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'Yumans' fight for hall's honor

MONTINE RUMMEL/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Linguistics and molecular and cellular biology junior Aaron Koassen, left, listens to wildlife, watershed and rangeland resource sophomore Julia Jolley as she asks about the future of other dorms besides Yuma Hall at the meeting conducted Tuesday evening.
By Alexis Blue
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday October 10, 2003

There may be few residence halls on campus that have the kind of close-knit community that Yuma Hall residents enjoy.

So when Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life, proposed eliminating Yuma's honors status, residents responded with a united and overwhelming Īno way.'

About 40 "Yumans" met with Van Arsdel Wednesday night at the Honors College to voice their opposition.

Van Arsdel said Residence Life is considering converting five of Yuma's seven lounge areas into bedrooms, which would allow an additional 40 residents to live in the hall.

In exchange for the lost lounge space, Van Arsdel offered to make one of the new residence halls being constructed on North Highland Avenue an honors hall instead of Yuma.

But Yuma residents made it clear that they weren't the least bit interested in moving into any fancy new buildings, saying that they prefer the humble accommodations of their Yuma home.

"A big part of Yuma is community," said resident Dan Tuttle, an international studies and economics sophomore. "The community and the history there is something you can't supplant."

Tim Wong, president of Yuma's hall government, agreed.

"It's a certain environment that one can't replicate," said Wong, a media arts junior.

Yuma Hall is home to 144 residents, 134 of whom are honors students.

It has been an honors dorm for around 16 years, Van Arsdel said.

Built in 1942, it is one of the smallest residence halls on campus, and those who live there are the first to admit that it isn't in the best condition.

But problems like leaky pipes and the occasional power outage only seem to add to its charm.

As they listened to Van Arsdel's proposals, residents laughed and groaned over numerous inside jokes about broken sinks, peeling paint and the ominous Yuma basement, where the annual Haunted Dungeon is held to raise money for charity.

Music composition and education freshman Ben Stoddard championed the hall as he proudly proclaimed, "Even if our walls don't have paint, the spirit of Yuma covers up those walls!"

Van Arsdel said that Residence Life plans to do some renovations over the summer to improve the building's condition.

Stoddard said although he has only lived in Yuma Hall for seven weeks, he has already made a number of close friends there.

He said he likes being around people who have read the same books as he has, who are as dedicated to school as he is and who understand the pressures of the UA honors program.

Yuma Hall Director Doug Copeland, a higher education graduate student, said the combination of Yuma's small size and large honors student community is what makes the hall so close.

"Everyone knows everyone's name," he said.

Yuma resident Lori Foley, a sophomore majoring in French and English, said moving to one of the larger new halls, which will house 238 students, would take away from the close ties at Yuma.

At any time during the day, Yuma residents can almost always be found studying together or hanging around the front desk chatting together.

In addition to taking many of the same classes, residents also participate in a lot of social activities together, including Yuma's pre-football game barbecues and Saturday movie nights.

Copeland said because of Yuma's strong community, the hall has a high resident return rate.

He said that half of the spaces in Yuma are reserved for returning students, and these are almost always quickly filled in the spring. Often Yuma has to turn away some residents who wish to return because there isn't enough room, Copeland said.

Nikki Best, a second year resident of Yuma, said returning residents always try to make incoming freshmen feel at home.

"It's a tradition for Yuma to be very community-based. Returning students really try to get to know the new people," said Best, an international studies sophomore.

After hearing from several residents, Van Arsdel said Yuma will remain an honors hall, an announcement that prompted cheers and applause from the residents.

While Residence Life still might try to convert Yuma's lounges into living spaces, residents said they are willing to sacrifice the study space to stay within their familiar walls.

Residents nodded in agreement with Stoddard when he said, "Yuma is a house, but it is also a home."

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