A survey conducted last quarter by the Associated Students Office of the President yielded new insights into student perception of UC Santa Barbara’s proposed Munger Hall project and found it to be opposed by over 80% of undergraduates.
Munger Hall, a controversial student housing project in the works for nearly a decade, would house around 3,500 students in individual bedrooms, most of which would lack real windows.
The Associated Students (A.S.) Munger Hall Survey Analysis, prepared by the Strategic Operations Office and A.S. External Affairs Committee, drew from three surveys conducted by A.S. — primarily focusing on one from this past winter — alongside student testimonials and concerns with the project’s design.
The design is already deeply unpopular with the broader community, prompting concerns from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Barbara County Planning & Development officials, City of Santa Barbara Public Works, two county supervisors, the UC Santa Barbara Academic Senate, local architects, former UC associate vice chancellors, numerous campus organizations and countless others.
Of the survey respondents, 13% said they would support Munger Hall with modifications. Only 3% of students surveyed said they support the dormitory as is.
The winter quarter survey received 1,350 responses, with 337 students saying they’d visited the campus’ mock-up of the proposed dormitory, housed in a warehouse the campus purchased a decade ago to facilitate the construction of the traditional student housing that Munger Hall eventually replaced. Some students that visited the warehouse left testimonials presented in the survey report.
“Depressing, sad, concerning. We make sure pets have plenty of room and air; are your students, human beings, not worthy of a single window? When COVID cases are rising in California and students are desperate for housing to attend your school, this isn’t the answer,” a second-year student wrote in a testimonial presented in the survey.
Students that visited the mock-up were more likely to unequivocally oppose Munger Hall than those who hadn’t by eight points, the survey found.
“While I understand the appeal, it does not seem like a reasonable living situation. Windows are simple and incredibly important, and while it is ‘nice,’ the idea that thousands of students will be packed into these spaces is concerning,” a fifth-year student wrote in the testimonials.
Concerned students articulated apprehension with the project’s lack of windows, small bedrooms and expected negative impact on physical and mental health. Taken as its own issue, students reported a positive affinity for single occupancy bedrooms but maintained significant concerns about a lack of real windows.
“The mental health implications of this project are far too grand for students to feel like they ‘should not complain’ for any reason. Students should not have to make trade-offs for their mental health in order to afford basic needs,” A.S. President and fourth-year political science major Gurleen Pabla said in a statement to the Nexus. “This is an extreme band-aid solution for a completely preventable issue.”
Pabla said in the statement that many campus leaders asked her why students vehemently oppose the dorm’s construction, with administrators suggesting “that there was no evidence to suggest that mental health is a concern and that students should not complain so much when the housing crisis is so severe.”
“I will continue to ask why students should just ‘accept’ this disappointing situation that they are in no way responsible for causing,” Pabla said. “Our leaders, some of whom may be reading this letter today, could have prevented this situation many years ago.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the April 27, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
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