Much of the well-deserved hype about the Ronald Tutor Campus Center revolves around how the university has finally fulfilled its pledge to enhance residential student life by creating a central meeting space and an array of restaurants on campus.
As a commuter, I’m just glad that I’ll finally have a comfy place to study or relax during those long periods of time between classes.
The stigma of the commuter school label leaves many students with the impression that there’s little to do on campus. The main hurdle USC faces in becoming a more residential campus will be offering enough conveniences to compete with the comforts of going home for the weekend or the excitement of a night on the town.
Other than the University Village, Exposition Park and the few restaurants on Figueroa, very little is within walking distance for students looking for an easy distraction. While Southern California abounds with attractions for seemingly every student — Disneyland, West Hollywood, etc. — the dismal state of public transportation and trafﬁc makes off-campus travel rather unbearable at times.
Although USC has a strong Greek culture with a bustling social calendar and an ongoing series of events from programs such as Visions and Voices, the university lacks in more general entertainment venues, such as the bowling alleys or movie theaters that students of UC San Diego enjoys(though the School of Cinematic Arts does offer regular screenings and premieres).
As a university in the middle of Los Angeles, USC enjoys the big-name celebrities who visit for special lectures or premieres, and the university’s close proximity to L.A. Live allows students the convenience of free shuttles Downtown. USC already does an excellent job of exploiting the city’s resources to the fullest.
The university should focus slower, simpler pleasures in order to further break away from the commuter school tradition.
In the last few years, the abbreviated hours at The Lot and the limited space at Traditions have left the campus vacant after 6 p.m., even during the school week. Shuttles to L.A. Live have been helpful but have done little in terms of enduring a whole weekend on campus. Going to the same — often expensive — places becomes monotonous, regardless of free transportation.
The campus center is a strong step in the right direction, offering laid-back leisure like casual sit-down restaurants and an arcade that should incentivize students to stay on campus after the school day is done. The campus center will offer better meeting spaces to accommodate student organizations, study sessions, groups of friends or anybody just looking for a place to kill some time. But the transition from commuter to residential school will not end with the campus center, though it does bring the goal into a much closer grasp. The manner in which students utilize the center in the next few months will be crucial in assessing how much more needs to be done to make the campus feel more like a home to its residents.
Future endeavors must first consider the university’s location within Los Angeles, especially when it comes to housing. Efforts such as the new University Gateway apartments help improve student residential housing life by offering luxury entertainment, including a fully equipped fitness center and a Wii gaming room, that encourages students to hang around after hours. But with an astronomical price tag, Gateway only echoes the same budget versus entertainment debate that students face when they venture to L.A. Live, leaving this housing option closed to many students. Residents not only need the convenience and variety of places like Gateway but also economic options in order to be convinced to stay the weekend.
Students want a mix of venues that are cheap, creative and easy to access. Students and administrators looking to cement USC’s status as a residential school must keep in mind the competition of nearby, more accessible attractions, as well as the need to revamp the remaining areas of campus bereft of casual leisure. The Ronald Tutor Campus Center, the University Gateway apartments and the renovation of the University Village all offer new reasons for students to consider campus home, but the coup de gráce for becoming a resident university lies in capitalizing on those places that exude a casual, come-and-go-as-you-please feel. When USC finally does earn its stripes as a residential school, the entire university community — both residents and commuters — will enjoy the benefits.
Victor Luo is a senior majoring in communication.