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Section Header
Couch Surfing

DEREKH FROUDE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Political science seniors Scott Marinoff and Mike Ellis, media arts senior Ben Turner and animal sciences senior Krissi Magi relax on their couch outside their house yesterday.
By Jessica Suarez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday February 25, 2003

College students kick back and relax outdoors

Sit back and relax. Enjoy the afternoon sun and be happy that your classes are over for the day. You and your friend Joe Kaitlen hold amber beverages up to the setting sun.

"This is the life, this is what you come to college for," says Kaitlen, an undeclared sophomore.

The life he is referring to is siting on an object about six feet long, and three feet off the ground, a grayish-pinkish-(and most disturbingly) brown couch that sits on the crumbling front porch of a friend's rented house on the university's west side.

The couch-out-front is a ubiquitous symbol of lazy college life, found at campuses across the country. So ubiquitous, in fact, that other colleges and college towns have banned the use of indoor furniture on one's front porch. Residents say it makes their neighborhoods look bad. Universities say it makes their students look lazy. Tucson doesn't have an ordinance against couches on porches, but universities as far apart as the University of Colorado, the University of Alabama and Cornell University have a system of fines for residents who dare adopt a dumpster-worthy couch and give it a new home. Though getting the students off the couch may be difficult, getting the couch off the porch may prove impossible.

Some of the reasons for banning front porch couches are valid. They can attract insects, rodents and mold. They also just don't look very good. And, as written in Boulder City's ordinance, they have an inexplicable ability to end up in student-made bonfires. But some students believe they're a natural part of college life.

"I think it's a guy thing," said Ann McMartin, a psychology student at Pima Community College. "You see girls living together, and you won't see a couch on their porch. Guys just want to look as lazy as possible."

"Yeah," added Stacy Arthurs, her roommate. "Guys with gross couches are usually the same ones with a kegerator, and beer bottles lined up in the windows," she said.

Robert Eric Price, an undeclared freshman, believes it's his right to put his furniture wherever he pleases.

"I chose to live off campus right off the bat, so I could do what I wanted. That's why I moved into a house and not an apartment. I don't think the city or whatever should be able to tell you what you can have on your own property. If it's cool with your roommates, then do it."

One problem, says Kaitlen, is the condition of the properties around the universities.

"Yeah, there are some nice houses around here. But most of them look like shit, you know, so if landlords can't maintain a property, why should I do something to make it look good?"

The Rincon Heights Neighborhood Association, which covers the area just south of the university, doesn't ban the use of couches on porches, but it doesn't condone it either.

"The topic does come up from time to time in an informal way. Generally our group feels that couches on front porches and in yards look pretty darned slovenly and lower the tone of the neighborhood. We, on the other hand, have never objected to furniture designed for outdoor use on porches and front yards," said Melody Peters, secretary for the Rincon Heights Neighborhood Association.

Arizona's almost year-round warmth and dryness could make outdoor couch-surfing more popular here than in other towns. Houses were built with porches to ensure people could spend warm Tucson nights outdoors. And dry weather means those once-proud symbols of furniture affluence will deteriorate at a slower rate.

But don't get Peters wrong. She doesn't believe students should abandon their porches all together. In fact, Peters said she wishes students would spend more time on their front porches.

"Our houses were built with front porches for a reason. They were historically used as places to socialize with friends and neighbors in the cool of the evening. Personally I would like to see more neighborhood people talking quietly on their front porches in the evening. Conversation is a social skill that is imperiled and needs to be revived," she said.

"I think they (students) will find a talking with neighbors more rewarding that zoning out in front of a television."

Though having your living room on your porch may be a student's right, it might be a good idea to get off the couch, no matter where it is.

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