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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Student Central
By Sarah Alaoui, Sixth '12

The Student Center was a place for dreamers and intellectuals.

It still is.

Remembering Edna

Edna was retired this year. We miss her. Do you? If so, write to us and we will collect and publish your memories and plaudits.

 

Even in those early days, its wood-sheathed walls already proclaimed it as an aberration on campus. Unlike its other concrete counterparts, the Student Center served not only as a place to meet students’ needs, but also captured the zeitgeist of the University’s earliest years. Its log-cabin style buildings reflected a creative spirit—an innovative, optimistic attitude that some argue is a rarity amongst today’s generation.

In 1974, a group of UCSD students and other community members joined together in a collective with the goal of working to “eliminate all forms of exploitation of any person by another.” Based in Solana Beach, the members of the Groundwork Bookstore Collective were evicted from their storefront and replaced by a liquor store. A year later, they relocated to the Student Center where they continue to disseminate alternative information to the student body. Their aim:  To create a culture of critical consciousness. Groundwork offered students an alternative place to purchase textbooks as well as browse through texts spanning everything from feminism to the Cuban Revolution. At one point, they received so many classroom orders that the official campus bookstore attempted to close them down—unsuccessfully. (See “Socialist Ideals” in our September 2005 issue for more about Groundwork Books)

The long-anticipated Center kicked off its first year with an “Unopening” celebration on May 28, 1975. Handwritten announcements in the Triton Times advertised the event and promised “food, music, dancing girls, and assorted album giveaways courtesy of KSDT.” In conjunction with EDNA, the Student Information Center, a contest with a 25 dollar prize was held for whoever created the best “face” for the organization. The winning design (shown left), a grandmother holding a warm pie, was emblazoned on EDNA student employee T-shirts.

The information hub of the Student Center, EDNA, guided students and other souls who found themselves on campus to wherever they needed to be. In its old location in Urey Hall, it was simply known as “Student Information” but its name was later changed to EDNA (the letters spelled the last four digits of its phone number at the time). Fashioned after the wise, caring grandmother figure, it provided its users with answers to all sorts of questions—just like Grandma Edna would.

“People called us because we were supposed to know everything,” says one of the original “EDNA-ites,” Yoly Woo-Hoogenstyn, Muir ’76. “They asked us about everything from movie stars to how to cook.”

During exam weeks, EDNA would also cosponsor study marathons where the center would remain open 24 hours a day and provide students with free refreshments and a place to study, play pool, ping-pong and cards. 

Long before the official creation of the Student Center, student ears were stimulated by the live broadcasts of the “Radio for the San Diego Tritons,” more commonly known as KSDT. Originally conceived by five students in 1967, the station was housed in an old Marine barracks shower before it relocated to the Center where it still broadcasts campus-wide.

Student innovation was not limited to books and the airwaves, it also expanded to encompass the taste buds. The desire for healthy, affordable snacks on campus led to the 1974 creation of the food cooperative. Tim Sankary, Muir ’75, devoted an entire summer to building and decorating a food cart that he attached to his bike and used to sell food to his peers. Sankary started out selling apples and oranges for ten cents apiece in Revelle Plaza and then eventually in Muir and Third Colleges. (The framed photograph of him—on page 37—with long hair, bell bottoms, bike and cart still hangs in the co-op today.) Over time, students began to ask Sankary for a bigger variety of fruit, nuts, bread and other snacks. When these cravings started to include spoilable items like cheese and other dairy products, Sankary had to expand his thriving “business” beyond the little bike cart.

“I was told I had to get refrigeration for any food that would spoil and I was like, oh my God! This sort of snowballed on me and at the same time, I had to focus on biochemistry and organic chemistry and all my other classes,” says Sankary, who is now an epidemiologist and currently vice president of ACOSIDA, the Tijuana AIDS clinic.

 After he found a few free household refrigerators in newspaper listings, the administration granted him the use of a small janitor’s closet in Revelle, and as the supply and demand grew, two more closets in Muir and Third Colleges. Sankary had to enlist the aid of volunteers to help sustain his burgeoning project. He added a sign-up sheet to his bike and recruited 220 volunteers manning various shifts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all three campus locations. After the Center opened, the Co-op was also able to claim a space, and opened its doors in 1974.

Another student establishment that vied for space in the Center was the General Store Co-op. Opened in 1980 with the purpose of serving students rather than making a profit, it stocked its shelves with school and dorm necessities ranging from pens, paper and calculators to tape recorders, toasters and blue jeans. It was the epitome of a venture run by students for students.

When it was created, its anomalous setting acted as the breeding ground for student entrepreneurship, realized in all shapes and forms. There was no perceived limit or boundaries to what students could actualize, and actualize they did in all respects. The co-ops, publications, and other organizations still housed in the Center serve as a legacy and tribute to those times—when university students believed that exercising their clout would help them have some control of their surroundings. The thick groves that surrounded the Center created the sense of a safe haven where students could entertain ideas and beliefs, ranging from the very serious to the frivolous. Reflecting this atmosphere, the director at the time, Mark Bookman, said he wanted to, “bring people together as people and not as faculty, staff or students.”

The Student Center, now deemed the “Old” Student Center, was once the center of students’ lives. To those who claimed it as their home and whose ideas it entertained and housed, it was The Center. But what was once the epicenter for the University’s first three colleges has now devolved into a woody, cozy alternative to the Price Center monolith, providing a niche for students seeking a different college atmosphere.

Craft in the Grove

A kiln donated by the husband of a La Jolla pottery enthusiast in 1972 marked the beginnings of the first Craft Center at UCSD. Constructed out of four storage sheds and the entrance box from the Marine Corps base, this nucleus of campus creativity and art thrived in its own sequestered corner of the Center. Since 1976, director Ron Carlson has maintained the upkeep and expansion of the Center, developing its reputation as a refuge where students and community members can hone their artistic talents.

“This is the only place on campus where you can go and have the head of the medical school at one wheel, a janitor at another, and a 19-year-old student on another,” Carlson says.

An overwhelming interest in its various programs meant that the Craft Center needed to expand. In addition, it needed to do repairs to the original structure—for example, a leaky roof that ruined the ceramics and other works. Carlson realized that going through the University and its protocols would take too much time and so he took it on himself to “mend any cracks.” Luckily, he had the blessings of Chancellor Richard Atkinson, whose wife was taking a ceramics class at the Center.

“I looked around and decided this guy really knows what he’s doing and he’s got a wonderful idea here—let him just go at it,” Atkinson says.

Starting in the late ’70s, Carlson greatly increased the footprint of the Craft Center and realized his next vision—one that would help offset some of the expenses not supported by registration fees. The Grove Caffe opened in 1986 with a front-page headline in the UCSD Guardian announcing the “opening of the Hush Hush Café.” The project was a symbiotic collaboration between AS presidential advisor on special projects, Brad Silen, Warren ’87, and Carlson who had been inspired by cafes in Berkeley and wanted to create a distinct culture and ambiance at UCSD as well.

“I was looking for money and he was looking for real estate. I had real estate and he had money,” Carlson says.

And so the Grove Caffe was built by Carlson and his student volunteers, with $10,000 funding from the AS. The café served “designer drinks” including espressos and mochas made from Fair Trade coffee, pastries and other treats to satisfy students’ appetites. The business thrived but in recent years, with the movement of the campus epicenter away from the Student Center, the Caffe has faced tumultuous times. After several moves and renovations, Carlson finally sold it to the AS in 2007. After an unsuccessful attempt at a reopening, the Caffe officially closed this year.

(See “Grooving at the Grove” in our September 2006 issue for more memories of the Grove Caffe.)

Sarah Alaoui, Sixth, 12, is the editorial intern at @UCSD magazine.