Billionaire Wants Prison-Like, Windowless Dorm Rooms for California Students

Billionaire Charles Munger first owed to donate $200 million US to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to build a new student housing project in 2016.

However, the catch was, the university needed to build dormitories according to Munger’s proposal, or he would pull funding. 

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The proposal includes an 11-storey, 1.68-million-square-foot building housing 4,500 students, 94 per cent of whom would live in single-occupancy, windowless dorm rooms.

“The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being,” wrote Los Angeles architect Dennis McFadden, a design principal at Leo A. Daly, who had served on UC Santa Barbara’s design review committee for nearly 15 years.

“I cannot give tacit approval to this project, something I believe I would be doing by continuing my role as a consulting architect to the DRC.” McFadden has since resigned from the committee in protest over the project.

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McFadden also expressed frustration that the design review committee was not given opportunity to challenge the project.

“It was clear the DRC was a mere formality,” wrote McFadden. “The design was described as 100% complete, approval was not requested, no vote was taken and no further submittals are intended or required.”

In his resignation letter, McFadden noted that “an ample body of documented evidence shows that interior environments with access to natural light, air and views to nature improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of occupants.”

“The Munger Hall design ignores this evidence and seems to take the position that it doesn’t matter,” he continued.

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Munger has since reacted to McFadden’s criticisms. He defended the building design, saying, “The reason this building is the way it is, is because there are enormous advantages in having a lot of undergraduates conveniently near one another and conveniently near everything else they like to be near.

The logical way to do that is to make a building in a big footprint and devote the top floor of it — which is a penthouse floor normally given to rich people, you know, for condos — and give that to the students as their common space, and to put a certain amount of academic space into that gigantic top floor with all the light and air and so forth.

And so it’s just that it was so novel, he’s never seen that done, and he doesn’t like it when it’s different from what he’s used to.”

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Munger is the vice-chair of the multinational conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway. 

“You’ve got to get used to the fact that billionaires aren’t the most popular people in our society. … I’d rather be a billionaire and not loved by everybody than not have any money,” Munger said about the issue. 

Read more news here at the East County Gazette. 

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