A Project in Need of a Timeout

By Stella Haffner   |   November 30, 2021

Dear Montecito,

It is rarely a good sign to hear the latest about your hometown through the national news before discovering the information on local sources. Such was my experience opening my browser to CNN and seeing the now infamous contribution of Charlie Munger to our local university.

Of course, the news did not stay confined to traditional channels. Critiques of UCSB’s upcoming Munger Hall spread across the internet and have found a home both on YouTube and TikTok, where young people from around the world have now given their input — they’re not thrilled.

Is anyone surprised, really? For all the destruction of COVID-19, this pandemic has marked an all-time high in interest for student mental health. We are more familiar than ever with the fortifying effects of a healthy living space and good faith administration from authority figures. It’s no wonder then that the online attitude towards Munger Hall is a two-part cocktail of bewilderment at the provocative dormitory proposal and vitriol for Munger.

The sanity of the project aside, we can first address the defamation aimed at Munger, the overwhelming theme being that Munger is not a suitable candidate to design student dormitories. Criticisms range from repeating what Munger himself has said, in particular highlighting a statement that architecture is something of a hobby to him, to YouTube comments reminding their readers that when Charlie Munger arrived on the campus of Harvard Law to study, the university still had yet to integrate into coed teaching. These criticisms culminate in the argument that Munger is not in touch with the needs of students.

Then there’s the actual design for the dormitory. The proposed plan of Munger Hall will focus on efficiency, fitting the maximum number of students possible into the allocated space. As a consequence of this, estimates from Architectural Record and the Santa Barbara Independent report that only 6% of student residents will actually have access to a window in their room, meaning no sunlight or fresh air for the remaining 94%.

The discourse surrounding this decision has heavily focused on the lack of precedent for such a radical and potentially dangerous design. The living space, which can generously be described as Spartan, would have an entirely unknown effect on student health. We can only imagine that minimal ventilation and a lack of natural light would turn an already packed student living area into a breeding petri dish, to say nothing of the psychological effects. In short, an experiment of these elephant proportions, planning to house 4,500 students and gambling with the physical and mental health of an already delicate demographic of people, can be described as nothing short of unethical.

The final nail in the coffin comes in the form of Munger’s own solution to the lack of window access in his design. He proposes that as a substitute for a window, each room can have a TV that students may turn on when they want to simulate sunlight. Without engaging too much in defamation ourselves, let’s be glad Munger is not a comedian, given his true inability to read the room. Suggesting this as a solution to not having a window was like fanning a grease fire, and the response from college-aged students was equally inflammatory. Put simply, a generation who’ve spent the better part of recent memory completing their education through a screen does not want screens used as substitutes in additional areas of their lives.

Evaluating the evidence, his eagerness for the dreaded black mirror, his distaste for natural light and ventilation, we might wonder if Munger would’ve been better suited to space shuttle design than to student dormitories.

Alongside criticisms of the project, I also want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of local professors and students to pause the development of Munger Hall. A petition can be found on change.org that is raising signatures to halt the project. Further, it appears that the Associated Students Office of UCSB is preparing to open a dialogue with administration about the new housing proposal, which has been made possible by the continued, vocal resistance to this project.

Until next time,



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