UCI’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Resource Planning and Housing, Dan Dooros, recently proposed an increase of nearly 500 beds in Middle Earth by 2019. The housing expansion would provide space for a growing freshman student population, 600 of whom are currently living in alternative housing due to lack of space in the freshman dorms.
Dooros, during his presentation of the proposal to ASUCI Senate last Tuesday, said that the 495 new beds would likely be built on top of Brandywine Commons.
“We will have a ground floor with dining and second-floor administration offices,” said Dooros. “That way the fourth floor of the [Brandywine Student Center] can be repurposed. Housing will be on top of the administration floor.”
The logistics of the new housing area will be similar to existing freshman housing, with separate entrances for the housing area and dining area. In the interest of environmentalism, Dooros said there will likely be no air conditioning, but he cannot be sure “at this point.”
In response to a question from At-Large Senator Alison Lu about how the project will impact housing insecurity at UCI, Dooros said that there will be two different housing rates depending on students’ needs and preferences, the classic rate and “premium” tower rate for the newer buildings in Mesa Court and Middle Earth. He noted that UCI’s freshman housing costs are currently the second-lowest in the UC system, behind UC San Diego.
The new project will prompt a 5.2 percent increase in UCI’s current spending on housing, but Dooros said the funding will be sponsored by a State of California bond, which will be paid back by residents.
ASUCI Senators, who were asked to help facilitate focus groups between architects, students and Resident Assistants, expressed concerns about the price and possible exclusivity of the housing expansion.
“Is there any guarantee that these triples will not turn into quads, like at Mesa Tower?” asked External Vice President Taylor Chanes.
“These are much bigger rooms with private bathrooms and much higher ceilings. I can’t give a guarantee [that they won’t turn into quads],” said Dooros. “It’s all based on who the state says we can take and how many we can take.”
Internal Student Advocate General Siddharth Baranwal had concerns about the potential for housing inequality creating class divisions between students.
“How do we know that [creating different quality tiers of housing] will not contribute to the sense of classism and privilege that this system promotes?” asked Baranwal.
“I’m not sure we can,” replied Dooros. “We want everyone to use these buildings — we do not want to have the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Everyone should use the same [common] facilities. But the rooms will be the rooms. It is hard to compare a brand new room with a 40 year old one. We will try to avoid this.”
Despite concerns over the details, Dooros said that the housing expansion will be necessary after the recent unprecedented expansion in the number of UCI freshmen. Applications for the 2017-18 academic year hit a record high of over 100,000, and in fall 2016, UCI admitted more than 15 percent more California freshmen than the year prior. Hundreds of freshmen are currently living in communities such as Campus Village due to lack of space in the freshman dorms, and the number of displaced freshmen will continue to grow if on-campus housing does not expand in the coming years.
Dooros remains optimistic regarding the potential of the project.
“We are very excited,” said Dooros. “We will have the best housing of any UC and hopefully of any West Coast college. This has been a challenge, but we are building for the future.”
The proposal will be presented to UC Regents during their Jan. 25 meeting at UC San Francisco.