UCR students and faculty send letter to Chancellor Wilcox urging preservation of College Building South

On Jan. 17, Aram Ayra, a recent UCR graduate and a project policy analyst on campus, was joined by over 100 faculty and academic senate members, staff assembly board members, graduate and undergraduate student leaders and others in sending a letter to Chancellor Kim Wilcox regarding the preservation of College Building South. The building, according to Ayra, is in a state of neglect and falling apart with UCR administration doing little to help.

On Feb. 27, 2018 an Academic Senate division meeting was held, with Wilcox and other university leadership in attendance. The theme for the meeting, developed by Academic Senate Chairman Dylan Rodriguez, was “Facilities, Faculty, and the Future” and encompassed a broad discussion on the physical state of UCR’s academic buildings, the campus use of shared services and the need to invest in UCR’s academic buildings.

One of the presentations focused on the dilapidated state of College Building South and how unfortunate its situation was in comparison to historic buildings on other university campuses. In an interview with the Highlander Ayra stated that, “I cannot provide comment on how much progress has happened with other academic buildings since the meeting (I’m sure some has) but there has been zero movement with regards to College Building South.”

In the letter to Wilcox, Ayra and UCR faculty state that, “We … are writing this letter in support of preserving and investing in College Building South … We have combined our voices to request the University of California, Riverside address the current vulnerabilities of the building in order to preserve it and prevent further deterioration or damage to its architectural and historical significance.” The letter also states that the repairs and investment in preserving the building will ensure continued access for the public to appreciate the historic space and for scholars and staff to pursue their work.

According to the letter, College Building South was designed by Lester H. Hibbard and H.B. Cody and the design followed the ‘Mission Revival’ style, reflecting Spanish Colonial influence on Southern California architecture. The building opened for use in 1917 and is identified as both “pre-1945” and “World War II vintage” by the UCR 2005 Long Range Development Plan, but it is not formally entered into a historical register. According to Ayra and the letter’s authors, College Building South “deserves to be protected as a historically significant site to the UCR Community. In our pursuit of development and University expansion, we should not hurry to erase the very “essence” that brought us to this point as a campus.”

Ayra also wrote to the Highlander that there are many other perspectives and different aspects of “history unique to the region that are important to recognize and be mindful of.” However, with regard to campus buildings and landscape, “we have lost the Barn in its original form and the Faculty Club, the Botanic Gardens (founded 1963) have been forced to largely self fund & manage, due to a lack of coordinated support from the campus.”

Ayra believes that UCR’s campus itself is a “mishmash of older, architecturally unique buildings and the new UCR brick & glass buildings that stress a polished cookie-cutter look that does nothing to add the vibrant history and human geography of the campus.” However, Ayra stressed that he is not against new development. “New buildings, research space, and world class amenities are necessary and proper for a campus like ours. But they should not come at the cost of erasure and disinvestment in the campus aspects that make our University uniquely us,” Ayra said.

As of Jan. 23, Ayra has yet to receive a response from Chancellor Wilcox; but Associate Chancellor Christine Victorino has responded and assured Ayra that he, along with other university leadership would be responding soon.

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