Around ASU: Show some love, Tempe City owes students more than tickets and fines

by Christopher Drexel published on Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chris Drexel The State Press

Two stories having to do with ASU students and the City of Tempe were run one atop the other in last Wednesday's issue of The State Press.

One of the articles ("Tempe business boom helped by ASU") described how ASU's Tempe campus is now the largest in the United States with 51,612 students. The school's growth, the article continued, is a key reason why business in downtown Tempe was up 8 percent in 2005 from the previous year.

Right below it was a story detailing the latest about Tempe's Ad Hoc Rental Housing Task Force ("Rental properties could face new codes"), and its recommendations to levy restrictions on house renters - (cough) students (cough) - and rental property owners in the city.

One of the recommendations was to hire 10 property-code enforcement officers to keep closer tabs on renters who violate the city's laundry list of rules. This would ensure that there were enough personnel to fully enforce the city's party ordinance, which was passed in 2004 and essentially keeps students from throwing a house party more than once a semester.

The fact these two stories were reported on the same day, side-by-side, struck me as ironic. How can a city that relies on the students who live in it do so much to make them feel unwelcome?

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman insists the recommendations are not aimed at students, and students would benefit by the recommendations, too.

"We have a huge rental housing population," he said. "I'll leave it to you if you like living in a neighborhood where you're not disturbed by your neighbors."

I may be going out on a limb here, but I'd bet most ASU students would rather have the opportunity to host a party and maintain their house as they see fit. If there is harm being done in neighborhoods, the law will take care of itself without the task force's recommendations.

Councilman Ben Arredondo was quoted in The State Press as saying, "[The restrictions are] going to help us take back our neighborhoods."

Pardon me, but take back the neighborhoods from whom, exactly? Are students some species of body snatchers who have invaded and intend to destroy this fair town?

The truth of the matter is ASU and its students make up a significant part of Tempe's population, as well as its general identity. Students are also responsible for a huge amount of the city's business and have given it national recognition. Do you think Pac-10 football and the distinction of being the largest campus in the country have turned a few heads?

Without ASU students, Tempe would be just another suburb of Phoenix -- not as posh as Scottsdale, and not as big as Mesa, with the land-locked restrictions that Chandler and Glendale don't have.

With ASU students, however, Tempe has culture, personality, art galleries, sports and night life. Simply put, it's a college town, and the city should stop pretending it's not.

It's time that students are appreciated for their contributions to this community and not overly criticized for their petty faults like long grass and cars parked on the street. Such things are synonymous with areas where young people live. They will occur whether students are hassled by extra rules or not.

The city knows it can take advantage of students because they will be here for the foreseeable future. With ASU firmly entrenched in Tempe's culture, students need the city and its houses more than the city needs them right now.

Only when the students don't sign up to attend ASU or transfer to a college whose city is more friendly to them, will Tempe understand the injustice it's doing to those that make it great.

Christopher Drexel is a journalism senior. Reach him at

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