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Kresge College

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Title: Kresge College  
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Subject: Porter College, University of California, Santa Cruz, Kresge, Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, New Teacher Center
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Kresge College

Kresge College
Motto "We Shall Overcome"
Established 1971
Type Residential college
Provost Ben Leeds Carson
Undergraduates 1352[1]
Location Santa Cruz, California
Campus Suburban/Sylvan
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. 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.


  • Architecture 1
  • The early years 2
  • Interesting points 3
  • Dining 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


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 early years

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.

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 first Talking Heads concert on the west coast, and the legendary acid conferences which included appearances by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Owlsley. During the day Town Hall serves as a classroom, and it is still used for events such as concerts and films in the evenings and on weekends. 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.

Interesting points

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.[3]

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."[4]


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 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. 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).


  1. ^ Fall Quarter Undergraduates by College (Historical), Fall 2006 data, accessed July 17, 2007

External links

  • Kresge College home page
  • UC Santa Cruz home page
  • UCSC statistics by residential college
  • Photographs and architectural drawings of Kresge College from the UC Santa Cruz Library's Digital Collections

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