This post was updated Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m.
Nothing is more gratifying than the UCLA engineer’s walk to class. The exhilarating downhill pedal across Bruin Walk and the rite-of-passage gallop through the Mathematical-Sciences tunnel all culminate in one defining moment:
Yes, the building itself is a stake in time – a landmark assuring us of its place in history and the future. It’s the haven for innovation, the nebula of creation, the creme de la creme of mankind. It’s where engineers are born, bred and cultivated to solve the world’s impending problems. Everything from earthquake modeling to vehicle-to-vehicle networks is analyzed, researched upon and revealed to the world as yet another instance of ground-breaking scientific discovery. Heck, even the internet was created there.
And how better to complement this hotbed of scientific excellence than with a conducive interior: rotting stucco walls, deteriorating bathrooms, and a thin film of dust to latch onto everything you place on the ground. Wait, did I say conducive? I meant burdensome.
To put it bluntly, Boelter Hall’s current facilities have run their course. Its bathrooms, lecture halls, discussions rooms and walkways all cry out for refurbishment, but for several years now, no one has come to answer that call. And in the wake of extensive construction on campus – the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center and the new athletic facility off Strathmore Drive, for example – it’s clear Boelter Hall has been shoved under the rug.
As such, the UCLA administration needs to puts its money where it’s been neglecting to do so: its general engineering student facilities. And if it really does care for the education of its nearly 3,000 engineering undergraduate students and countless graduate students, it needs to funnel its efforts to run a short-term campaign to carry out long-overdue general facilities improvements in Boelter Hall.
Boelter Hall’s impending need for upkeep is nothing new to students and faculty. The building contains an oft-utilized lecture hall and countless discussion sections, and is almost always brimming with people either discussing their research or rushing to their classes. And with such personnel traffic, the building’s decaying general-use facilities only serve to burden its constituents, forcing them to find other more suitable buildings to carry out their restroom or facilities-related needs.
However, it’s not as though funding is not going toward engineering facilities. Last year, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences received a $1 million donation for renovation purposes. But there was a catch: The funding was exclusively for the creation of engineering student group spaces for student clubs to meet.
And this funneling of money to particular areas extends to the entire school of engineering. According to Matthew Chin, UCLA Media Relations representative for HSSEAS, the school only manages the facilities related to instructional labs or student group spaces. On the other hand, general facilities maintenance – such as for lecture halls and bathrooms – is left to the Facilities Management department, a separate entity which has well over its fair share of headaches when it comes to fixing up UCLA’s aging infrastructure. And even though Facilities Management puts in money each year to repair and refurbish UCLA’s edifices, it’s clear Boelter Hall has been left out of that picture – taking a look at the condition of its bathrooms will show you that.
As such, the UCLA administration needs to put together a short-term effort to get the ball rolling on general facilities management for Boelter Hall. If it has the money and resources to construct and solicit donations for a new 254-room hotel and a football-basketball facility – both of which are arguably less urgent than an ailing educational landmark that has contributed more to the world than both have to UCLA – then it has little to no excuse for not being able to begin refurbishment projects in Boelter Hall.
On top of that, putting together short-term efforts to maintain the buildings eases the burden of Facilities Management to renovate facilities that are far too old to maintain. Piecemeal service jobs will do more to preserve the educational and functional integrity of buildings – and the administration would be better served to engage in that kind of behavior – than deferring maintenance until Boelter Hall’s bathrooms rust to the point of being unusable.
Certainly, one could point to the Centennial Campaign as the eventual remedy for the age-old infrastructure problem at UCLA. The fact that the campaign has raised 67 percent of its $4.2 billion goal offers hope – except, of course, when you dig deeper and find that the school of engineering’s campaign is at 60 percent of its overall goal for the larger campaign and about $1.46 million behind its goal for 2017. In addition, there’s no guarantee that any notable amount of this campaign’s funds will go toward general facilities management. As Chin stated, the school of engineering doesn’t dabble in maintaining the general classrooms and bathrooms in its buildings.
In this regard, the administration must see to it that the proper funding and resources are allocated to fix Boelter Hall. It’s not just an obligation to students, but also to faculty and visiting professors who reside in the building. And even though new engineering buildings are in the works, Boelter Hall remains the primary engineering stronghold for lectures. Short-term funding campaigns are a more surefire way to alleviate the problem than waiting for a generous donor to suddenly care more about general facilities rather than have the university construct a fancy new building with their name plastered on it.
And while innovation is probably so fast-paced at Boelter Hall because researchers want out of there as soon as possible for fear of getting tetanus, the administration will find that better facilities would only quicken that pace.