The State Press ran an interesting column last week lambasting the Downtown campus and all of its intolerable shortcomings.
It’s small. It’s different. It’s too professional. It’s not “what the ideal college experience is.”
This is a refrain we’ve all heard many times before. Since the Walter Cronkite School moved downtown and Taylor Place opened in August 2008, there has been a steady stream of negative backlash from students feeling detached from Tempe, the real ASU and, if you heard the way they tell it, the rest of the civilized world.
Downtown Phoenix is young and at times may resemble a ghost town more than it does the fifth-largest city in the country. Our campus is even younger and has a lot of growing up to do.
And yes, we’re not Tempe –- but we’re not trying to be. Students looking for what might be considered a traditional college atmosphere won’t find it on the Downtown campus, but whoever said being traditional was a good thing?
If tradition means being a face lost in the crowd, sharing an adviser with 500 other students and getting kicked out of your dorm halfway through your first semester because renovations are so desperately needed, then I’m all for being untraditional.
In fact, being untraditional sounds pretty great. I like going to school in an urban environment where there are hundreds of local restaurants, stores and coffee shops within a ten-minute walk of where I sleep and study.
I enjoy being able to calmly walk to class without fear of being struck by an inattentive bicyclist or zigzagging longboarder.
I appreciate going to classes where the technology isn’t older than I am and where students in upper-division classes don’t have to sit on the floor in the back of the room because there aren’t enough seats for everyone.
Downtown Phoenix and our emerging campus both have their setbacks and are a long way from being anything close to perfect (read: CityScape). But considering all the issues facing higher education right now in Arizona, it’s hard not to be thankful to be a student on a campus that is, for the most part, insulated from the extreme budget cuts and program whacking.
And downtown Phoenix is home to some amazing places, if you just believe in it a little bit. The best pizza joint in the country, as told by the New York Times, lives here in Pizzeria Bianco. Speaking of restaurants, have you tried Matt’s Big Breakfast (where, legend has it, Mayor Phil Gordon and President Michael Crow conceived the Downtown campus on a napkin)? It’s a few blocks north of Taylor Place -– just a hop, skip and a jump away.
What’s just off campus in Tempe? A McDonald’s and a drive-thru liquor store.
Downtown is home to theatres like the Herberger and the Orpheum, where symphonies and ballets roam free, and major sports venues like U.S. Airways and Chase Field. The Suns and Diamondbacks have seen better days, sure, but have you seen the Sun Devils lately? Our football team hasn’t had a winning record in three seasons, our basketball team can’t make a layup and our baseball team is on probation.
And downtown is simply where things are happening, especially now. You’d be hard-pressed to find a city in the U.S. that had more news coverage and mobs of protesters filling the streets than Phoenix this past summer.
Sometimes, I think Downtown students — in particular, Cronkite kids — might have it too good. It’s easy to take for granted new dorms, state-of-the-art facilities and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your major isn’t about to be axed when you’re so far from fraternity row and Sun Devil Stadium.
To those dreaming of getting lost in Tempe, I wish you the best. Tempe has a great campus with hundreds of student organizations and thousands of students who know how to have a good time. But Downtown isn’t competing with Tempe, and it never will. It’s doing its own thing, and while a lot more could be done to bridge the gap between students and the rest of the community, there’s a lot to be thankful for on both sides.
Love the Downtown campus or leave it, but don’t forget that things could be a lot worse. Excuse me for sounding like an old man, freshmen, but when I was your age we didn’t even have a light rail. Or a CityScape. Or Civic Space Park. Or the Sheraton, or Sens… or Hsin…
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