UCSD, La Jolla Made Friction From Start

    The California economy was booming. The University of California’s budget had a large surplus. The college system needed to find a way to educate an influx of baby boomers. The time was ripe.

    Billy Wong/Guardian
    The campus was established near Lebon and Nobel Drives (pictured) at the height of the civil rights era, spawning a liberal university philosophy within an ideologically conservative San Diego.

    So former UC President Clark Kerr decided to expand the UC system in the 1950s, giving birth to three new campuses, one of which was a relatively small university in a sleepy Navy town called San Diego.

    Against the Odds

    “”Imagine there being no central library, no Price Center, no six colleges,”” said former Revelle College Provost F. Thomas Bond, who joined the UCSD faculty in 1967 and retired in 2002. “”The whole campus then being what is the southwest part of the campus right now.””

    Oceanographer Roger Revelle spearheaded the initial effort, which was not without its share of obstacles. The UC Board of Regents discussed making the university merely an extension of UCLA, one of the system’s flagship colleges at the time. Revelle’s struggles continued in acquiring land for the campus, which pitted him against Jonas Salk, whose Salk Institute already owned some of La Jolla and Torrey Pines. But land donations from early benefactors pushed the campus’ formation ahead, including a discounted sale of 170 acres by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to the university, according to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Planning Jeffrey A. Steindorf.

    In addition, UCSD received 555 acres from the locals, as well as 381 acres from the federal government. But just having land wasn’t enough to force the La Jolla community to mesh with its new neighbor.

    The Black Sheep

    San Diego was extremely conservative at the time of UCSD’s founding, and La Jolla was even more so. Citizens had no idea of the liberal leanings a university usually brings to an area, according to Bond. Soon after students arrived, the ideological divide between La Jolla and UCSD was obvious.

    “La Jolla was a place that banned land ownership by Jews or minorities,” Bond said. “Putting that together [with] a university system that was largely liberal made for some interesting times.”

    A handful of heavily involved students rubbed San Diegans the wrong way in the 1960s, when political activism was at its height. In 1965, students protested American involvement in the Dominican Republic, according to Joanne Gribble, author of “40 years of UCSD Perspective,” spurring the San Diego Union to brand UCSD students “kooky” and “Commies.” Then, in 1967, students flew a Viet Minh flag on a campus building, making local politicians wary of such a left-wing hotbed in their hometown.

    The problem spread to UCSD’s faculty, which initially included Herbert Marcuse, figurehead of 1950s socialist philosophy. The San Diego community openly attacked Marcuse for his political background in socialism, but administrators came to his defense. The Board of Regents eventually censured Chancellor William McGill for verbally supporting Marcuse.

    “There was a huge amount of pressure not to appoint people associated with left-wing causes,” Bond said. “In most cases, professors received the support of the university, but it was hard at times to battle a conservative community and city.”

    UCSD’s early nurturing of liberal politics was concentrated in Revelle Plaza, which was built as a parallel to Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, the apex of California’s free speech movement. The peak of UCSD’s political activism came in 1970, when George Winnie Jr. lit himself on fire in Revelle Plaza to protest the Vietnam War.

    “We had students being drafted,” Bond said. “We even had professors who were afraid to fail students, because we thought they would get drafted if they flunked out. It was that volatile of a time.”

    A Pricey Place

    Placing UCSD in La Jolla formed modern life as students know it. The high-priced La Jolla real estate market forced both students and faculty off campus, decentralizing university life. The Undergraduate Student Experience Report, released in 2005, aired student complaints about a socially barren campus, which stems from the university’s relationship with its neighborhood, according to Bond.

    “Commuting professors makes it hard for them to get involved with students,” he said. “But, in the end, the La Jolla community makes it hard for professors to afford living close to students.”

    The same problem was, and still is, present for students, many of whom are forced to settle for the affordability of University City and Clairemont. Even for students who live in La Jolla, residents have been less than welcoming.

    Some of the largest and most consistent problems created by the La Jolla-UCSD partnership are increased traffic and noise, according to Steindorf.

    La Jolla residents could have more reason to be concerned with infrastructure, with the upcoming construction of North Campus Transfer Housing, which will house an additional 1,000 students.

    The university isn’t planning to stop there. Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has pledged to make undergraduate housing a priority, and UCSD’s 2004 Long Range Development Plan indicated that there is more than enough space for that goal, as there are still 297 undeveloped acres for UCSD’s growth.

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