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Opposite-sex visitors bill finds little support at UA

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 25, 2000
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In her latest attempt to regulate Arizona universities, Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, proposed a bill last week that would ban opposite-sex guests in dorm rooms - but the legislation is being met with general UA disapproval.

Under McGrath's provisions, only immediate family members of the opposite gender would be allowed in residents' rooms.

James Van Arsdel, University of Arizona director of Residence Life, said when he arrived at UA in 1986, many of the residence halls were single-sex and had limited visitation hours. However, student behavior - and misbehavior - was not remarkably different then than they are today.

In addition, enforcement of strict visitation laws could create a tense control relationship between residents and hall staff, which would not make for a pleasant experience with Residence Life, Van Arsdel said.

Van Arsdel added that rational discourse on the topic could result in a positive case for co-educational lifestyles.

"I would love for there to be a reasoned discussion about all of this," he said. "I trust that a reasonable discussion could result in a co-ed environment for those who want one."

However, Van Arsdel also said McGrath's beliefs are just as valid in her mind as those held by her opponents.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Representative McGrath is well-intended and concerned about the education of college students," he said.

When McGrath attended Arizona State University in the 1950s, she said dorm rooms were considered "bedrooms" and students had common areas outside of their residence hall rooms to meet. Weekly "white glove" room inspections were another part of dorm life.

McGrath, chair of the house public institutions and universities committee, told the Arizona Board of Regents in September that said different genders sharing the same building is an unnecessary distraction and encourages larger problems like teen-age pregnancies and welfare dependence.

"I cannot understand why a public university would want to have a co-ed dormitory - it's just beyond me," she told the regents. "It's not conducive to anything. I find no justification for the state to be supporting immorality."

Some UA students reacted to the latest proposed bill with criticism.

For Paula Martin, a pre-veterinary science junior who lives in the all-female Maricopa Residence Hall, visitor limitations and inspections would not be the ideal experience.

Martin described McGrath as an Orwellian "Big Sister."

"I think she's kind of an extremist. She's not going to gain anything from this," said Martin, who also said that if McGrath is trying to prevent sex in the dorms, students would not be deterred by the bill.

"I'd tell her that students will find a way around it," she said. "Students are going to do what they're going to do ... it's going to happen here, it's going to happen in the park."

Martin said male acquaintances of hers frequently drop by her dorm room - but only as friends.

"I'm the kind of person that's very comfortable with people," she said. "I have nothing against encouraging morality, but it's something you have within you - you either have morals, or you don't."

Undeclared freshman Josh Farr said McGrath's legislation would create trouble rather than prevent it.

"That's not really right," said Farr, a resident of Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall. "It seems like it's so out there it shouldn't even be considered."

Greg Fahey, UA state lobbyist, said he was not in favor of the bill and predicted it would not pass, but he didn't want to jump to any conclusions. Fahey will meet with McGrath today to further discuss the bill.

Fahey also said the legislation was unnecessary because the bodies that govern the UA - the Board of Regents and UA administration - already sufficiently monitor student activity in the residence halls.

"Basically, it is indirectly saying (McGrath and supporters) don't think the universities and the board are doing an adequate job," he said.

Fahey added that co-ed dorms are common - and even preferred by some - across the country.

"Co-ed dorms seem to work fine ... students want them that way," said Fahey.

This bill is the fourth in a string of recent university-related legislation. Earlier this month, McGrath submitted proposals that would filter campus Internet connections from pornography, as well as restrict their use to educational use only.

McGrath also renewed her statements that course catalogs and syllabi should contain detailed descriptions of course content. However, that bill has been temporarily postponed.

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