RHA considering third honors hall

By Lisa Heller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Residence Hall Association is deciding on the possibility of adding a third honors residence hall. RHA still is unsure which hall is appropriate, but with all the factors considered, Arizona-Sonora is the leading candidate.

"The need for another honors hall is apparent, with the number of requests for Yuma and Yavapai last year," said Jim Van Arsdel, director of residence life and university housing. "Over 750 students applied for an honors hall. Altogether, there are about 360 spaces. The demand is far outstripping the supply."

The purpose of an honors hall is to provide honors students with a residence in which the honors center supports certain facilities and programs. The university hopes to create a "small school experience" in the midst of a large university. Honors halls provide students with the opportunity to take classes in common but also live together creating a powerful learning technique, Van Arsdel said.

Some students have questioned why the university is willing to make a commitment to honors students and not to other students.

"People living in a (residence hall) with the same kind of people would have limited experiences," said Scott MacDonald, a computer engineering freshman. "They're trying to create a Utopian society. Everyone would be closed-minded. The whole point of coming to a university is to meet people with various experiences."

The RHA hopes to benefit all students with the addition of a third honors hall. "Having a strong, vibrant honors program benefits everyone, including non-honors students," Van Arsdel said. "It helps to attract better faculty, who don't just teach honors classes. Whether our decision was right or not, it does provide a certain visibility to the university. It makes students more competitive for jobs, an important issue for today's students."

An open forum was held on Monday to provide an outlet for student opinion before this decision was finalized. E-mail was sent out to all resident assistants Friday afternoon. However, most RA's didn't receive it in time to inform their residents of the Monday meeting.

"I feel that if they truly wanted an open forum, they should've advertised more," said Steve Parker, president of RHA. "They've already decided for additional honors housing. The reason they came to us was on where to put them."

Approximately 12 people attended the open forum, most opposing the idea of Arizona-Sonora as the new honors hall.

"Certainly the majority disagreed, but a decision like this should not be left to a popular majority vote," Van Arsdel.

Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall traditionally has a 95-97 percent turnover rate each year. As an almost entirely freshmen hall, Parker said they are not ruffling feathers like they would in another hall. Returners would be able to live in the hall, giving additional priority to honors students. If there are remaining spaces, non-honors students would fill the gaps.

"I don't think the new honors hall should be here," said Jason Yu, medical engineering freshman, and a resident of Arizona-Sonora. "This is like a playground. They should be by the library."

Some students picked Arizona-Sonora for the social environment it provides.

"There is a lot of socializing," said resident Rob DeVore, electrical engineering freshman. "If they make it an honors dorm, they would stay inside and study or something."

RHA isn't sure that a social environment is the most important factor for dorm life.

"First and foremost, as a Research One university, is learning," Van Arsdel said. "This is a new way to tie together where you live and what you learn. In the long run, maybe there will be no such thing as social (residence halls)."

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