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Munger Hall model helps people experience a controversial student housing proposal

Futuristic Munger Hall mock-up gives people a chance to see virtual windows

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Supporters call it a futuristic, cost-effective way to meet the demand for housing at UCSB.

COVID precautions prevented people from seeing a partial model mock-up built inside a Goleta warehouse, until now.

"It will consist of about 3,500 single bedrooms," supporter and former UC Santa Barbara Vice Chancellor Gene Lucus said.

Critics, however, are not open to the virtual LED windows in the 10-by-7 foot rooms.

"I know students who are living out of their cars, out of hotels crashing on friends' couches, it is a big problem, you can't solve it with Munger Hall because it feels like we are being put into a psychological experiment," UCSB student Madison Wrigley said.

There is already a similar dorm at the University of Michigan named after 98-year-old donor Charles Munger who came up with the concept and plans to contribute to its financing, although how much has yet to be determined.

The windows are made of light-emitting-diodes, which coincidentally a UCSB Nobel Prize-winning physicist is credited with inventing.

Lucas said the LED panels look like real windows.

"Because they are LED, you can adjust the intensity as well as the color, and so the panels will be on a cycle so you will see sunrise in daylight and sunset at night, and so you will have the feeling that you are getting sunlight through the window as a whole even though it is really a simulated window," said Lucas.

It would take up just three acres on campus on a chosen site across from the University of California Police Department.

The Environmental Impact Report is almost complete.

The campus hit the 25,000 student cap earlier than expected in 2019, so UCSB is trying to catch up and accommodate the current enrollment. The housing crunch led to some transfer students living in hotels during the start of the last school year.

Wrigley hasn't seen the model but is still concerned.

"If you get shut in in an environment where it is dark and small, not a single ounce of real sunlight, I just think it is a recipe for disaster. I understand it is a big issue going on here. Munger Hall is not the answer," said Wrigley.

Lucas believes the way to change her mind and others is to let them do a tour.

"By the time they walk through the mock-up and see the facilities that are available and the nice amenities and the rooms, the single room and the lighting, and so forth, they leave with a pretty positive attitude toward the building as a whole," said Lucas.

Associated Students Senator Sohum Kalia said most of the Munger Hall protesters have graduated and he feels like it's a done deal.

"They kind of act like they are not going to go forward with it or they are considering it and they just do it and let us know afterward. I don't see a world where it doesn't happen they are not going to listen to student voices on it," said Kalia.

But Lucas said the approval process is still underway.

"If we get approval from the Regents and the California Coastal Commissions we could start construction as early as next summer and it is a 40-month build period, and it could if all goes well be done by the middle of 2026."

The EIR will be released for public input in mid-to-late October.

For more information email mungerhall@bap.ucsb.edu or visit sam.ucsb.edu

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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