At the beginning of the semester, The State Press publishedan editorial discussing several issues affecting college students, including Operation Safe and Sober, the new Walk Only Zones, a campus-wide ban on tobacco products, student loan interest rates and continuing traffic snarls resulting from construction along Rural Road. With a little more than half the semester completed, where are we now?
Chief among the unresolved issues is the ineffective tobacco ban. It’s easy to see that people have been violating the ban — just count the abandoned cigarette butts littering sidewalks, as the once plentiful ashtrays located throughout campus have been removed.
The ban was implemented around the same time as the Walk Only Zones near the MU and other parts of the Tempe campus. The Walk Only Zones, however, seem to be working. Every now and then, you’ll see an errant bicyclist riding through the crowds near Hayden Lawn, but they are few and far between.
The difference between the two policies is that the University set aside funds and hired people to help enforce the Walk Only Zones. As far as the tobacco ban goes, there is no mechanism to really enforce it and no way to really punish those who violate the ban. Given that ASU is public property, there would need to be a change to city ordinances or the ASU code of conduct for these violators to receive tickets.
The University saw similar stalemates with a student-led program, Walk Your Wheels, in the 2011-12 academic year. Like the tobacco-free policy, Walk Your Wheels focused on student intervention, and like the smoking ban, it wasn’t widely enforced. It’s probable that problems with the tobacco-free policy will lead to increased regulations in the coming years the same way Walk Your Wheels evolved into Walk Only Zones.
Construction in and around Tempe still poses a constant hindrance for those wishing to commute, but we applaud the city’s overall goals to improve infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians. The city has been working to update water infrastructure near campus since the spring, while its Transportation Master Plan relies on building “complete streets” with space for bicyclists, pedestrians and cars. Additionally, the city is continuing to develop its public transportation, with larger versions of the free Orbit buses being phased in during the coming years.
The combination of ongoing construction and street closures for events such as last weekend’s Homecoming festivities, races and the upcoming Tempe Festival of the Arts may make commuting more difficult temporarily, but at least the final result will be worth it for the city’s continuing development.
Operation Safe and Sober, the Tempe police campaign to target drunk driving, loud parties and other issues, seems to have fizzled out after high arrest numbers that made national news in the first weeks of school. This suggesting either that the department has chosen not to supply the manpower to continue the campaign or that it was successful. Safe and Sober seems to have deterred those who might have made the terrible decision to drive while impaired.
Student loan debt remains a dark cloud hovering on the political horizon. According to CNN Money, the class of 2013 holds an average of $35,000 in debt. All told, aggregate student loan debt now totals more than $1 trillion and interest rates on new loans are likely to increase, as they the rates are tied to the state of the American financial markets.
Political struggles closer to home continue as well, including a 2012 standoff that ended with the campus presidents of our Undergraduate Student Government resigning from the board of the Arizona Students’ Association and getting rid of a $2-a-semester fee charged to each ASU student that went directly to the organization. ASA has faded in importance this semester, being replaced with a new hot topic: a proposed $75-a-semester athletics fee that is still up in the air. The USGW, USGP, and USGD senates are expected to vote on the issue on Friday, while Tempe USG and the Graduate and Professional Student Association is expected to vote on Oct. 29.
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