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Overseeing a City that Never Sleeps

by D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
posted August 19, 1998

Harry LeGrande's job description reads like that of a city mayor.

With a staff of 1,800 and a $53 million budget, Berkeley's assistant vice chancellor for residential and student service programs juggles housing, child care, infrastructure and property development issues for the 6,200 residents in his community. But unlike other towns, the citizens of LeGrande's municipality are students who live in campus housing.

LeGrande manages Berkeley's 22 residence halls, 1,152 apartments, six dining facilities, six retail restaurants and five child-care facilities.

"It's like a city that never sleeps. Like any mayor, I get emergency calls in the middle of the night," said LeGrande, citing the Oakland hills fire and the Durant Hotel hostage situation as examples.

LeGrande has been professionally involved in student residential housing for 23 years and began his career at Berkeley in 1981 as a student affairs officer II.

Back then, residence halls were called dorms, a term that has fallen out of favor in higher education circles, said LeGrande.

"The word 'dorm' has an austere connotation, implying that only the most basic needs are being met," he said . "Nowadays, living on campus involves a lot more than just food and shelter."

LeGrande helped Berkeley usher in residential life programs during the 1980s. Administered by professional staff, these programs provide students with academic support, conflict resolution and extracurricular activities such as sports and lectures.

With the addition of free computer network connections in each room, living in residence halls has become so comfortable that many students don't want to leave.

"Free network connections coupled with rising housing costs in Berkeley have kept students in campus housing longer than normal.

It's created a bit of a crunch but there are benefits to having upperclass-

men room with freshmen," said LeGrande.

Good food may be another reason students want to stay around. Unlike the "mystery meat" of yesteryear, Berkeley's dining halls use name-brand foods and local produce for the one million meals they serve each year.

LeGrande eats in one of the campus's six dining facilities daily.

During his off hours, LeGrande serves as the vice chair of planning for Suisun City, where he lives with his wife of 20 years, his 18-year-old son and his 14-year-old daughter.

He also enjoys amusement parks and has visited several in the U.S. and abroad. LeGrande said he developed a passion for theme parks while working at Disneyland as a youngster.

"I was a tour guide on the jungle cruise," said LeGrande. "I had to shoot at wild animals and dodge arrows while keeping the passengers entertained."

As the "mayor" of Berkeley's student housing community, those skills might come in handy.

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