From Fort Ord to Campus Town

Are we forgetting our past?

By now, many California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) residents have read about the demolition of various structures from Fort Ord to make way for new structures that will be apart of Campus Town. Campus Town is Seaside’s attempt to make the area more college student-friendly. With the excitement of these new buildings, it seems the importance of Fort Ord has not been retained in the minds of some students and other residents. Why is it important for us as students to understand the history and importance of Fort Ord?

Many of our family members were stationed at Fort Ord after World War II. Maybe your family decided to stay in this area due to family members returning from the Vietnam or Korea wars. Maybe you started to attend CSUMB because you wanted to understand what they saw and experienced before they shipped out. Personally, when my grandfather was drafted for the war he wanted to go to WWII, but instead he was sent to the Korean war, Fort Ord is where he was trained before he was shipped out. This is also where my mother’s cousins were trained before being shipped to Vietnam. Many veterans have placed sentimental value on many of these buildings and this sentimentality is either an emotion of anger or an emotion of pride.

Today, this sentimental value can be seen in much of the graffiti inside these soon-to-be demolished buildings. “Artists have established a counterculture around these buildings,” according to Nathalie Sickles, “their art is based on the core belief that urban space is a public domain.” Nathalie is doing her Social and Behavioral Science capstone project on the importance of graffiti and street art to an ever-changing society. When looking at many of the pictures from the archives and ones acquired by Nathalie, a common pattern seems to emerge. When people have decided to paint on these buildings, most artists seemed to avoid painting on military symbols. This can be seen on the building that used to house the 9th Infantry Regiment and the medics building on Gigling Road. Many of the pieces of art within the buildings are messages of hope and resilience directed towards the country and the community.

We must also remember what the land was originally used for before Fort Ord was established in 1917. Before Fort Ord, this land was home to thriving Native American communities, such as the Rumsen and the Esselen. CSUMB’s founding faculty even acknowledged this past in the original vision statement, released Sept. 27, 1994, “CSUMB will dynamically link the past, present and future by responding to historical and changing conditions, experimenting with strategies which increase access, improve quality and lower costs through education in a distinctive CSU environment.” But what can we do here on campus that links with this past? A few statues and paintings in the library? Our streets with many of the same names from the base? How much is the university really doing to memorialize these important pasts, both the United States and the previous societies and countries that used to control this land?

When asked why Fort Ord is important to us as students, Social and Behavioral Science major, Pedro Mendoza, summed it up best, “Take the history as it is. It’s what makes this campus more special than anywhere else. No matter what you think about the military or the United State government, it was what it was and we need to respect that.” Hopefully, Campus Town recognizes all of these pasts and emphasizes the importance of understanding all the past uses of this land, just as the founding faculty attempted to do in 1994.

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