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Throwback Thursday: Triple residence hall rooms introduced in 1988, overcrowding poses problems today

(Daily Bruin archive)

By Elizabeth Hanczor

May 31, 2019 4:18 pm

This post was updated May 31 at 5:14 p.m.

Throwback Thursdays are our chance to reflect on past events on or near campus and relate them to the present day. Each week, we showcase and analyze an old article from the Daily Bruin archives in an effort to chronicle the campus’ history.

If you’ve lived in a residence hall, you know the trappings: precariously scaling bunk beds, bumping into your roommates and hopelessly cramming all your friends into a shoebox.

However, UCLA hasn’t always been stuffing three students into one tiny dorm room. Up until 1988, UCLA only housed two students in each dorm.

In fact, the idea of raising that number was considered so radical that then-Daily Bruin staffer Kyle Rudderow wrote “It sounds like a nightmare come true: three people living in one dorm room.”

In 1988, UCLA’s pilot program was instituted as a way to solve the displacement of students amid necessary seismic correction construction. The complexity and time it would require to install new “sheer walls” of steel and cement in certain residence halls left more than 400 students in need of a place to live.

The obvious solution for on-campus housing: Buy bunk beds. Seventy rooms in each residence hall were reconfigured to accommodate for three students instead of two. These dorms featured practical “stacking furniture,” intended to maximize both storage and floor space.

The construction proposals focused on the safety of students. However, despite the imperative reasoning for the improvements, UCLA expressed hesitation for commencing work on both campus housing and the triple pilot program. At the time the Daily Bruin article was published, the $13.8 million project had not been formally approved, but they foresaw no legitimate reasons for the regents and Internal Campus Reviews to reject the proposal.

Existing residents were incentivized to volunteer for the pilot housing program with guaranteed housing for the 1988-1989 school year and a $200 reduction on their housing bill. Naturally, hundreds of students jumped at the chance to reap the benefits and from a large applicant pool, 120 were selected to participate.

Mark Greenstone, a former student and then-freshman who had been living in Hedrick Hall, took part in the pilot program. He said he liked it more than what he had before but also said getting along is key.

Unfortunately, UCLA continues to face a housing crisis. Students, however, no longer need to be incentivized to live in triples because it has become the new standard.

In 2017, UCLA announced a plan to build a 20-story high rise in Westwood and for residence halls replacing Lot 15 on the Hill. These projects plan to accommodate a greater number of students and increase housing guarantees from three to four years.

However, the construction proposed for Westwood has perturbed the local residents. Los Angeles locals worry the new residence hall will harm the aesthetics of the area. Regardless, construction has begun and the new residence hall will be in use soon.

Carole Magnuson, vice president of the Westwood Hills Property Owners Association, said in 2017 she believed the new Westwood property will not mesh with the local surroundings.

However, some students disagreed. Chloe Pan, former external vice president of Undergraduate Students Association Council shared how this critique comes from a point of privilege.

“It is a privilege to be more concerned about the aesthetics of Westwood than it is to be concerned about the functionality of the buildings,” said Chloe Pan, “A lot of students do not have the luxury of worrying about whether they have good views of Westwood.”

As the UC with the highest undergraduate enrollment and the smallest campus, crowding seems inevitable. Student and community voices continue to clash as UCLA carves its spot in Westwood and students fight for a place to live. Whether the rooms they live in will be doubles, triples or quadruples, only time will tell.

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Elizabeth Hanczor
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