McGrath's dorm bill passes committee
PHOENIX-Students living in dorms will be allowed to have male or female visitors from 6 a.m. until midnight, but they will not be allowed to live on the same floor with the opposite sex or to have alcohol at any time, if a bill that passed the House Committee Monday becomes Arizona law.
By a 4-2 vote, the Public Institutions and Universities Committee passed an amended version of Glendale Republican Rep. Jean McGrath's bill regulating residence halls.
The two Democrats on the committee, Tucson Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales and Phoenix Rep. Richard Miranda, voted against the bill.
McGrath sponsored two amendments to her bill, and she agreed to two more.
One amendment prohibits dorm room visitors of the opposite sex between midnight and 6 a.m., instead of at all times. McGrath called the amendment "extremely reasonable" in an age when students work together on computers in their rooms, sometimes late at night.
The bill, which would go into effect June 30, 2001, also prohibits possession or consumption of alcohol in the dorm rooms and coed floors in dorms.
Another amendment drops a provision that would have required residence hall administrators to conduct a monthly inspection of all rooms for banned items, such as drugs or alcohol.
During the meeting, McGrath agreed to support two additional amendments. After Arizona Student Association representative Danelle Peterson testified that students often study all night during finals, McGrath agreed to an exemption to the visitors rule during final examinations. After NAU student representative Sam Polito raised the issue of married student housing, McGrath said she would accept an amendment exempting such housing from the bill's provisions.
McGrath said she proposed her bill to help increase student retention rates and to reduce noise, drinking and sexual activity in dorms to make them more conducive to studying.
Rep. Gonzales said she objected to the bill because she thinks it violates students' rights and places' restrictions on students that legislators would be unwilling to place on themselves. She also said she had received many e-mail messages opposing the bill.
Rep. Miranda said the legislature "can't legislate morality" and "micro manage," but students need to work on the problems at their universities. Drawing on his 20 years of coaching students, he said, "if I treat them like adults, they will act like adults."
NAU's Polito urged the committee to allow the Board of Regents and the universities to handle problems, but McGrath said they have "taken no action whatsoever," prompting her legislation, which she says "helps the students." Peterson, an ASU junior, said the bill "will make students feel less adult-like." Another ASU student, Branden Forsgren, said he had problems with a roommate who drank and a roommate who had a girlfriend. He urged the committee to listen to students who support the bill as well as students who oppose it.
"I favor the principle (of the bill)," he said, because dorm rules are "not enforced." He added that he could see why opponents disagree with the bill.
Greg Fahey, UA lobbyist, opposed the bill. McGrath asked him to remember his days as a student and to testify as to whether her proposals are enforceable.
"I'm quite sure universities can go back to the good old days," she said.
Fahey replied, "That was a long time ago," but, "I don't know why we wouldn't be able to implement" the provisions of the bill, he said.
Rep. Ted Carpenter, R-Phoenix, called the bill "an exercise in futility" as he voted to pass it.
During a part of discussion about alcohol use on campus, Rep. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, and Miranda criticized the Arizona Daily Wildcat for running a full page advertisement from a bar for penny-priced beer.
Gray said she called UA President Peter Likins to say she thought the ad was in conflict with the university's anti-drinking policy.