Last week, Student Housing announced the Aug. 1 closure and reconstruction of Baggins End, a sustainable-living community composed of 14 fiberglass domes. This announcement was made hastily, potentially leaving 26 students with six months to find a new home.
It was not, however, unexpected. Student Housing routinely threatens changes to integral student communities, such as last year’s attempt to turn the Davis Student Cooperative (DSC) into office space. Well, DSC is still around and thriving, and hopefully, a year from now the same will be true for the Domes.
Student Housing said their official reason for closing the Domes is structural degradation, necessitating months of renovations and years of paying off loans for the reconstruction. Under the official plan, Student Housing will not renew leases for the 2011-2012 school year in order to start in on these long, expensive fixes.
In a Jan. 28 letter responding to the projected closure, the Domies presented their own plan of action for fixing the structures. The community has been working with the Sustainable Living/Learning Taskforce, a new group composed of administrators, faculty members and students, to move campus cooperatives into the future.
One of the community’s intentions is to plan new structures to be built at Baggins End in the next three to four years. If successful, the long-term issues become irrelevant, because there would be a fresh start. They hope to solve the short-term issues through donated time, money and ideas.
It is important to remember the context of this situation. The Domes community is composed of full-time students, who are working on the future of the Domes in addition to the normal stresses of college life. It is commendable that unlike Student Housing, the Domies have chosen to take the time to figure out how to do what is right over what is easy.
In the case that Student Housing follows through, the temporary closure of the Domes will be a great loss for the UC Davis community. In living situations that rely as heavily on social structure as the Domes do, the spacing in residency caused by closure would leave future Domies disconnected from their 40-year history.
In addition, Baggins End has always functioned as a low-cost alternative to the relatively over-priced campus dorms. At the 2010-2011 rates, living in a two-person dome costs $226 a month, without food, while living in a two-person dorm costs at least $1,000, even on the cheapest meal plan.
Finally, the space has functioned as a breeding ground for important community efforts. From the Davis Bike Collective to the Davis People’s Free School, the influence of the Domes reaches far beyond its 26 residents.
For this reason, it is the greater community’s responsibility to keep the Domes alive. Tell Student Housing that you care. Participate in planning for the future, and donate what time and effort you have to spare.
The residents of Baggins End should remember that regardless of the structural integrity of the Domes, they have the support of the Davis community.