A Dorm Without Windows: What is Munger Hall?

Billionaire Charles Munger designed UCSB’s newest dorm and people are not happy with it. Should this be allowed?

Abby Kim

Imagine living in a small room with no windows, storage space, or adequate ventilation. While sounding fictional, this is the blueprint for Munger Hall, the newly designed University of California Santa Barbara dorm, that plans to hold 4,500 students. 

UCSB is a well respected college with a 37% acceptance rate, well known academics, and a desirable location next to the beach. 

Like many colleges, UCSB faced a housing shortage and had to build more dorms for their increasing student body. 

“To address this crisis, in a disorganized and halfhearted way, they decided to build this massive dorm and amazingly give the power and final say of the building to a billionaire,” said UCSB professor and Laguna teacher Dena Montague. “UCSB has had a housing crisis for several years.” 

The billionaire Charles Munger, a 97-year-old investor and Vice President of Berkshire Hathaway, donated $200 million to the new building. However, there was a catch. Munger, who has little experience with architecture, requested to design the new UCSB dorm in return for his donation. 

The deal was approved, and Munger took on the project. After its approval, Dennis McFadden, a consulting architect on UCSB’s Design Review Committee, resigned because he disapproved of Mung er’s blueprint. 

McFadden’s resignation letter and the dorm’s blueprints were leaked, sparking public outrage. Intense media attention focused on Munger and his blueprint for the dorms, which include small 10-foot- by-7-foot living quarters, rely heavily on artificial lighting, and have no windows. 

During an interview for the New York Times, McFadden expresses that he was “disturbed” by a design that cram students into a 1.7-million- square-foot, 11-story building. 

The majority of students would live in small rooms without windows, “wholly dependent on artificial light and mechanical ventilation,” McFadden said. 

Munger Hall blueprints show that a majority of rooms do not have windows. Because the dorms lack windows, there is also a lack of ventilation, an issue that is amplified due to COVID-19. Mung er responded to public outcry by adding artificial windows to the dorm layout, and ensured the public that a good ventilation system would be built. In an interview with MarketWatch, he said, “I think the building will be a huge success.”

 Munger is not the only one who thinks Munger Hall will be successful. In response to backlash, The Current, UCSB’s official news site, held a Q&A with Munger to address the public’s concern over windows and ventilation and the number of exits and entrances. Munger Hall’s original blueprint reveals two exits and entrances. In the Q&A, Munger states the revised blueprint features 15 smaller entries. Despite responding to public concerns, The Current affirms that the construction of the building will continue. 

Six UCSB professors created a petition to stop the construction of Munger Hall and gathered over 1,500 signatures.”

Montague is also concerned about the new UCSB dorm. She shared her surprise at the administration’s approval of the design. “Munger is not paying for a large portion of the building as well in the grand scheme of things. The overall cost is estimated to be $1.2 billion and he is donating only $200 million.” 

According to Montague, Munger designed the dorm rooms to be small so students will not want to stay in their dorms constantly. Montague is not the only UCSB professor concerned about Munger Hall. 

Six UCSB professors created a petition to stop the construction of Munger Hall and gathered over 1,500 signatures. 

Students also started petitions against Munger Hall, gaining hundreds of signatures. 

As more public attention focuses on Munger and people begin to take action, the future of Munger Hall is uncertain. 

In addition to UCSB students, high school students are impacted by Munger Hall as it influences their college admission process. “If a college I were applying to made a dorm like Munger Hall, I would not consider going to that college anymore,” senior Ava Rice said. 

“I would 100% reconsider that college,” said junior Claire Kellet. “Personally, if I can’t even trust a college to follow basic safety measures, there is no way I would trust them with my education.” 

As local and national students look towards going to college, dorm issues like this can severely impact their decisions. 

Although UCSB affirmed their commitment to Munger Hall, it is not confirmed that the building will be built. 

Because UCSB’s campus is next to the ocean, all new buildings must be vetted by the California Coastal Commission and UC Board of Regents. 

Due to the explosion of public attention and protests, whether or not the building will be built is still in the air.