El Congreso de UC Santa Barbara conducted a die-in Thursday at the Arbor to protest the planned construction of Munger Hall, rallying dozens of students and faculty in front of the library.
The group gathered in opposition to Munger Hall: a proposed nine-story dormitory set to house 3,500 students in individual bedrooms that largely lack real windows at the request of billionaire Charles Munger, who is expected to help fund the project. The unique design, which replaced earlier student housing plans, drew immense backlash from students, faculty, County Supervisors and other officials.
The die-in began at 10:45 a.m. with participating El Congreso members and faculty dressed in red and black colors and silently laid on the ground. Individuals held signs over their bodies reading, “Munger Hall won’t solve the crisis,” “ChanceLIAR Yang,” “End Munger” and more.
“What do we want? Humane housing. When do we want it? Now,” the group chanted during the event.
The demonstrators also chanted, “Fuck Yang” in reference to Chancellor Henry T. Yang, “We will not fall for Munger Hall” and “Students deserve humane housing,” among others, to demonstrate their frustration with UCSB administration.
El Congreso members facilitated the chanting with a megaphone and walked along the borders of the group to ensure that passersby walked around the participants instead of through.
El Congreso vocally opposed the construction of Munger Hall since May 2022, providing an updated demand letter to the UCSB Academic Senate’s Munger Hall Independent Review Panel in October 2022 and sending a direct letter to Yang to halt the project in November.
“After the report came out in Fall Quarter … we decided that we should start planning actions for winter quarter and spring quarter to bring back more attention to the issue at hand,” second-year public policy and law major and El Congreso member Vanessa Aguiñiga said.
Aguiñiga said El Congreso saw a die-in as an effective form of protest due to it physically obstructing a popular pathway on campus and it symbolizing the weight in impact Munger Hall would have on students.
“A die-in usually involves people lying down and pretending to be dead or unconscious while obstructing a public area, so it seemed like a very easy, low-stakes way for the student body to participate,” she said.
“[A die-in] seemed especially symbolic for this protest since the goal is to remind Chancellor Yang and UCSB administration that they’re dealing with students’ lives.” Aguiñiga continued. “A lot of students are currently facing homelessness, considering dropping out of school and having to move back home because they can no longer afford the cost of living here.”
Aguiñiga said the protest was scheduled this week to remind the campus community that the Munger Hall project is still continuing.
“This housing crisis isn’t really getting any better, and the school isn’t doing anything about it,” she said. “We just really wanted to rekindle that frustration that this campus had at one point when Munger Hall was first announced … and hopefully push that to cause some further actions in the spring.”
First-year physics major and die-in participant Joseph Eshete emphasized the impact die-in protests can have in public areas.
“It’s getting the word out and [spreading] awareness,” he said. “People walk there every day, and they’re going to see it. It really gets the whole campus alerted and involved.”
Fourth-year Spanish major and El Congreso member Erik Magaña said the die-in had good turnout from both members of El Congreso and onlookers who decided to join in.
“It definitely had a good turnout from our end, and some folks came by to join as they walked up,” Magaña said.
Magaña echoed Aguiñiga’s sentiment in the community losing interest in Munger Hall as time went on, expressing how dangerous that can be because the project is still projected to be finished.
“It brings visibility and attention back when folks may have forgotten, especially because this is a project that’s so far out,” Magaña said.
Magaña emphasized that El Congreso will continue to protest the construction of Munger Hall for the campus communication throughout the rest of the academic year.
“Don’t forget about Munger Hall — they’re trying to build it without us knowing, especially because it’s aimed to be finished when most of us have graduated,” Magaña said.
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