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UCLA Has Changed -- But Some Things Remain the Same

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What with all the Big Game festivities going on this weekend, a girl can't help but think back fondly upon her alma mater. But you know what? It's only been a few years since I left UCLA, and I gotta say -- I almost don't recognize the place anymore.

Has it really been so long since I graduated? Five years? Maybe more? So much has changed -- I came of age in the Steve Lavin years, and seeing Ben Howland on the court still feels strange. Same with Karl Dorrell instead of Bob Toledo. "Beat 'SC Week" is now something like "Blue and Gold Week." What is going on???

But it's not just the sports teams that do not remain the same. UCLA is a campus that is undergoing transformation constantly; you don't need the ubiquitous construction fences to tell you that much. This constant state of flux affects so much of campus life, from Pauley Pavilion to Hedrick Hall to the Botanical Gardens (are they still called that?). In place of Midnight Yell, today's Bruins participate in the Undie Run. Sure, half-naked co-eds are better than burning couches any day, but at least Midnight Yell didn't involve, um, running naked in the cold.

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Diddy Riese cookies now cost 35 cents instead of 25 -- and a cookie sandwich? Buck twenty five; a dollar will no longer buy you ice creamy goodness. Speaking of Bucks, the first sandwich I ever had in Westwood was a Buck Fiddy steak & cheese -- and I think it actually cost somewhere around $1.50. Now, students are shelling out close to $3 for their late-night snack attack. Cowboy Sushi, the venue of many late-night sake-bombing sessions? Gone for many years now, probably because the sushi was laughably bad.

I'm old enough to remember Mardi Gras parties at Madison's -- in fact, I remember when there was still a Madison's, one of the very few bars in Westwood. I blame 19-year-olds from USC for the demise of that one -- and don't try to tell me you guys don't come to Westwood all the time to party, because you do. For even more inexplicable reasons, Maloney's is now O'Hara's. What's next? They're going to tell me that Super Senior Josh Brooks (he of the 7+ year undergraduate career) has graduated???

I'm pretty sure the kids still splash around in the Inverted Fountain on their graduation day -- but they'll probably never attend a Black Sunday party. Black Sunday was a veritable orgy of parties that erupted every year the weekend before classes started: fraternities went nuts decorating their houses in the most elaborate ways possible, and house parties blew up all over the North Village (424 Landfair, anybody?). Sorority girls were banned from attending Black Friday thanks to rush restrictions, so Gayley Avenue turned into a perfect storm of alcohol-fueled debauchery.

Even more lamentably, the English Department Marathon Reading is a thing of the past. Whose great idea was it to kill one of the coolest literary events in the city? No more readings of "Ulysses" or "Gravity's Rainbow" or "1001 Nights" for you, Bruins!

The English Department no longer resides in Rolfe Hall, with its beautiful square courtyard filled with sculptures by Robert Graham -- instead, they've been moved to the mysteriously renamed Humanities Building. What happened to Kinsey Hall?

There's now -- gasp! -- housing for graduate students down by Veteran. Even more new housing has been built next to Dykstra, Rieber, Hedrick -- you mean students aren't packed like sardines three to a room any longer? But what about the terrible claustrophobia and raging roommate-hate I suffered for two years? Wasn't that supposed to make us tougher?

What's happening to this campus? Is there anything that won't be subjected to the ravages of time? What else have I missed? What else is slipping away?

You know what? There is. Thank god for the UCLA-USC rivalry. Thank god for you Trojans and your incessant yammering-on about how great you are, and thank god that we Bruins will always be secure in the knowledge that we're smarter, better looking, and better at EVERY sport, not just the popular ones (and judging by some of the commenters on our "who's better looking?" post...we're not racists!). The names have changed, the places look different, but the competitive spirit will always remain the same.