It’s an indisputable fact that the UCSB campus is one of the most spectacular college campuses in the history of mankind. That’s a given. We’ve got thousands of trees, acres of grass, miles of ocean, spinning pencils and the Eternal Flame, which challenges traditional interpretations of the concept of eternity. So, why is it that, surrounded by all this beauty, the center of campus so damn ugly? I’m referring, of course, to the drained swimming pool that is Storke Plaza.
Storke Plaza is named for Thomas Storke, Santa Barbara native and concrete enthusiast. Storke was a rancher and citrus grower, eventually combining these passions into the hobby of citrus ranching. He was the editor and publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, and he was even appointed to the U.S. Senate for two months – not even long enough to be sworn into office, let alone start taking bribes. He was also the postmaster of Santa Barbara; he quit in 1921, famously declaring: “If I see another goddamn credit card application, I’m going to slit my wrists with it!” He later served on the UC Board of Regents and was instrumental in getting the UCSB campus built. He donated money to fund the construction of the first student center, with the stipulation that “under no circumstances should a tower be named after me.” Unfortunately, someone spilled beer on that part of the check after he signed it, and in 1969 the Storke Drunk Freshmen Lighthouse was dedicated. By the way, if you doubt any of this history: You’re wrong. Thanks to Wikipedia, it’s now the truth.
Storke Plaza was designed when the students of UCSB were a bit more politically active – instead of penning puffed-up diatribes and angrily taping pieces of paper to the ground, these guys would party, and mostly riot. The university wanted to make sure that if an event got out of hand, they could have crews with powerful hoses surrounding the plaza spraying down all the hippies – simultaneously cleaning them and ruining their joints. However, the students quickly realized their new plaza was hideous, and that no self-respecting protester would be caught dead rioting in it.
Whenever I’m in Storke Plaza, I always feel like I’m walking alone across a prison yard. It’s also inconvenient; it’s not a shortcut to anywhere unless your idea of a shortcut involves five hundred stairs. At least they filled in the pond, creating a little bit of life. I do feel bad for one fish in that pond though. The poor guy’s spine literally bends at a 90-degree angle. It looks really uncomfortable.
The best part is that the visitor tours end at Storke Plaza. People spend an hour walking around, looking at the beautiful campus, hearing about how great the school is, and we drop them off at a giant cement pit. “Hope you enjoyed the tour, welcome to Storke Plaza, UCSB’s most inaccessible parking lot.”
I know they could put something useful down there – the area is right in the middle of campus, and not using it is wasting some prime real estate. I know they have concerts and rallies down there, but let’s be honest: Nobody goes to those. There are benches, but there’s no reason to sit on them unless you’re taking a Concrete Appreciation class or, maybe, if you’re majoring in Architectural Abominations. Is it too much to ask for a little color? How about painting the damn thing so it doesn’t look like God’s ashtray? Even a simple area for people to meet and relax would be a hundred times better than what is there now.
I can’t be the only person that thinks this; I’m sure the people at the Nexus, La Cumbre, and KCSB 91.9 FM all wish they had something more scenic out their windows than a sea of cement. Not even the deadbeats handing out flyers at the UCen dare to venture into that gray pit of despair, though I desperately wish they would. Join me; let’s give Storke Plaza what we all know it needs: bumper cars.
David Fuad is a senior law & society, and psychology major.