Fred and Frannie Freshman stumble into each other during their first drunken Del Playa weekend at UCSB. They fall in love and return to Frannie’s dorm for an epilogue replete with sweaty groping. But when Fred, a resident of San Miguel, sees Frannie’s posh digs in Manzanita Village, the drunken words spill out of his mouth: “Whoa. This place is, like, way nicer than where I live. Do I pay the same thing as you?”
Yes, Fred, you do.
And no doubt many other freshmen making the trek from one side of the lagoon to the other had the same reaction. Shiny, spacious and still smelling like new, Manzanita Village is the Carnival cruise liner of UCSB’s dorms. San Miguel, conversely, is like a canoe with a broken paddle floating in a sewage treatment pond. But although Frannie’s luxury ship blows Fred’s crappy little canoe out of the water, the university’s present policy of random, lottery-style dorm assignments is the best way to put a roof over the heads of on-campus students.
Initially, one might favor charging different dorm rates that account for factors like newness of the facilities, yumminess of the nearest cafeterias and proximity to campus. However, such a system would only result in higher-income students clustering in the fancy dorms. Beyond that, if thrifty students filled up the econo-saver housing, others in a legitimate financial bind would have to cough up the extra cash.
Furthermore, those praising lavish Manzanita might not realize the dorm’s inherent shortcomings. San Miguel and San Nicolas each offer eight floors with 50 students each. Those living there meet more people more easily and are also exposed to a wider variety of germs, thus strengthening their immune systems for the coming winter. Their counterparts in Manzanita, however, had better stock up on vitamins because their social circles can be limited to the 30-50 people living in their house.
Dorm residents who suspect their end of the stick might be a tad short should also realize the cost of building Manzanita – about $65 million – has little bearing on the cost of living in the dorms, which is the same no matter which corner of campus one calls home. The campus needed more dorms and it got them. Of course Manzanita looks new. Those who designed the sprawling cubist complex with a Candyland color palette certainly couldn’t have designed the buildings to jive with the general shabbiness of the other dorms.
Technical complications aside, those banished from Manzanita do have room to complain. The lottery system screwed them out of a subzero freezer and a bathroom they only had to share with three other people. More seriously, those imprisoned in the towers must cope with the various safety concerns and inconveniences that accompany having multiple flights of stairs separating them from the ground.
Indeed, those Frannies lucky enough to live in a dorm that looks like the set of some WB coming-of-age drama should be thankful. The Freds, however, have options. They can wait for karma to even things out – flu season – or they can pester those in charge of their respective dorms to make improvements to even out the difference.
Or hey – they could just go over to Manzanita on Friday nights and trash the place.