30 November 2005

Bowles Hall another victim of U.C. corporatization?

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

Today’s Contra Costa Times carries an article by Matt Krupnick under the headline Haas program eyes oldest UC dorm.

Reports Krupnick:
University planners are considering moving the Haas business school’s profitable executive-education programs into Bowles Hall, a 77-year-old Gothic mansion known for its wacky traditions. If selected for the Haas program, the building would house up to 150 corporate leaders while they attended business seminars.

Campus officials say Bowles is one of several sites being considered, but the proposal has already offended alumni who have battled with the university over sometimes rowdy Bowles traditions. School officials this year instituted a freshmen-only policy in the all-male dorm, partly to cut down on drinking and parties among the 200 residents.

“It’s not supposed to be a Holiday Inn for executives and seminars,” said San Jose resident Jim Arbuckle, a 1957 UC Berkeley graduate who lived at Bowles for four years and later received a Haas graduate degree. “Leave it for the younger students.”

Haas leaders say they understand the strong feelings that have led Bowles alumni to return year after year to meet new residents of the castle-like dormitory, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Officials say they plan to speak to alumni before finalizing which site will be used. The decision is expected by May, planners said.

“We want to have discussions with all the parties, because we certainly understand the sensitivity of the issues,” said Larry Lollar, the business school’s assistant dean for development and alumni relations.

"It’s purely speculative at this point, and we didn’t want to freak anybody out unnecessarily" by discussing Bowles publicly any sooner, he said.

Other possible sites include a historic complex south of campus and two parking lots. An anonymous $25 million donation will help the business school afford a building project, which would include renovations to the historic sites or a new building at the parking lot site.

A multimillion-dollar face lift could increase alumni pride by restoring Bowles to a “premium site,” Lollar said.

Yet even the gung-ho U.C. administration realizes the site is less than ideal. Although Bowles is just across Gayley Road from the Haas Business School, its location atop the Hayward fault leaves something to be desired.

This is yet another instance where lucrative corporate alliances take precedence over undergraduate education at U.C. Berkeley. The Center for Executive Development, currently housed at Haas, provides non-degree courses to more than 2,500 senior corporate executives from around the world every year. Demand keeps growing, and Haas is hard put to provide housing for these well-paying students. What is more natural than to kick out the undergrads?


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