Recognizing the UCI Stigma

Oftentimes we try to be oblivious to it, but UCI is experiencing growing pains. UCI is young. For what it’s worth, UCI has done so much in its only 50 year existence, and I am very proud of that. The problem is, others aren’t.

The issue is there is this large stigma against UCI compared to others within the UC system, say UCLA or Berkeley. There are multiple reasons for this.

We all know the dichotomy between the different types of colleges. When students decide to pursue an education at a UC, Irvine almost always falls into their “back-up” schools. The first aim usually is Berkeley or UCLA, and maybe UCSD. The rest of the UC schools become their backups, if they so choose to even consider them.

Why is it that UCI is any less a university than UCLA or Berkeley? The education we get here is pretty much the exact same at other universities. Also, we have some of the top researchers in their fields here. Michael Rose, Jeffrey Barrett, etc. are just some of the names that come to mind. UCI is a fantastic university and should be given much more credit than the backwards glance that prospective students give it.

But perhaps it has to do with the culture that the current students establish for the university. UCI is a commuter college. There is no denying that. Just ask the parking department on campus. Unlike other colleges, a student commuting theoretically doesn’t get the full college experience that those who live on campus would have. That’s not to say that those who actually live on campus don’t make the school any less of a commuter school.

Architecture is another aspect. Unlike the older UC schools, we don’t carry the mystique that accompanies older style buildings that look more like church cathedrals than actual buildings. The architecture at UCI is very modern. Engineering, Humanities, and Bio come to mind. The oldest building on campus is probably Rowland Hall, and that building still looks modern. When traveling to a UCLA or UC Berkeley, you cannot help but notice the grandeur of those buildings and feel like you are stepping into historical ground. At UCI, we don’t get that. This isn’t the fault of the original planners because they were merely looking at building plans that were more economical. But the mystique of gothic style buildings cannot be overlooked.

Location is probably the most important aspect. UCLA is in what I consider a primetime location as well as UC Berkeley. Berkeley is right by the bay and San Francisco, while UCLA is pretty much right near the heart of LA. While UCLA feigns east of LA in the quaint town of Westwood, it is still very close to the heart of SoCal. This makes the school a prime location for movie premieres, celebrity sightings, and other things. I have friends who met John Mayer or have been on the set for a popular TV program. Here at UCI, it’s very quiet. UCI sleeps. UCI gets quiet after 10 or 11, probably because UCIPD gets extremely annoyed. Actually, they get annoyed at everything. UCI is at the corner of Irvine, close to the beaches. That is probably the only thing UCI has in terms of location. Other than that, it’s a business town. UCI was at the heart of the building plans for Irvine, but honestly, Irvine is boring. There’s not much other than the Spectrum and maybe Boomer’s if you’re into that. We have UTC. They have the entire city of Westwood. We now have a Chipotle and will soon have a Chick-fil-A. But franchise restaurants don’t exactly enhance the college ambiance.

We haven’t even begun discussing sports. UCI is a fantastic university that is consistently ranked in the top tiers, and I am proud of this school, whatever the stigma. The professors here are fantastic. The research is top notch. If you want to turn a blind eye to UCI, fine! That’s completely your choice. I’m proud to be an anteater.


David Vu is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at