Billionaire Charles Munger donated a record-breaking $200 million to UCSB on Thursday, designating the funds for a state-of-the-art on campus residence hall.
Munger’s donation will be used as a seed fund for two development projects at UCSB, utilizing 28 acres of land where the Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and San Nicolas dorms currently exist. Speaking at the UC Regents meeting, Munger said he envisions the dormitories as “the best undergraduate housing in the world.”
“What fascinated me was 28 acres on the ocean, combined with massive stupidity. I like to fix massive stupidity.” — Charles Munger
As Vice-Chairman for Berkshire Hathaway, Munger is currently partner to one of the world’s richest people, Warren Buffet.
The construction is designed to reduce undergraduate housing costs by as much as 60 percent, and plans for two six-story buildings built on a base of pre-cast concrete. The buildings will have kitchens to reduce meal plan costs, and the top floor of each design will be dedicated to six acres of common room space.
“Every campus I know of in the world abuses its undergraduates … it finally gets pretty gross,” Munger said, emphasizing the importance of healthy living areas.
To accommodate for high student density, Munger plans to replace real windows in several rooms with artificial windows, inspired by artificial portholes on Disney cruise lines which feature “a starfish that comes by and winks at your kid,” said Munger.
Matilda Mead, third-year psychology major and Residence Hall Association President, said although “overwhelmed by his generosity,” she was disappointed by the conditions of Munger’s donation.
“By replacing the those views with his artificial windows, it seems to me as though we would be neglecting our residents from experiencing a large aspect of what they came to UCSB to see: the picturesque scenery,” Mead said. “Besides, I highly doubt any artificial windows would be able to replicate [or] replace our spectacular sunsets.”
According to Mead, mental health and academic resources are “severely lacking” on campus, and the best use for Munger’s donation would be to build additional support spaces for students.
“I just hope he can look at the whole picture and focus on the needs of our residents rather than the aesthetics of our university when determining where his donation will go,” Mead said.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the university is “beyond overwhelmed” by the donation, and Munger is creating a “second-to-none living and learning environment” by focusing on academic excellence and personal well-being.
Munger is willing to donate more funds to the project as they become necessary, but said the UC will be responsible for an “immense” portion of the funding. Munger expects the plan to cost more than $1 billion, but told the regents that the dorms will be “worth more than twice what you pay for them the minute they’re up.”
The proposal is part of the UC’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), and Munger will work with the Regents to submit the proposal to the California Coastal Commission (CCC), which regulates land use in several oceanside zones, including UCSB.
CCC representative Sarah Christie said because the plan is in preliminary stages, she cannot comment on their final decision, but the group will address the construction after the UC amends their development plan.
Munger, whose grandson graduated from UCSB in 2013, most recently donated $65.9 million to create a residence for visiting scholars at UCSB’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. If the UC does not continue to support him, Munger will go elsewhere with his plan, but he is enthusiastic about developing at UCSB.
“The UC System has the power of eminent domain,” Munger said. “If it really makes sense to revolutionize housing for the better on one campus, it can be done on other campuses.”
[Correction: An earlier version of this article did not include San Miguel and San Nicolas dorms in the list of residences that will be replaced. The article has been updated accordingly.]