Editorial: $25M for graduate student housing is misdirected
It a university bursting at the seams with students, cars and construction projects, money and space should be used wisely.
While the construction of two new residence halls is pending, the Arizona Board of Regents approved Friday a $25 million complex reserved for graduate students without families. University of Arizona President Peter Likins said the project was passed with "urgency" because of the overwhelming need for freshmen housing.
This recent expansion to the packed UA campus is yet another attempt to balance the immediate overflow of freshmen with the haunting need for acceptable graduate student housing - a problem intensified by the decrepit state of Christopher City, a distant slum-like complex that currently houses families.
A 327-bed building with an outrageous $25 million price tag does not solve either problem, and it wastes money and property that could be better spent on the forgotten families that inhabit the UA community.
First, rushing a graduate student complex for the sake of incoming students seems illogical. The university has been quick-fixing the problem for years, awaiting 700 new beds, which are to be provided by two new permanent dorms.
The UA Department of Residence Life is currently leasing rooms from a former sorority house and Palm Shadows Apartments. A plan to lease Casa Feliz Apartments was killed by Likins during the summer, after neighborhood outcry and boundary complications destroyed the deal.
Residence Life officials should tackle the freshmen problem separately by rushing dorm construction and only guaranteeing the beds that they can provide until more halls are built.
Trying to solve both issues with one overpriced and undersized solution only gives both student groups less than they deserve.
Second, the new complex would adequately serve only graduate students without families.
Graduate students can co-exist with undergraduates easily enough. If anything, UA families are the people who require specialized living space. But this new complex does not cater to them.
Where are the UA families left when the freshmen and single grads get their own spaces?
The answer is good old Christopher City, the housing that Arizona Board of Regents President Hank Amos - the only regent to oppose the initiation - called "a dump" and Associated Students President Cisco Aguilar described as "horrible."
Student parents and child care are called a "priority" by Likins. Family housing is called a dump. And yet $25 million are set aside for a glorified dorm that cannot even provide space for families.
This project is no good. This kind of money - called excessive by Amos and Residence Life Director James VanArsdel - should be used for family housing projects and an on-campus child care center.
Student parents are screaming for help while working 15-hour days.
Graduate students are waiting unhappily for a home away from their current dumping ground.
The UA should start paying closer attention to the neglected group of students, and send some smart money its way.