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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA needs to make campus the place to be

    As I prepare for graduation less than a month from now, I keep thinking of what kind of UA I want to return to for homecomings 10 or 20 years from now.

    A campus rich with increasingly bright students being taught by energetic faculty who lead their fields. Attractive new buildings full of cutting-edge research. A diverse student body committed to making a positive impact on the world.

    One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about isn’t often mentioned, but is vitally important nonetheless – campus life. Yes, one of the most important issues for the UA is to keep giving students reasons to be on campus and connected to the university.

    The reason is that, increasingly, learning is happening away from the classroom. As progressively more work and collaboration occur on the Internet, students more and more don’t need to actually come to campus. But interacting with other students is one of the most important parts of college. Meeting new people is essential.

    Here’s what the UA should focus on:

    ? Get more students in the dorms. Nowhere is it written that students should only stay in the dorms one year and then live strictly off campus. The UA should build more residence halls so that a higher percentage of incoming freshmen can live in them and so that more students can stay in the dorms past the first year. Currently, 80 percent of incoming freshman live in the dorms; that means that 20 percent are missing out on this part of the college experience. Granted, there are inherent tensions between modern college students and dorm life. This is the reason that off-campus apartments such as the Seasons, the Standard and the Exchange are so popular. They are basically dorms with less restrictive rules. To that end, the UA needs to do more to make the dorms compatible with students. Currently the dorms can feel like jails, when they should feel like close-knit communities.

    ? Encourage clubs, especially greek life. Getting students involved on campus is integral to them having a productive and fulfilling experience on campus. One group that is often seemingly at odds with the administration is Greek Life. While it makes sense that the administration would want to minimize the darker side of Greek Life, fraternities and sororities also offer a lot to the university. In my opinion, a lot of the knocks aimed at greeks are really aimed at “”students who party”” and “”upper-middle-class white kids,”” but those don’t have the same ring to them as attacking “”stupid frat boys”” and “”ditzy sorority hoes.”” The administration needs to allow Greek Life to flourish, but ensure that it is safe.

    ? Get more students to study on campus. Last week I went to the Integrated Learning Center to get a few books for my senior thesis. I came in through the computer lab, which was completely packed with students. Almost every computer and study room was occupied. Then I went to the stacks to get the books. It was mostly empty, with very few students per square foot. Books themselves take up about 50 percent of floor space at the library. The UA needs to digitize more of these books or use other means, such as mobile shelving, to free up more study space. There should also be more study space in the student unions and in the dorms. Colleges should also encourage students to study in their buildings. One of my favorite study spots is the lobby in the Eller College of Management. More students should study there and in other places like it around campus.

    ? Get more students to hang out on campus. This is the area that the UA currently does the worst at. In fact, the Marshall Foundation, via University Boulevard, probably attracts as many students to the area around campus as the UA does. The UA needs to put things in the student unions that attract more students. Why not some stores that students are more likely to frequent? Why not some more popular restaurants or – gasp – a bar? Many campuses around the country have them, and they get students on campus. At the UA, no time is more popular than tailgating, especially at Homecoming. While I was abroad in Chile, individual colleges frequently had parties on campus, complete with DJs and drinks. This would be a logistical nightmare at the UA, but the administration should find creative ways to get students to come to campus.

    I plan on being a passionate alumnus. But if I come back and most students stay in their off-campus apartments and only come to campus to go to class, I’m going to be disappointed. Administrators: Focus on classes, funding, and faculty, but don’t neglect campus life.

    Ryan Johnson is an economics and international studies senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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