Opinion: Art students deserve better

Despite plans for expansion, ASU seems to be neglecting some of the poor living conditions for art students on the Tempe campus

Not all programs at ASU are created equal. Every student who comes to ASU has a similar goal in mind: a quality education and college experience. While college is what you make it, ASU seems to be favoring some of its schools over others. Some schools house their students in high-rise-style dorms and beautifully built classrooms, yet others don’t get the same treatment. 

I understand how it feels to not have as nice of a living situation as some of my peers. Before becoming a journalism student, I was a student with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which hilariously shortened its name to “The College.

I spent my freshman year living in Palo Verde West, which many students mockingly referred to as “poverty west.” 

I learned to laugh at myself and my situation, and I had some good times in that dorm that I wouldn’t trade for anything. That being said, there were days when I felt like I was missing out on something. 

I envied the students who lived in the Barrett Complex, Tooker House and Taylor Place, to name a few. These buildings were newer, cleaner and had better amenities. Living in student housing was one of my first real experiences with wealth gaps. Even with my living situation, I would joke that I was grateful that I didn’t live in the art dorms. 

The Tempe art dorms, including Adelphi Commons II and Palo Verde East, are quite old. Unlike most of the other dorms, they do not have suite-style or private bathrooms. Some of the dorm halls — such as Best Hall — have communal bathrooms, which was problematic even before the age of COVID-19. The buildings are outdated and live in the shadows of their newer counterparts. 

"The art school buildings were adequate but look pitiful when compared to facilities of the engineering buildings. They served the purpose and worked for my education, but it always felt like there were things we didn’t have," said Dani George, a senior studying digital culture. 

George recalls Best Hall, the dorm she lived in her freshman year, not having air conditioning, which sounds unbearable in the Arizona heat. 

As someone who lived and worked in many older ASU dorms, though the buildings did technically have air conditioning, it often did not work well, and the students had no control over the temperatures in their individual rooms, unlike in the newer buildings. 

"There were more than 30 women and only three toilets and three stalls," George said. "Toilets weren’t updated and the building itself is in shambles and broke constantly. Showers had what looked like mold on the walls."

This makes one wonder, why are all of these students who go to the same university getting such drastically different living conditions? 

Of course, with students mostly taking classes online, many incoming freshmen may not have experienced the subpar living conditions that many of their upperclassmen counterparts may have had, but online classes have brought their own issues.

"I think ASU as a university treats art as second-class citizens compared to STEM majors. However, this is pretty common in most universities," George said. "I think the reason for this is because their focus on STEM and a recognized business school makes them more profit so they put focus into them."

At first, this made sense. STEM and business schools simply tend to make more money because those job fields are supposedly more profitable. 

The way we see ASU treating art students is similar to a wider-scale issue, where we, as a society, tend to underappreciate art. Some may say this is due to our advancement as a society in the age of technology.

However, things do seem to be looking up for the art students. 

The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is expanding between a new dorm on the Downtown Phoenix campus and an emerging project in Mesa. This is great to see, but I hope ASU can also pay attention to the existing buildings on the Tempe campus because people still live in these buildings. ASU shouldn't abandon these students just because they want to work on bigger and better things. 

I believe artists do serve a purpose at ASU and across the city of Phoenix. We wouldn't have the beautiful architecture of our newer buildings, or the murals that bedazzle Roosevelt Row if it weren't for those who went into art careers, and it is time that we show these people the respect they deserve. 

Our world wouldn't be as beautiful if it weren't for artists, so why can't their living conditions reflect this? 


Reach the columnist at htenore@asu.edu or follow @haleyyhmt on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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