“Guadeamus igitur (Let Us Rejoice.)” So begins the medieval song about undergraduate life, and that song comes naturally to students and alumni when they glimpse their school’s oldest building, which testifies to its antiquity.  

At William and Mary, academic life centers on the Wren Building.  Likewise, Harvard prizes Massachusetts Hall and Yale Connecticut Hall.  Outside the Ivy League, UNC boasts Old East,  and UVA the Rotunda. Although founded more recently, California schools followed suit. USC reveres Widney House], and Stanford the Old Quad, just as Berkeley does South Hall, San Diego Scripps Hall and UCLA Royce Hall.  

While these structures require special care, most schools feel the expense is justified — all of them except UC Riverside. Here one of the oldest buildings on campus has long been neglected and just been slated for demolition. 

In 1965, when Irvine and Santa Cruz opened, Riverside had been operating for over a decade as part of the post-war expansion that also established Davis and Santa Barbara. UCR’s lineage, however, goes back even further. 

In 1907, the University of California established the Citrus Experiment Station at Riverside, and in 1914, the state increased its budget. In turn, the University established a new academic unit, the Graduate School of Tropical Agriculture. L. H. Hibbard, a Los Angeles architect who had just designed the stunning Lincoln Heights Library, planned the CES complex. 

In 1918, when the first director, H. J. Webber, opened the new Station, he hymned the main research building, now Anderson Hall, which houses the School of Business. But he also described a residence “with sun parlor, patio and sleeping porches,” which “occupies a prominent rocky knoll, commanding a view over a large portion of the farm and the surrounding country.” Webber knew it well because he and subsequent Directors lived there. That residence is now known as College Building South.

The Directors who lived there profoundly impacted Riverside and the future university. The fact that the CES was in Riverside owed everything to the local community’s enthusiasm for it. They knew that if the citrus industry thrived, someone had to control the mealybugs, flies, mites, thrips, worms and several forms of scale which thrived on the plants. In short, without the CES, Riverside and its citrus industry would have remained only an elusive dream.

Not only did the university later develop on CES land, but the Station’s early research helps explain UCR’s current fame in Botany, Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Nematology and especially Entomology.  Naturally, the university quickly named prominent buildings after the Directors — Webber, Batchelor and Boyce.   

While these memories have faded somewhat, some undergraduates still remember.  In 2017, a student group urged the administration to include College Building South in its development plans: “when compared to historic and original buildings on other campuses, many of which have been painstakingly preserved and consistently protected, College Building South sadly pales in comparison because of the neglect it has faced from the campus.” Yet notwithstanding repeated vows to remedy the situation, nothing has been done, and the structure now faces oblivion.  

This cannot be allowed to happen. Instead, the administration and the local community must act immediately to save the building.  Let’s burnish the memory of the Citrus Experiment Station and the campus’ long connection to the UC system — not let it crumble away.  Then, the voices of our students and alumni can soar when they come to the line in “Guadeamus:” “Alma Mater floreat! (May our Alma Mater flourish!)”

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