The Arizona Desert Lamp

Dorm hikes to pay for ineffective cameras, debt services

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 21 March 2009

Dorm BedRight before spring break, the Wildcat reported that ABOR had approved the proposed increases in dorm rates. A sobering refresher:

TEMPE ­- The Arizona Board of Regents handed down their first decision to help close the budget shortfall – increasing the rates of some residence halls by up to almost 11 percent.

At yesterday’s meeting at Arizona State University, the board separated the UA residence halls into three price tiers, as opposed to their traditional five, and ranked them based on factors such as popularity and amenities.

Tier one halls have the highest rate increase at close to 11 percent, which equals about an extra $584 per year.

Halls affected include Arizona-Sonora, Coronado, Villa Del Puente, Pueblo de la Cienega, Colonia de la Paz, Pima House, and Posada San Pedro residence halls.

The least expensive halls, which include Coconino, Navajo-Pinal and Yavapai will experience a little over a 1 percent increase, about $53.

The article in the Daily Star explains exactly what your new dorm expenses will be covering:

UA in Tucson is paying off mounting debt on one new housing building and starting construction on two more and will be installing security cameras at the dorms. The first phase will put cameras at every perimeter entrance in 22 buildings, a spokesman said.

The number 22 is odd in this context, and not because it’s the French equivalent of yelling “5-0!” (God bless Wikipedia). According to the Residence Hall website, there are 21 dorms in all, including Sky View Apartments. Furthermore, in 2007 Manzanita-Mohave was fitted with Coronado’s old cameras, after the latter dorm bought new cameras. If this were the entirety of cameras for dorms, then adding the three new dorms would add up evenly to 22; yet the article also includes this paragraph:

Though other residence halls currently have security cameras, Residence Life does not have a plan to fit all of them with cameras, Van Arsdel said. Residence Life is hiring a consultant who often deals with this kind of security breach.

This article references security cameras at Sky View Apartments; and even if this is the only dorm with cameras not mentioned in the article, then the UA is still a building short. “Buildings” could be different from “dorms,” a scenario in which Manzi-Mo counts as two buildings, as does Graham-Greenlee; yet using this term in place of dorms makes it even less clear which dorms already have cameras, which ones will have cameras, why, and what’s the reason for.

There is one student who will be happy about this development, and that’s Sen. Bryan Baker. This proposal (which was passed unanimously) is essentially his Project Crime Stop embodied. As a refresher:

Baker’s major proposal in his Senate run was “Project Crime Stop,” which would place security cameras at the entrances and exits of all dorms on campus. Costing around $2 million, Sen. Baker does not address concerns of student privacy rights in his policy.

For an earlier take on dorm cameras, read here. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the long-planned security survey has been released to the public. If any of you out there were selected to fill out the survey, and would be willing to share details of the survey with us, we’d be greatly appreciative.

The best reporting on the matter, however, comes from the Tucson “I Ain’t Dead Yet!” Citizen. For one, they managed to get this quote from Student Affairs VP Melissa Vito:

Melissa M. Vito, UA’s vice president for student affairs, said UA’s rate is higher because 5 percent of the increase is for debt service needed to fund the three Sixth Street dorms approved by the board last year and forwarded to project implementation status in January. The dorms will include six buildings when completed.

“Our process is highly interactive with students,” Vito said. “We use a model between completely market-driven and completely subsidized. We try to acknowledge a difference of perceived amenities (between housing units) but don’t fully pass those on to students. If we were fully market-driven, the difference between dorm prices would be several thousand dollars.”

We are all Keynesians now, but what does this gobbledygook mean? “We don’t give away housing, but we don’t charge full-market rates?” If Vice-President Vito is referring to intra-dorm rates (as is hinted at by the parenthetical), then this is an awful policy. Taken in this context, the university mitigates the disparity between the cheapest and most expensive dorms by subsidizing the higher rates; essentially, the kid living in the double in Apache-Santa Cruz is paying for the courtyard strolls of a Pima resident.

If Vice-President Vito is referring to housing rates broadly, and the disparity between on-campus and off-campus housing, then it’s no contest: on-campus housing is wildly more expensive. The cheapest options, a triple at Az-So or a double at the Babock Inn or Hopi Lodge, work out to $507 per month. This is comparable to the monthly rent of someone living in a single bedroom, in a house, an equidistant walk from campus, and – often – with amenities, such as a washer/dryer unit. This isn’t to say that school doesn’t have non-monetary reasons to keep freshmen on campus; but to cast the decision to stay in the dorms as at all market-based is ludicrous.

As if this weren’t enough, we also get some more from David Martinez:

She [Vito] said that UA’s rates were about in the middle of the Pacific-10 Conference universities and that students were supportive of paying for debt service for new dorms, a contention confirmed by Regent David Martinez, a UA student who sat on the housing-rate committee.

Regent Martinez has a very funny way of understanding what students want: paying off future debt for decades, higher tuition, and “murky” elections codes. Martinez has an even funnier way of understanding himself. Only a year ago, during the debate over that year’s rate hikes, Regent Martinez said the following:

David Martinez III, the voting student regent and a UA political science senior, said he was concerned with why students would be paying for residence halls that haven’t been built yet.

This is an interesting question, though, and we’re curious to what this level of support might be. Time for another poll!

Yet lest this post be all bad news, the Citizen highlights an incident of a student regent acting – mirabile dictu – on behalf of the students:

UA’s plan was the only one approved unanimously, in part because a mandatory meal plan was not attached to it. UA has an a la carte meal plan that is not required but allows students to save sales tax if they opt in on a pay-as-you-go process. In contrast, both NAU and ASU have mandatory meal plans for freshmen, which student Regent Mary Venezia called “mandatory fees” and registered her protest by voting against ASU’s proposal.

Bravo, Regent Venezia, for showing that a student regent doesn’t necessarily have to slavishly dote on her older counterparts. We can only hope that the UA does not follow its Tempe and Flagstaff counterparts in this aspect.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jesse Bikman

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8 Responses

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  1. Laura Donovan said, on 21 March 2009 at 12:53 pm

    The school has non-monetary reasons for keeping freshmen on campus. It’s much easier and more convenient for a freshman to live in a dorm. He’ll get a lot less for his money, but he can walk to class. The UA takes advantage of this by charging high rates, but such is life. The UA is honest about being unable to accommodate all freshmen. Many get on waiting lists and never have on campus housing, so no one is forced to live in a dorm.

    “She [Vito] said that UA’s rates were about in the middle of the Pacific-10 Conference universities and that students were supportive of paying for debt service for new dorms”

    I have trouble believing this, and it’s very irresponsible to make students pay for dorms they’ll never live in.

  2. Laura Donovan said, on 21 March 2009 at 8:47 pm

    By the way, I don’t know why my comment was posted twice, and I did not type that last line that makes no sense. Sorry!

  3. Dave said, on 22 March 2009 at 12:59 am

    I would have paid an extra 500 bucks if they would have prevented my roommate from shaving his nuts in my room.

  4. Jimi Alexander said, on 22 March 2009 at 1:25 am

    I live off-campus. Moving on-campus for a year next year as a knee-jerk reaction to failing a class last semester because I missed the 8AM final that I would have made if I’d lived closer. On top of that, the rates for Sun Tran are bound to go up sometime this year, and I’d rather beat them to it by not having to pay for a crappy public transit system in which I’ve seen in the past month:

    1. A man jumped and beaten for “staring” at a couple of kids
    2. A drug deal involving a wad of cash for a brick of something covered in aluminum foil (I would assume cocaine)
    3. Some guy providing Mad Dog liquor to a pair of 14-year-old kids.
    4. Multiple junkies engaged in full-scale hallucination and bizarre behavior (talking to themselves, odd non-sequiturs, “moving” their hallucinations by waving their hands in front of their faces)
    5. A man who pulled my day pass out of my hand to get my attention and then began muttering Spanglish at me.
    6. A beige Cadillac throw *something* at the driver from the left lane, smashing his frontside mirror and causing everyone to be twenty minutes late while we awaited a replacement bus.

    And people wonder why regular Americans aren’t rushing to toss away their cars in the face of global warming. Because they know that Mother Earth can take one for the team in exchange for normal folks to not have to deal with this kind of crap.

    But I’m getting off-topic.

    One thing the dorms have that had me choose living in one over living off-campus in a bedroom in somebody’s house is free (or rather, included) wireless internet. It’s not the most reliable or the fastest with anywhere from 100 to 1000 students on the same hookup at any one time, but it does the job.

    And walking to anywhere on campus is immensely beneficial. I know I’m paying a premium for the privilege, but I feel like dorm living is just part of the college experience. I don’t party much and I don’t have the money to go to all the sporting events, so I feel like I’d be missing out if I didn’t take advantage of at least one unique aspect of being a college student at a big university.

  5. Connor Mendenhall said, on 22 March 2009 at 7:14 am

    Laura: Looks like a spambot grabbed your name and comment, added that silly last line and a link to some digital camera site and posted as you. The steel ones grow smarter every day.

  6. Laura Donovan said, on 22 March 2009 at 11:00 am

    Just my luck. 😦 I’m glad someone else realized that. Watch out for spammers stealing everyone’s identity.

  7. Alla said, on 23 March 2009 at 9:04 am

    Hopi-Graham Greenlee = 2 buildings (hopi Lodge is not attached to GrGr at all), but one complex

    AZ-So = sort-of 2 buildings, one complex

    Navajo-Pinal … could be 2 buildings … but are attached

  8. […] Martinez – David Martinez! – led things off by wondering why  students who are getting the same services should invest in […]


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