crisis. Those who are staying in hotels will be evicted on Dec. 15 after fall quarter ends
One student said, “the university seems to expect housing for 300 students to just appear out of nowhere,” pointing out that the problem is not that students have not had time to look for housing, but rather there is nothing available.
Third-year student Izzy Bahamonde-Partlan said this housing crisis is the direct result of greed on the part of the administration who continue to admit more students than can be supported by the university because “it makes them more money.”
“They do not see me as a student,” said Bahamonde-Partlan to the crowd of protestors. “They do not see me as a human, because their eyes are clouded with greed.”
Dennis McFadden, an architect who resigned from the UCSB Design Review Committee, called the project “a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the University serves.”
Signs made by students read “Munger Hell,” “We are not a social experiment,” and “Stop the Eviction, Stop Munger Hall.”
The rally was cleverly organized to coincide with UCSB’s parents weekend. Protestors chanting “F— Charles Munger,” “Munger Hall has got to go” and “Don’t send your kids here!” certainly sends a concerning message to visiting parents.
In regards to the building of Munger Hall, Mr. M., a visiting parent whose son is a second-year student at the university said, “You guys gotta shut that down, period.”
“[Charles Munger is] a psychopath with money, that’s all. He’s not even paying for the whole building,” Mr M. added. To clarify, the building as a whole is expected to cost $1.4 billion; Munger is contributing $200 million.
One protester pointed out how the Munger solution is self-serving and how Charles Munger himself, the billionaire headlining this project, is benefitting from all of this. By giving away $200 million of his $2 billion net worth, “he’s basically getting a tax write off for the entire taxes he should be paying [anyway].”
Meanwhile, Charles Munger is not backing down, and the UCSB public relations machine seems to be going into overdrive, trying to temperthe negative publicity the project has been receiving. On Nov. 4, the university released a Q&A session, saying that while they understand windowless rooms “might not be for everyone,” the university still expects Munger Hall “to be highly desirable and that many students will want to take advantage of it.”
“One could argue that this may be an improvement in air quality as it does not require a student to open the window for fresh air,” UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada said in a statement to the Nexus.
For some students, it seems as though the university is all in on this project, and those who oppose it might face a long road ahead.
Pratik Raghu, a graduate student and teaching assistant at the UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) Global Studies Department, as well as one of the organizers of this protest, said the main question is “Can the university be forced to listen?”
In regards to the Q&A session set up by UCSB, Raghu stated that “hearing people out” is a time-tested pacification tactic. “Neoliberals believe that in giving oppressed people some sort of say that might have no bearing on what actually happens to them, they will suppress any pressure coming from that group and make that problem go away.”
“We have to make sure this problem — that is, us — is not going away,” said Raghu.
In addition, he referenced the COLA movement that started at UCSC which demanded better wages and working conditions for teaching assistants — who were eventually able to clinch a few key victories.
“What we need to do: we have to refuse to back down, we have to be as militant as possible, we have to embarrass the university as much as possible. Because that’s all that works.”