This is a letter responding to the Opinion column titled “Mind Your Business: UCLA hotels detract funding from more pressing issues, compromise local business.”
The purpose and function of UCLA facilities, like the UCLA Tiverton House, the Guest House, the Lake Arrowhead Conference Center and the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, is to support UCLA’s mission of education, research and public service at a lower cost than other alternatives.
UCLA Tiverton House, for example, provides affordable and convenient lodgings for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center patients and their families, making it possible for them to stay close to the hospital when support and proximity are most needed.
Far from amounting to a hotel empire, as the columnist claims, facilities like Tiverton House support the families of patients undergoing treatment at UCLA’s medical center by providing more affordable lodging – its purpose isn’t only humane, but also an integral part of the university’s public service mission.
Similarly, the UCLA Guest House – which has been operating since 1985 – serves the campus’ recruitment needs and accommodates visiting scholars and guest speakers who enrich students’ education. It also supports medical patients and visiting administrators from other University of California campuses, among many others.
UCLA acquired the Lake Arrowhead Conference Center in 1985. Since that time, the property’s summer alumni camp and conference programs have grown significantly. The Bruin Woods summer alumni camp is arguably the most successful in the country, customarily selling out every day for the entire summer quarter, with more than 250 waitlisted families who wish to participate; it’s a summer tradition that has become an annual touchstone experience for so many, some of whom have returned each of the past 35 years. In addition, the property has hosted 345 UC conferences in the past five years alone.
In the same vein, all conferences at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center must have an eligible educational purpose, and its guests need to have legitimate educational or business reasons connected to UCLA in order to stay at the facility. The center has allowed UCLA to host a wide variety of compelling events on campus that would otherwise not have been accessible to as many students, faculty and staff.
Almost two-thirds of the business at the Luskin Conference Center comes from academic conferences and 40% of all guests are recharged travel – meaning UCLA departments are able to save money and have their visitors conveniently located on campus.
All of these properties have employed a large number of student staff, who develop service industry skills that can be useful as they pursue a variety of career paths. Roughly 300 to 400 students work for UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services in any given year, and many eventually join the management team pursuing career options within the department.
Providing guest housing and conference centers is a growing practice at top universities. These facilities allow campus departments to use the savings for other academic and campus needs. Also, true to its public mission, UCLA uses the net income from all of these facilities to retire debts or make ongoing property and programmatic improvements, with the goal of better accommodating the needs of our campus, alumni and visitors for generations to come.
Angelis is the assistant vice chancellor of UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services.