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ASU Brainwashing Goes to the Next Level

2 ASU campuses plan academic (communal) villages

(It's all about the collective - the individual has NO value outside the collective)

by Lesley Wright - Jun. 19, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
As soon as David Anaya moved onto Arizona State University's West campus his freshman year, he bought a box of Lucky Charms cereal, sat in his room and ate the entire contents in one sitting.

"My mom would never let me have it growing up," he told about 100 people who gathered last week to break ground for a new residence hall on the West campus.

Anaya's tale may sound trivial, but it bolsters the concept behind "academic villages" that will rise on ASU's West and Polytechnic campuses in 14 months. By living in residence halls and eating together in dining rooms, the freshmen of 2012 will experience what ASU President Michael Crow calls "immersion" education.

The village, Crow said, "is a place where freshmen can come in from high school and, in a sense, give up their high school ways and immerse themselves in intense learning."

More to the point, the villages will test research showing that students immersed in campus life engage more fully and graduate within four years. If successful, that would boost the university's graduation rate, which hovers just above 55 percent for a degree that takes 6 years to complete.

The projects together will cost more than $45 million, with most of that coming from private investment. Only the dining halls will be built with public money.

As another lure, students on all four ASU campuses will find glossy new recreation centers within the next few years. The need is strong enough that students agreed to "assess" themselves an extra $150 a year to pay off $25 million bonds for each project. Basketball courts, gymnasiums, outdoor pools and multi-use rooms for yoga and ballet were among the desired amenities.

As administrators have discovered, young adults today have raised the standards for acceptable campus living.

Making academic villages

The new residence halls are far from the dormitories of old. Even the word is quaint.

"We don't like to consider it a dorm," said Polytechnic student Dale Bryant, who just finished his freshman year. "The root word of dormitory is sleeping. We like to consider them residence halls. It's a place to live. It's more of a tight-knit community."

The private builders - American Campus Communities Inc. on West and Inland American Communities Group Inc. on Polytechnic - design buildings with privacy for bedrooms and bathrooms and communal living for everything else. The rooms will lack kitchens, so students will buy a meal plan and mingle in the dining hall.

"If you're a student living on campus there's a strong likelihood you have to leave your residence hall to eat with others, to recreate with others, to hang out with others," said Mistalene Calleroz White, dean of students at West. "If you're off-campus, it's very easy to park, go to your class, get back in your car and leave. This becomes your world very quickly if you live on campus."

The builders will own the residence halls and ASU will staff and manage them.

American Campus Communities has completed several projects at the university and already has invested $300 million in "Michael Crow's vision," said company president Bill Bayless.

The goal at each campus is to have 15,000 students by 2020, a substantial increase over current enrollment. West averages about 8,000 to 9,000 and Polytechnic has 9,000 to 10,000 students.

Cost will vary, depending on the room. But Calleroz White said that parents should compare the cost of housing, feeding, transporting and parking for a freshman before opting out of the program. Financial aid can be adjusted.

"We don't want finances to be the barrier for any ASU experience," she said.

The 2012 freshmen will have some choice, but not much.

"If you are enrolled as a freshman on campus, you will live there," said Neil Calfee, director of ASU's real-estate development program.

University officials said that they will grant exemptions. Older students may remain commuters, but traditional freshmen will face more hurdles to opting out.

Administrators hope they find a transformed campus culture.

Bringing major changes

The biggest change will be felt at the West campus, which was built in the mid-1980s for upperclassmen only. The campus, at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Glendale, has about 340 beds available in the apartmentlike Las Casas. The new residence hall will more than double the beds.

Currently, there is no dining hall; a café, market and a few retail outlets fill the gap.

Budget cuts already have transformed the campus, with the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences as the predominate school, followed by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and a branch of the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Calleroz White said administrators plan to ensure a vibrant nightlife for students who will live on the liberal-arts campus.

Polytechnic opened in 1996 as a campus focused on science, technology and innovation.

Built on the grounds of a former Air Force base at 7001 E. Williams Field Road in Mesa, the campus already had ready-built housing. Barracks were renovated and about 1,200 students live on the campus.

Administrators will have a groundbreaking ceremony at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday for the new, 318-bed residence hall and dining facility at the Polytechnic campus.

Polytechnic Dean of Students Aaron Krasnow said that administrators are launching a campaign to convince more students to live on campus.

"We're really trying to sell that idea to parents and students," Krasnow said. "Mostly, they are receptive. The whole thing is incredibly transformative. It's just a big leap forward."

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