EDITORIAL: ‘Residential’ campus may become urban sprawl

To be considered for the American Association of Universities (AAU), USF needs to shed the image of a commuter school and become “primarily residential.” This title is given to universities who have at least 25 percent of undergraduate students living on campus or in campus-affiliated housing.

For USF, a school with an enrollment of more than 40,000, that means a drastic overhaul of the current resident atmosphere. To meet these goals, USF’s Board of Trustees has already instituted a new policy requiring incoming freshmen to live on campus starting in fall 2009. However, the massive influx of students may find that it isn’t really living on campus after all.

The Oracle reports that Tom Kane,dean of housing and residential life education said that even with a new 1,000-bed dorm addition near completion, USF will still be “5,000 to 7,000 beds short” of being considered residential

To compensate for the lack of available on-campus housing, USF is going to expand into the community and bargain with apartment and housing complexes in Tampa. USF is exploring the possibility of rating the various complexes according to a star rating. More stars mean more University involvement, from RAs to security.

One of the benefits of the plan would be the University’s ability to tell parents that UP, AlliedBarton and Residential Life staff would be directly involved in their children’s living facilities, Kane said.

Complexes will receive guaranteed residents, parents will think USF is watching their children and USF will increase another statistic for AAU to examine.

It seems like a win-win situation, but there is always a catch.

Expanding the territory patrolled by UP and AlliedBarton will only spread already-thin security resources even more.

One primary reason that residential campuses are preferred is the positive impact they have on students’ academic experience. Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall said that statistics show living on campus improves student performance and concentration.

USF has made it clear that it has these benefits in mind.

“We believe that when you live on campus, you do better academically,” said Meningall.

However, it is yet to be seen if these statistics hold true for students living “on campus” in name alone. When the benefits of on-campus living are primarily derived from ease of access to libraries, classes and the academic community, it appears that USF may be overlooking the fact that even though apartment complexes may choose to be affiliates, they are still off campus.

Rather than cutting corners, the University should focus on continued expansion of its actual on-campus housing so students can better receive the benefits associated with on-campus living.