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Legislation would ban opposite-sex dorm room visitors


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale

By Kristen Roberts
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 21, 2000
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PHOENIX-Under a bill proposed this week by Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, students living in university residence halls would not be allowed to have guests of the opposite sex in their rooms, except for immediate family.

McGrath said yesterday she has decided to remove another provision in the bill that would have required residence hall administrators to conduct random monthly inspections of all residents' rooms for prohibited items.

She said when she was a student at Arizona State University in the late 1950s, students had "lots of places to meet" outside of their dorm rooms, which she described as "bedrooms." She also said dorm rooms underwent a "white glove" inspection each week, but now, no one cares how students maintain the state's property.

This is the fourth bill McGrath has submitted for this term of the Arizona State Legislature to regulate universities.

The other proposals would require Arizona universities to install or subscribe to Internet filters on all campus computers, allow students to use campus Internet connections only for a "specific educational purpose," and require "accurate and complete" course descriptions in university syllabi and catalogs.

McGrath said the bill regarding course descriptions is going to be replaced with a bill by another representative. She would not describe the content of the new bill or who the sponsor will be. However, she said when one bill is replaced by another, the two bills must be related.

McGrath said the new bill will be discussed at the Tuesday meeting of the Public Institutions and Universities Committee, which she chairs.

McGrath said she decided to strike the course descriptions bill after reaching an agreement with the universities that syllabi will be distributed within the first week of class and all required course materials will be available in campus bookstores.

Greg Fahey, University of Arizona state lobbyist, spoke to oppose the first three McGrath bills in committee meetings and in private meetings with McGrath, he said.

Fahey also opposes the latest proposal, saying, "we just don't need this bill" because the Board of Regents and the university administrations resolve problems as they occur.

The three state universities are united in their opposition, Fahey said. He also said the Board of Regents, which met yesterday and is meeting today, may take a position on the bills now or it may wait until February.

Fahey said he will be meeting with McGrath again next week.

McGrath remains unswayed by student protests, including those published as letters to the editor in the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

"I'm responding to students' concerns," McGrath said. "I'm not trying to be mean to students."

She describes the atmosphere at Arizona universities as "not conducive to learning." The primary indication of this, McGrath said, is the high number of students dropping out after their freshman year.

She said both of the Internet bills are designed to "get at the porn problem." She responded to First Amendment objections by saying that the proposals have been reviewed by lawyers, who found them constitutional.

McGrath explained that because students have never had the right to use taxpayer-funded resources to access sexually explicit or personal material, taking such access away is legal.

Her position is not changed by the universities' arguments that the cost of filtering and monitoring the Internet is too high and the project is too large to be practical, she said.

"They should have thought of it," she said. The universities are "greatly at fault for spending taxpayers' money for that (sexually explicit material)."

McGrath said her evidence that university computers are being used to access such material is the work experience of Mesa Republican Rep. Dean Cooley's granddaughter, who was an Internet use monitor at ASU.

Another key issue for McGrath is the use of government resources, paid for by taxpayers, for personal matters, she said.

McGrath responded to this scenario: a student uses a campus Internet connection to decide which political candidates to support. That person is misusing university equipment, she said, just as if she used her legislative office phone to make long-distance personal phone calls.

On the other hand, the same student, viewing the same pages for a class assignment, is using the equipment properly, she said.

If her bill limiting campus Internet use to a "specific educational purpose" passes, she said she believes university staff will be "smart" enough to interpret whether students are using the Internet for personal reasons or for classwork.

McGrath was reluctant to predict whether her bills are likely to pass the Legislature and be signed by the governor. However, she said the residence hall bill has "a lot of support."

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