Bowles Hall at UC Berkeley to become co-ed, privately run in 2016

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Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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After finals end and the last Bowlesmen move out, Bowles Hall will become a co-ed, privately run student residence in 2016.

UC Berkeley will officially cease running Bowles Hall, according to campus real estate spokesperson Christine Shaff, and the building will be leased to the Bowles Hall Foundation. The foundation will continue to run Bowles Hall as a student residence and will also fund renovations, the first in the building’s 86-year history.

In the interim, the Bowles Hall Foundation will rent out The Berk on Northside, at the intersection of Arch Street and Hearst Avenue. Bowles Hall’s population will temporarily shrink for the 2015-16 academic year to meet its new accommodations, scaling down from about 185 residents to as few as 39.

The Bowles Hall Phoenix Program will help Bowles Hall revert back to its historic status as a residential college and modernize into a co-ed program, according to Les Laky, a member of the Bowles Hall Alumni Association.

The association has been working on renovating the hall for several years: the Bowles Hall Foundation is the recent offshoot of the association. The foundation is planning on selling at least $40 million worth of bonds to pay for the renovation, according to Daniel Melia, who will become the Bowles Hall housemaster once the building reopens.

Applications are currently available for students who wish to join the Phoenix Program, which will initiate Bowles Hall’s co-ed status.

Bowles Hall opened in 1929 as the first residential college in the U.S. and was mostly self-governed until the 1980s, Melia said. The hall follows the student-residence model from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where students receive academic advising, organize events and eat and live together in the same house for the entirety of their undergraduate career.

Over time, Bowles Hall became a regular campus residence hall and lost its dining room, and so-called “Bowlesmen” became primarily freshmen. Now the eponymous “phoenix” of the transition program’s name harkens back to its communal history.

“This is a resurrection of something that already existed but was allowed to die out,” Melia said.

The Phoenix residents will have student committees, while the Bowles Hall Alumni Association will offer opportunities for networking between current Bowles residents and alumni.

“One of the deciding factors (for applying) was the connections that I would be able to receive from the Bowles Hall Foundation,” said Ben Zagorsky, a freshman Bowles resident. “It seemed like a good opportunity to get closer (to alumni) and get more connections.”

Laky, a former Bowlesman who graduated from Berkeley in 1962, said he hopes future residents of Bowles will gain the “camaraderie and friendships that I got from my four years at college.”

Contact Anna Sturla at [email protected].

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  • Nunya Beeswax

    Are the proprietors of the Berk aware that their name for the building is Cockney rhyming slang for the c-word?

  • gph2os

    Hello Bowles Hall!

  • judofan

    So where will the new all-male dorm be? I do hope the university has taken this dearth of single-sex housing into account.

    • Maybe that’s what fraternities/sororities are for…?

  • sheldonross

    Oh no.
    If Bowles becomes co-ed, then by definition Bowles Hall would not be returning to any tradition once held and practiced there.

    Any renovations done to Bowles Hall to accomandate for a new co-ed condition both destroys the historical precept of Mary Bowles’s legacy and the original camaraderie that can only be fostered by brotherhood.

    Insider question: Will the last two lines of the chant that is preamble to the Freshmen vs. the World end-of-semester fight be altered so as not to potentially offend the co-ed residents?

  • One of the better things that has happened to Bowles hall in the past decade

  • Just as long as they keep having the postgame band serenade, all will be well!

  • thompson_richard

    It used to be the band dorm. It sounds as if the new living arrangement is off to a good start.

  • werd814

    Thank g*d they’re reviving Bowles. Too much tradition has been lost at Berkeley. Could someone please explain the extent & implications of the “private” operation agreement?

    • J Flores

      The Bowles Foundation will run it at no cost to the university.

      • AnOski

        But residence halls generate revenue (via monthly rent and meal plans) for the university. “At no cost” is extremely misleading.

        • J Flores

          Yeah, but given that the university had deferred millions of dollars worth of maintenance and modernization projects, it doesn’t seem like that revenue was enough to actually bring it up to standard. The university has also said that going forward, new housing projects will be public/private ventures.