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Sociability of halls suffers due to fire codes

MATTHEW ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gila dorm resident Breanna McAllister drops by Lauren Spenceley and Julia Carvell's room. By not enforcing a closed-door policy unlike some new dorms, Gila Hall allows for a much more social atmosphere.
By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 2, 2004
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Due to fire codes, the new Highland Commons Residence Halls, La Paz and Pima residents must keep their room doors closed, a rule that does not apply to older halls.

Unlike other halls on campus, the doors in those halls have hinges that make them close automatically, and students who disengage the automatic hinge on their doors are subject to a conduct violation.

Jim Van Arsdel, Residence Life director, compared the code to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires new buildings erected to abide by the codes but older buildings do not need to change to fit the code.

"(The codes) can change and can be different in one year or in 10 years," Van Arsdel said.

While the halls are expected to follow these rules, some students think closed doors make it difficult to build a community.

"I would think ... keeping the door closed would not give that sense of community. I've met a lot of people that way - people are more apt to pop in and see what you are doing," said Oriana Gucciardi, a senior studying English and Skyview Apartment resident.

Van Arsdel said he understands the need for community in residence halls.

"It's really hard for me because I'm in a position where I have to value safety, but I also value building community. It's a trade-off," Van Arsdel said.

Although hall directors do not encourage propping doors open, they know students want to be social, so the staffs of Pima, La Paz, and the Highland Commons halls are trying as hard as they can to promote more bonding opportunities, said Ed Gilhool, Posada San Pedro hall director.

Gilhool said that building community is more difficult for the staff, but they are using their multiple common spaces to increase sociability.

So far the hall has put on ice cream socials, a barbecue and movie nights.

"We recognize the need to create a lot of opportunities for students. So far it's been fantastic; students have come up with ways to build that community for themselves," Gilhool said.

Posada San Pedro, an honors residence hall, is also starting up intramural sports and increasing opportunities for honors students.

While it is against the rules to have doors open, the policy isn't always enforced, said Elizabeth Primero, a political science freshman and resident of Villa del Puente Residence Hall.

And though it is technically against the rules, some residents prop their doors open with small plastic doorstops that could be easily removed in case of fire, as opposed to larger objects like river rocks or milk cartons that could obstruct the walkway.

If the codes are enforced in Villa Del Puente, residents say they will not be happy.

"(Keeping them closed) defeats the purpose of meeting new people. That's why our RA told us to keep them open," Primero said.

Cori Breslauer, a molecular and cellular biology freshman, and Alycia Dotseth, an undeclared freshman, are roommates in Yavapai Residence Hall and think the community would not be possible without keeping their door open.

"You know that you can go in and meet people if the door is open," Dotseth said.

Breslauer agreed and said that residents who don't keep their doors open are missing out.

"You have the opportunity to say hi; having your door closed is a huge statement," she said.

Residents also say that the residence halls have a different feeling when all the doors are closed versus doors that are open and welcoming.

"When you are in a hall and all the doors are open, it feels like home. When everyone's doors are closed it feels like a cheap hotel ... like a place you are staying for a couple of days rather than where you live," said Matt Andazola, a biology freshman and Yavapai resident.

Nicole Mott, a political science sophomore and second year resident of VDP, doesn't see the point in having the rule apply to some and not to others.

"So it's OK that people in Coronado burn because they live in a historical dorm?" Mott said.

- Natasha Bhuyan contributed to this article

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