Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Grand Hotel

You may have gotten the email today advertising the August opening of the UCLA Grand Hotel. Lots of rooms and conference meeting rooms to fill, although the opening is apparently to be in the summer when not a lot of activity is happening at UCLA. The ads looks like anything you would find from a commercial "premier," (i.e., high-end) hotel. But if you scroll down within the "accommodations" and "meetings" tabs, you will find a proviso:

The UCLA Luskin Conference Center is designed to serve the needs of individuals and groups attending campus meetings or events; those doing business with UCLA entities; and University of California faculty, students, staff and other University affiliates. All conferences, programs and events held at the Luskin Conference Center must have an eligible learning or educational purpose. Your request to reserve meeting space will be reviewed for approval to ensure the activity is in alignment with the University’s mission of teaching, research and service. 


And that's the rub. Thanks to litigation over tax liability if the Grand Hotel is open to anyone, the proviso insists on a "learning or educational" mission. That proviso limits the potential customers (although not apparently for the fancy restaurant). So the Grand Hotel can draw activities that might have been located in other UCLA venues (Faculty Center, Ackerman, etc.) But neighboring (competing) commercial hotels in the area will be watching to pounce on any Fuller Brush Conventions that end up in the Grand Hotel.

Undoubtedly, the Grand Hotel can be made to appear "profitable" with sufficient diversion from other venues and a touch of creative bookkeeping. But, as we have been saying all along, among the list of academic priorities at UCLA, having a Grand Hotel was not to be found. The Grand Hotel does, however, provide one "learning and educational" lesson: bureaucratic momentum. Once the campus fundraising bureaucracy and the construction bureaucracy and the "hospitality" bureaucracy and Murphy Hall got going, even the Regents - who expressed severe reservations at the outset - couldn't stop the project. It's a great case study, especially for students in the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

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