Finding a Middle Ground

By now, every UCSD student is aware of the complaints. Upon arrival, most students are almost immediately disappointed to find that our campus is a little different than others. The whole college-town feel that characterizes colleges of myth just does not seem relevant within our cozy locale of La Jolla.

Mike Coggins
Guardian

Meaning “”the jewel”” in Spanish, La Jolla continues to dazzle newcomers and students alike with its natural beauty. It is not uncommon to hear it described as “”the most beautiful place in the world.”” UCSD is lucky to have such a delightful place as its backyard.

Unfortunately, while many students are very content with the academic climate of UCSD, they still manage to be considerably discontent with our college’s social environment. The complaints about nothing to do on campus are rampant and indeed, unjustifiable. However, the community surrounding UCSD is another issue altogether.

Ask almost any student what they know about the “”city”” they attend school in nine months out of the year, and nearly everyone would give you limited information, at best. Or even worse, many students simply subscribe to the most popular stereotypes about La Jollans. A group of rich, snobby, uncooperative people is probably what your average UCSD student would have to say about them.

But exactly how true is this statement? What are the residents really like and how has it affected the social dynamics of UCSD? Read further to find out …

A Community of San Diegans

Officially, La Jolla is not even a city, although most students are probably unaware of this. According to Barry Benintende, an editor of The La Jolla Light and unofficial expert on all things La Jollan, La Jolla is actually a township.

“”It’s a community of San Diegans; very rich San Diegans,”” Benintende said.

Benintende added that La Jolla has representation in the San Diego city council and carries out its civic functions in the form of multiple councils and committees.

The history of UCSD is a good place to start when trying to understand why the campus is set up the way it is. As for the complaints that there are not enough things that cater to college students, the origins of the university are an appropriate avenue to explore, also.

La Jolla was a very well-established community before Roger Revelle first presented to UC regents in 1959, the idea for a university on land that previously belonged to the U.S. military. Residents initially feared the great change that the then proposed UC La Jolla could possibly inflict on their small community. Although over the decades, La Jollans have adapted to the change, and indeed in some cases, residents have embraced the university, some things have never changed.

“”There is a comfort level in [La Jollans] lives that they don’t want a lot of change,”” Benintende said. “”It’s not that the people here are snobbish it’s just that they may not reach out to UCSD students as a whole as much as they could.””

For him, however, it could be a two-way street. Students should be just as involved with the community if they have complaints, he said. If the students want to be more involved, he added, they should do more volunteer work and get in touch with the community. According to him, most students might be surprised to find how responsive the La Jolla community would be if they made an effort to reach out.

“”Most residents, I would figure, are very receptive to students because most of them have children,”” Benintende said. “”The supposition that La Jolla is anti-college may be true in some cases, but I think most of the residents are reasonable to know that there’s something to be gained from embracing the students. I’d say it’s a 50-50 mix as far as people that really look at UCSD students as assets and who realize that the university is here to stay.””

The dot-com boom in recent years has caused a surge in the number of young millionaires moving into the area, according to Benintende.

The Residents

“”I would venture to say that [newcomers] want to provide for their families,”” Benintende said. “”A lot of La Jollans are family people, while a huge chunk is the senior citizen population. If you factor in the senior citizens and students, that’s the high and low end of the age bracket. The more sympathetic crowd toward college students tend to be the small bracket of young adults who might be just out of college.””

La Jolla is no stranger to “”new money”” and newcomers from all over the country continually move into the area because of the allure La Jolla offers, particularly for new families raising children.

The Scarbroughs, who just arrived from Utah less than a year ago with their infant son, described how warm and friendly La Jollans have been to them.

“”I think they’re pretty friendly, actually; quite outgoing and very laid back,”” said Nicole Scarbrough. “”[They are] very helpful, usually quite thoughtful which is nice.””

Most students have the idea that a typical La Jollan would be almost impossible to approach. The wealth many of these residents possess is almost enough of an intimidation factor to stop even the bravest students from striking up a spontaneous conversation with an average resident.

Out-of-towners like Jared Scarbrough think the situation is not as black and white, however, especially in comparison to other parts of the country.

“”I think in Utah it’s easier to get to know people and make a connection,”” he said. “”But I think here once you make the connection it’s a stronger connection [because] they’re more friendly, helpful and more genuine. Once you break down that initial barrier they’re very open and kind people but I think on the outside, there’s that barrier that you need to break through.””

Ralph Nedelkoff, a resident of La Jolla for only 6 months, originally from New Jersey, has found the community very welcoming.

“”It’s a wonderful community,”” he said. “”Everybody I’ve met, whether they’re students or not students.””

Newcomers from around the world are also common within the community of La Jolla. Fresh from St. Andrews, Scotland, is young couple Tom and Sharon Henley. According to the two, the social climate of La Jolla is not entirely unique.

“”Probably Scotland would be a wee bit more warm and people who moved in next door would have you come around or say hello,”” Tom Henley said. “”I guess it’s like any big city really; London would be the same — you wouldn’t know your next-door neighbors.””

Why No College Town?

An all-too-familiar complaint is that we lack a college town or any semblance of a college-town community. The most popular comparisons would have to be universities such as UCLA, UC Berkeley and SDSU. True as it may be that each of those colleges might have an edge over ours in terms of more college-friendly establishments surrounding their campuses, some would argue that UCSD and La Jolla needn’t change at all.

For instance, Naureen Nayyar, an ex-SDSU student who is now in her second year at Mesa College, is quick to point out the benefits of UCSD being situated in an area like La Jolla. For instance, she points out how she prefers the quiet and peacefulness only La Jolla can provide. In addition, she is more optimistic about UCSD’s social milieu.

“”I have a lot of friends who go to UCSD, and they have a lot of fun just partying in their dorms and stuff, too,”” she said. “”I mean, you can make any place happen if you want it. College life is what you make of it. It’s not just about partying — there are people who like to just chill.””

Nayyar went on to express how she feels UCSD students should take more time to appreciate what they already have.

“”I think a lot of times when people go, ‘Oh I want it more like a college town,’ they’re not thinking, ‘Oh I want more places for kids to just hang out after 10,'”” she said. “”They’re talking about places to party and stuff, like PB. [In PB], everybody’s just drinking everywhere and it’s so loud, I mean I live in PB right now and sometimes it’s kind of annoying how every day is a party.””

Mandeville Special Collections Library Director Lynda Corey Claassen believes the reason to be mostly circumstantial. The area surrounding UCSD is predominantly residential instead of commercial. It is important to note that UCSD is situated on a hill, conveniently tucked away from the rest of La Jolla.

Unlike places like Westwood for UCLA or Berkeley for Cal, UCSD never developed in a student-friendly area that was contiguous to the campus. On top of that, our university is a far younger school and has not had as much time to develop and mature into a thriving college community, in the traditional sense.

The culture of La Jolla has managed to remain intact, however. According to Claassen, it is a dynamic mix of art, culture, social events and social interaction.

Distance From the Community

Perhaps the biggest culprit, as far as UCSD’s distance from the community, is the geography itself.

The relationship between UCSD and La Jolla was and is tentative. As a university, it is primarily concerned with the education of students and maintaining a certain standard of excellence. On the other hand, because of their perpetual concern for geography and land, most La Jollans find little in common with the university. Exceptions most definitely exist, but generally speaking, each entity has its own specific interests, and tends to not understand each other.

Nancy Groves, director of academic advising at Revelle and a resident of the area for 37 years, mentioned that La Jolla has tried to respond to the location difficulties UCSD students may come across. For instance, La Jolla Village Square only became as student friendly as it is today in recent years because the local businesses realized that providing more services to the massive student population was the only way to survive economically.

UCSD Student Perspectives and Making the Most of It

UCSD student Shiloh Talley believes La Jolla’s natural splendor to be one of its greatest assets.

“”La Jolla is one of the most beautiful places in the United States with the most beautiful people around,”” Talley said.

She, like many others, endorses a more proactive approach to alleviate the common complaint that there is nothing to do on campus.

“”I think you have to make your own fun, but as UCSD students we’re all capable of doing that. Otherwise we wouldn’t have come here,”” she said. “”We came here for the beauty of it and there’s so many beautiful things to do that we should be satisfied.””

Some students like Revelle sophomore Ben Mayes are hardly concerned with connecting with La Jollans outside the university . Being a student is of utmost priority for students like him.

“”Our problem isn’t all that unique, really,”” Mayes said. “”You can’t expect the community to be involved with us. I mean there are variations, some colleges will interact more with the community than others but all in all you kind of don’t expect it because [students and La Jollans] live such different lifestyles.””

UCSD senior Bobby Potruch works at one of the many booths at UTC. Dealing with all sorts of people every day, Potruch attests to the claim that La Jollans are a very diverse group, despite most stereotypical perceptions of them. Like many other students who deal with La Jollans on a regular basis, he remarked how labeling the entire community as one thing would be inaccurate.

Potruch maintains that La Jolla, like any community near a big city, is a mix of all ages and types of people who surprisingly are a varied mix even from an economic standpoint. In other words, not everyone is filthy rich, although most are.

In response to claims that UCSD or La Jolla lacks a college-town feel, Potruch recites a familiar sentiment shared by many students. According to him, for anyone who’s ever been to a college-town, UCSD is “”definitely no college town.””

As examples, Potruch cited how the conservative nature of UCSD neighbors prevents there from being action such as parties on campus which are not almost immediately broken up. Much like students before him, Potruch remains far more optimistic about the opportunities UCSD has to offer socially. He poses the challenge that all students look within themselves to change their attitudes before whining about how UCSD lacks yet another thing.

“”If you’ve ever spoken to mostly anyone, they’re always looking for something outside their town,”” Potruch said. “”Their town is boring, their school is boring, there’s never anything to do; it’s always trying to get out of your local environment. And it seems like the popular thing to say is that there’s nothing to do.””

Instead of blaming the lack of parties, Potruch thinks in many cases, it is the students themselves who never really learned how to have fun because of the academic nature of UCSD.

“”It’s a very competitive school where people spent a great deal of time in their high schools worrying about their grades to get into a prestigious school,”” Potruch said. “”Now that they’re in college, they’re looking to party and they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know what it is. They’re partying and they still don’t know they’re partying. They think you have to be at some rager with five kegs where you can’t move and that’s a party; that’s technically a party but also partying is going out with a few of your buddies and hanging out. You don’t have to stay out till 3 a.m. to be classified as a cool person who had a good time.””

Potruch agrees.

“”You can bring fun to almost any town,”” Potruch said. “”It’s not that much to search for, you’ll go your whole entire college life searching for it and it was sitting right in front of you the whole time and you never knew it was there.””