Millionaire couple Ira and Mary Lou Fulton have donated millions to Arizona State University since President Michael Crow took over a few years ago, making them the school’s leading donors and a powerful influence over the institution.
Through gifts totaling $160 million, the couple not only hope to support the creation of new services and programs — they also want to help the university shed its reputation as a “party school” and become, instead, a national leader in education and research.
The Fultons are aiming to ensure that transformation by drawing in top researchers and professors — and by instilling a strong work ethic in the freshmen.
In an interview with the Tribune, the Fultons said they’re especially interested in the idea of having a curfew for freshmen living in new dormitories, called the McAllister Academic Village, that will open at the Tempe campus this fall. By 2007, it will house nearly 2,000 freshmen.
“One thing we hate worse than anything is ‘party school,’ ” said Ira Fulton, one of the Valley’s leading home developers and a member of the ASU Foundation Board of Directors. “The freshmen are not going to be allowed to be contaminated by the other students.”
Mary Lou Fulton added: “We want the families of the students to know that (education) is what they’re going to get there.”
The Fultons and ASU administrators believe the freshman-only McAllister Aca- demic Village under construction at McAllister Avenue and Apache Boulevard will help ASU improve retention from the current 78 percent rate because students will live with fellow freshmen and have access to on-site tutors, classrooms and guidance services.
ASU is a dry campus, so students — including those 21 and older — can’t have alcohol in the dorms. Smoking also is banned, unless the student is 25 feet from any university building.
Although some parents have asked the university to set up dormitories where freshmen would live with a curfew, student representatives said they disagree with it — even if the institution’s largest donors are backing it.
“We respect what the Fultons are trying to do and what Crow is trying to do in improving our reputation,” said Hanna Ricketson, a junior and director of ASU’s Residence Hall Association. “But having a curfew, I think, is not the best way to go about that.”
Ricketson, 20, said students get involved in time-consuming activities that may lead them to study during the late hours. She added that part of the college experience is to let students become independent adults.
“I don’t think people would be willing to give up their ability to go and study late at the library, or go and eat pancakes at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Ricketson said.
It isn’t the first time the Fultons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have tried to make ASU more conservative.
Last spring, Ira Fulton was among several in the community who complained to administrators after ASU’s student newspaper, The State Press, published a full-page photo of a bare breast with a body piercing. University officials responded by threatening to create an editorial policy restricting the paper’s content.
Curfews are rare at public universities, and more typical of private religious colleges, said residential life expert Robert O’Hara from Vermont. But they’re difficult to enforce because students often are involved in off-campus jobs or activities, he said.
Brigham Young University, a private Mormon school in Provo, Utah, has dormitory visiting hours until midnight during the week and until 1 a.m. on weekends.
The Fultons aren’t alone in wanting a curfew for ASU freshmen. Some students and parents also want that restriction, ASU officials said.
To offer several choices, administrators plan to divide the new dorms into communities. One will be for freshmen studying business, another for those in education studies and a third for students focused on “healthy living.”
Nearly 80 students already have signed up to live in the healthy living community, said Bob Soza, ASU dean of students.
They must pledge to abstain from drug and alcohol abuse — on and off campus. Also, they would be restricted to living in same-sex halls with visitation hours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the week. On weekends, the hours would extend to 1 a.m.
Soza said those students could attend lectures promoting healthy lifestyles and be given nutritious choices in the cafeteria.
ASU spokesman Virgil Renzulli said the Fultons had nothing to do with the creation of that particular community, despite their support for such an idea.
O’Hara, who spoke from his Vermont office, said that if ASU wants to ensure students stick around their entire undergraduate careers without running into trouble, the university should mix freshmen with upperclassmen in the residence halls, creating mentorships that could lead freshmen to make better life choices.
New freshman complex
Some rooms will open this year at McAllister Academic Village, and construction is scheduled to end in 2007. The freshman dormitories at McAllister Avenue and Apache Boulevard will include:
• Beds for nearly 2,000 freshmen
• Four- and two-bedroom suites
• Food emporium and dining hall
• Centers for tutoring and other services
ASU by the numbers
• 8,467 freshmen this year
• Dorms can accommodate 6,000 freshmen. The rest live off campus.
• ASU outgrew its residential halls nearly a decade ago. The $150 million McAllister facility will help address that.