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Roaming the halls

By Daily Bruin Staff

Jan. 21, 2001 9:00 p.m.

  Photos courtesy of University Archives Since 1931,
Kerckhoff Hall has been a center for student activity and has
housed many student organizations. It used to include a men’s
activity room, now the Kerckhoff Grand Salon (above and lower
left), while the meeting room for the Undergraduate Students
Association Council (lower right) has remained relatively the
same.

By Laura Rico
Daily Bruin Contributor

Kerckhoff Hall celebrated its 70th anniversary Saturday. Since
its inauguration, it has been home to student groups, government
and media, as well as offices for the Associated Students of
UCLA.

In the socially conservative 1930s, male students roamed
Kerckhoff in coats and ties, while female Bruins studied in plush
lounges decorated with stained glass insignias of all-female East
Coast colleges.

Today, students can be seen lounging on the grass in front of
Kerckhoff, strumming guitars or soaking up sun during naps.

Although some of the building’s functions have changed,
the overall sentiment that Kerckhoff is a place for students has
remained the same.

  Photos courtesy of University Archives During the
dedication ceremony of 1931, then-provost Ernest Carroll Moore said
the building was to be the “center of the University’s
activity. Everyone will use it, and every activity will find in it
a home.”

Moore’s claim was not far-fetched. Upon its opening, the
building housed a bookstore, student publication offices, dining
facilities, offices for student organizations, a trophy room and
separate study lounges for men and women.

While students today have more options for dining and
recreation, Kerckhoff provided a unique atmosphere that was far
removed from the classrooms, laboratories and libraries of the rest
of campus.

Alcinda Westergart, a UCLA alumnus who graduated as a
pre-medical student in 1939, remembers attending performances in
the Kerckhoff salons with her Sigma Kappa sorority sisters.

“They used to put on a lot of musical programs in
Kerckhoff when I attended UCLA,” Westergart said.
“Famous movie stars would perform sometimes as
well.”

  Photos courtesy of University Archives

The construction of Kerckhoff was made possible with an $815,000
donation from the widow of William G. Kerckhoff, a lumber company
executive and electric power developer.

Moore first gave the Kerckhoffs a tour of the campus in 1929 and
told them of the need for funds to build a student union. According
to Mrs. Kerckhoff, her husband told her on his death bed to
“build that building Dr. Moore wants.”

The building was designed in the Tudor Gothic style to
differentiate it from the Italian Romanesque style of Powell and
Royce Halls.

Although its Gothic façade remains intact, much of
Kerckhoff’s functions have changed over the years.

A trophy room opened in 1947 in what is today the Kerckhoff Art
Gallery. Sports trophies and war memorabilia were among the most
prominent items on display.

Exhibit items ranged from the predictable, retired UCLA football
jerseys, to the unusual Japanese Hari Kiri knife.

Formal study lounges were also created to resemble exclusive
men’s and women’s clubs. These are in sharp contrast to
the current favored study areas of Kerckhoff ““ the coffee
house and outdoor patio area.

“I love to sit on the patio on a warm day and read between
my classes,” said Karen Sethi, a first-year molecular cell
and developmental biology student. “It’s way better
than some stuffy lounge.”

Another bygone Kerckhoff tradition is the use of a live-in
custodian to maintain the building and its facilities. In its early
stages, the sixth floor of the structure was home to a custodian
and his family, who routinely carried groceries and other
belongings up the stairs, in lieu of an elevator system.

UCLA’s athletic community also had separate dining
facilities from the rest of the student body. The men’s grill
opened in Kerckhoff as an alternative for athletes who often lacked
the formal attire required for the main dining facilities.

Weekly undergraduate student government meetings are held in
room 417, formerly the setting of regents meetings during the
’30s. The room was abandoned, however, because the regents
did not like climbing stairs to get to the meeting.

In 1976, the popular Kerckhoff Coffee House opened on the second
floor. Latte-sipping students can be seen studying and socializing
there now, accompanied by music in the background.

One thing that has remained intact throughout the years is
Kerckhoff’s role in housing student groups and student-run
services and organizations. True to its original purpose, Kerckhoff
serves as the main headquarter for offices of the Associated
Students of UCLA, all student government offices, and student
publications.

For some students, the maze-like design of Kerckhoff’s
interior defeats the purpose of unity between student groups.

“I don’t think the building is laid out in a way in
which organizations can interact,” said Efrain Garibay, a
first-year graduate student in urban planning and a member of the
Latin American Student Association, one of the student groups
located in Kerckhoff.

“Our office is on the first floor, way in the back, so we
are far removed from many other organizations,” he said.

Gothic eyesore or architectural masterpiece, Kerckhoff’s
unique structure remains true to its original purpose as a place
for students.

Second-year psychology and political science student Raymond
Galvan sees the building as symbolic of “an ongoing tradition
of student activism and involvement in areas that go beyond
academics and into their personal ideals and career
goals.”

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