Kresge College

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Kresge College
Motto"We Shall Overcome"
TypeResidential college
ProvostBen Leeds Carson
University of California
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
, ,
Colors     UCSC Blue
     UCSC Gold

Kresge College is one of the residential colleges that make up the University of California, Santa Cruz. Founded in 1971, Kresge is located on the western edge of the UCSC campus. Kresge is the sixth of ten colleges at UCSC, and originally one of the most experimental. The first provost of Kresge, Bob Edgar, had been strongly influenced by his experience in T-groups run by NTL Institute. He asked a T-group facilitator, psychologist Michael Kahn, to help him start the college. When they arrived at UCSC, they taught a course, Creating Kresge College, in which they and the students in it designed the college. Kresge was a participatory democracy, and students had extraordinary power in the early years.[1] The college was run by two committees: Community Affairs and Academic Affairs. Any faculty member, student or staff member who wanted to be on these committees could be on them. Students' votes counted as much as the faculty or staff. These committees determined the budgets and hiring. They were also run by consensus. Distinguished early faculty members included Gregory Bateson, former husband of Margaret Mead and author of Steps to an Ecology of Mind; Phil Slater, author of The Pursuit of Loneliness; John Grinder, co-founder of Neuro-linguistic programming and co-author of The Structure of Magic; and William Everson, one of the Beat poets.

Distinguished graduates from the early days of Kresge College include Doug Foster, who went on to become editor of Mother Jones magazine, and Richard Bandler, who co-founded Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) with John Grinder.


The architecture of Kresge College is designed to resemble a residential area in Tuscany, and includes a piazzetta next to the college office and mail room. The informal quality of the space, especially the narrow street, was a reaction against the modernist skyscrapers of the previous generation of dormitory buildings. <Yanni, Carla. Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory,: chapter 4>

The early years[edit]

In the early days, Kresge had a threefold focus: Humanistic psychology, Women's Studies and Environmental Studies. The best history of the early days of the college is a chapter in Gerald Grant and David Reisman's award-winning book on experimental colleges in the U. S., The Perpetual Dream: Reform and Experiment in the American College (University of Chicago Press, 1979). Today, the literature, feminist studies and writing departments have moved to the new Humanities building while the Writing Program and the Science Communication Program remain in Kresge.

The current core course, Power and Representation, examines the ways in which an individual relates to communities by focussing on representations of gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and race.

Kresge's idiosyncratic architecture, designed by architects William Turnbull and Charles Moore, is based on a fantasy Italian village which winds up the hillside. Instead of dormitories, Kresge housing consisted of apartments, suites (which allowed students to have small single rooms), and octets. The octets were large housing spaces intended for eight students, which the architects deliberately left unfinished. When the college opened, each group of eight students was given $2,000 to design and build the inner walls and floors. The earlier octets had significant open and communal spaces, but the ones designed later had more walls and individual rooms. The openness created such an interpersonal intensity that by the end of the first year, thirty one of the thirty two original students had left the octets for other housing. Also, in the first quarter, they went from octets housing eight students, to sextets housing six students. Today most of the apartments, suites, and sextets serve the same purpose as dorm rooms, although they contain private kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms. The college is acclaimed in architectural circles. For example, it is included in G. E. Kidder Smith's 1996 book Sourcebook of American Architecture: 500 Notable Buildings from the 10th Century to the Present (Princeton University Press).

At the north end of the college is the Kresge Town Hall, which has seen many groundbreaking performances, including the third Talking Heads concert on the west coast, given Dec 4, 1977[2]. 1977 was also the year that the legendary conference, "LSD: A Generation Later" was held at Kresge College. The conference was attended by both counterculture figures such as Timothy Leary PhD, Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass, Stephen Gaskin, and Ralph Metzner PhD, as well as early psychedelic researchers including Oscar Janiger, MD, William McGlothlin, PhD, Stanley Krippner, PhD, Claudio Naranjo, MD and Willis Harman PhD.

During the day, Town Hall serves as a classroom. In the evenings and weekends, it is still used for events such as concerts and films. Annual events include the Fall Film Festival and Halloween showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live cast.

Kresge was originally endowed by the Kresge family trust, whose fortune was derived from K-Mart; one of the early (and very ironic) nicknames of Kresge was 'K-Mart' college; considering its traditionally counter-cultural orientation, it was about as far from the middle American K-Mart image as could be imagined. The architects originally wanted to put a neon sign from an S. S. Kresge department store at the entrance to the college, but this idea met too much resistance.

Kresge College is currently home to several co-ops (Music Co-Op, Natural Foods Co-op, Photo Co-op, Garden Co-op) as well as the social justice organization, Common Grounds. Residential housing themes include the Writer's House and the Eco-Village.

Interesting points[edit]

One of the alumni of Kresge, Marti Noxon, went on to produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and managed to sneak in-joke references to Kresge as well as Santa Cruz into many of the scripts, most recently in the Angel spin-off where a supporting character (Eve) is described as a graduate of Kresge. Another alumnus, Richard Bandler, developed Neuro-Linguistic programming with one of his Kresge professors, John Grinder. Alumnus Doug Foster went on to become the editor of Mother Jones magazine and an Emmy Award-winning TV producer.

In 1987, a chicken, named Chick Chick, lived in/around the Octagon sextet, and was known to wander around campus looking for things to eat. Later, a loose pet hamster would unknowingly fall down a heating duct in the same sextet and die, producing a lingering foul smell every time the heat was turned on.

Kresge may also be a place where the Jewish Renewal movement was advanced as Reb Zalman-Schacter visited Professor Michael Kahn, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, several times in the early 1970s.

Adam Carson, drummer for the band AFI, lived in an apartment in Kresge his sophomore year of college which he "spent all my time hanging out with Fritch at Stevenson. Then I dropped out and went on tour..." He recalls it as "the bigger mistake" he made, after living at College 8 his freshman year.[2]

Kresge symbolically "seceded" in April 1990 from the rest of the main university "in the name of the environment ... [and] in the name of the Earth."[3]


Porter/ Kresge Dining Hall

The closest dining hall is the Kresge/Porter dining hall in Porter College, with the Porter Slug Cafe (previously known as the Hungry Slug, and before that a worker's collective called Sluggo's Pizza) adjacent to the dining hall. The servery offers chef-customized traditional style entrees, signature salads, and pizzas. The dining hall is well known for having a variety of vegetarian and vegan options and also has a wonderful outside deck with a view of the adjacent Porter meadow and the Monterey Bay ocean view. At the end of Kresge Upper Street is the Owl's Nest, which acts as Kresge's official cafe (the Slug being that of Porter). The cafe is well known for having exotic delicious fruits and vegetables smoothies. In addition, it serves a variety of entree options.


  1. ^ Fall Quarter Undergraduates by College (Historical), Fall 2006 data, accessed July 17, 2007
  2. ^ Iread, Thebook. "1977". Talking Heads Concert History. Retrieved 2017-09-19.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°59′54″N 122°03′59″W / 36.99844°N 122.06639°W / 36.99844; -122.06639