October 3, 2008

Misrepresented By 'Misled' Article

On Wednesday, Jahna Berry wrote a fairly negative article about the state of Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix Campus. In the article, "Phoenix Businesses Feel Misled By ASU" Berry claims that business owners are disappointed by the lack of student patronage and more or less accuses President Crow and Mayor Gordon of misleading the taxpayers who voted for a $220 million bond that built our campus. I have a few things to say:

1) Arizona State University has been in Tempe for over one hundred and twenty (120) years. The collegiate culture that exists there has been fostered for more than a century, while ASU has had a presence in Downtown Phoenix for a little more than three years. I remember something about Rome not being built in a day, but what do I know? In addition, we have been a 'residential campus' (as opposed to a commuter campus) for two months. Instant gratification, anyone?

2) I know for a fact that the two business leaders Berry quoted are not disappointed about ASU's presence downtown. Steve Weiss is a great friend of the Downtown Campus, and is more than happy to have us down here. In fact, the two showings of The Axe In The Attic a few weeks ago were sold out largely due to ASU students. This weekend, Steve is showing a film called Random Lunacy that's sure to be a riot. Please go support him and Space 55. The other business owner quoted in the article is Denise from The Silver Spoon (try the 'Scottsdale' - so good). She also owns a coffee shop called The Daily Grind, of which I am a proud card carrying member. Denise and I have had a handful of conversations about ASU's journey downtown, and she has been nothing but positive about the possibilities on the horizon.

3) Arizona State University is not solely responsible for the lack of traffic that business owners are experiencing. Conversely, if business was booming it wouldn't be entirely credited to ASU. From what I've read recently in the news, it seems as though our economy as a whole is having some issues. Light Rail construction didn't help matters, but the excited anticipation of its opening shows no signs of waning. Oh yeah, and that decades old stigma that there is "nothing to do downtown" is still alive, well, and unwarranted. As the Republic's downtown beat reporter, Berry is most likely fully aware of how these issues are affecting business in the area. But yeah, let's blame ASU.

Ok, that's all I got. Here's what the big boys had to say:

With the nation’s economy and the world’s financial markets in turmoil, it is a particular pleasure to bring you some good news. Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus has enrolled 40% more students for Fall 2008 than were originally forecast as part of the bond proposal to build the campus.

This fall, the Downtown Phoenix campus has enrolled more than 8,431 students. There will be almost 5,000 students taking classes on the campus from around the university. Combined with ASU faculty and staff, continuing education students, participants in some of the more than 2,000 campus-based seminars and events the university hosts each year, and other visitors, we expect almost 7,400 people will come downtown each weekday this fall as a direct consequence of the university’s presence here.

At the start of only its third year of operation, the university and the city, working together, have achieved some major milestones. The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism opened for business in August in the nation’s most advanced facility for teaching and research about digital media. Taylor Place, a brand-new residence hall, also opened its doors, adding 540 students to the number of people who live and work downtown. And later this fiscal year, KAET/Eight, Arizona’s premier PBS affiliate, will move its operations downtown to the same state-of-the-art facility housing the Cronkite School.

At the time we proposed building a university campus in Downtown Phoenix, we knew that we needed a diversified portfolio of carefully selected assets to build the kind of vibrant, high-energy environment that would enable us to compete and prosper. Some of these assets are already completed, such as new residential developments, while others are opening just when we need their economic boost the most: the new Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, the final phase of the Phoenix Convention Center, and our METRO light rail line.

The depth and breadth of our current economic concerns have only served to underscore the foresight of these projects and the wisdom of the voters of Phoenix in approving the bond proposal to build the campus. The trust and commitment from all—students, ASU faculty and staff, City employees, business owners, neighborhood residents—to making this campus one of the fastest-growing, most successful start-up operations in the history of higher education shows what we can do when we work together for our mutual success. We thank you for your role in this effort and look forward to reporting more good news in the future.

Phil Gordon, Mayor, City of Phoenix
Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University

"We journalists make it a point to know very little about an extremely wide variety of topics; this is how we stay objective."
Dave Barry


Adam W said...

I want to know what's so great about the Main campus "culture" as opposed to the downtown one? Main campus USED to have cool, locally owned business, coffee shops and college bars that took 100 years to cultivate. In just 10 or so years, they ruined that entire thing by allowing the place to be overrun with name brand options. College Street Deli? Gone. Long Wong's? Long gone. Bandersnatch? Dos Gringos on Campus? Gone. Now it's Panda Express, Starbucks and Einsteins...what culture!

Nick Bastian said...

Sam, you make an excellent point. I was surprised (well, not really surprised) at the tone of the article. They could have easily gone the other way in pointing out positives in the area but it probably wouldn't "sell" as well. Keep on doin' your thing down there...

Steve said...

Well Sam, yes I was quoted and frankly I'm in support of Jahna's article. And when Jahna asked me, would you have known that there were less students coming onto campus than "advertised", my
response(un-published) was "How would I know"?

I think anything that brings activity to downtown is great, ASU Downtown included. I'm still waiting for the parameters to engage students beyond the means I created, a list of professor's emails I pulled myself from the ASU website. I will be asking more about the Sun Card program, though I am already offering a dollar off(a 16% discount)to ALL students with id's. There are businesses who aren't waiting for ASU to set parameters and are now papering the DPP "kiosks"with the fliers and posters. I have to applaud their moxie.