A Dangerous Plan

Open Letter to Chancellor Yang,

You have been a true wizard in the development of new buildings for our beloved campus, but the new controversial dorm plan is just one hugely dangerous mistake. I mean literally “dangerous” to the mental health of students who already spend enough time in enclosed classrooms, labs, and study halls, so that the place they call home should maximize what Southern California has to offer in terms of lovely nature, fresh air, sunshine and a feeling of expansiveness, not constraint. The psychological concept of deliberately keeping kids in windowless rooms so that they will then congregate and interact in common spaces is a grotesque abstract idea that reminds me of some Stalinesque or other totalitarian ways of thinking.

I used the dramatic word “dangerous” because it is not only dangerous to the mental health of individual students, but because such an environment can be “dangerous” to the larger student and general community by breeding neuroses and social isolation which could lead individual students to violence involving the use of weapons, mass shootings, or other forms of rebellious antisocial vengeance such as the horrible incidents that have occurred in UCSB life in past years.

In this case one must indeed “look a gift horse in the mouth” and refuse a monetary gift if it has so many questionable negative aspects. I’m certain that if you turn down this monetary offer and this project, you will more easily receive other offers for sponsorship motivated by gratitude and respect for your decision. In fact, this issue could be used as an excellent beacon to draw public attention to the crisis in student housing and an appeal for other funding for more sane and safe student housing, whether from state and federal government agencies or from wealthy private donors who have the financial means to give at least as generously as the donor lurking behind this misconceived project. Thank you for your attention and wishing you all the best for your difficult task.

Peter Lackner is professor emeritus, UCSB Department of Theater and Dance.

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