Most U. Iowa Dorms To Stay Closed During Jan. 3 Caucuses

This story was written by Nicholas Kelly, The Daily Iowan
University officials say their decision not to open University of Iowa residence halls to students who wish to return to Iowa City to caucus is mostly a matter of logistics.

"At this point, we don't do it because we can't do it," said Von Stange, the director of University Housing at the UI.

The UI is offering two options for residence-hall tenants who wish to stay in Iowa City for the Jan. 3 caucuses. First, as is standard university policy, Hillcrest and Mayflower will remain open during winter break.

Additionally, for residents of halls other than Mayflower and Hillcrest, the Iowa House Hotel will offer a discounted rate to students -- $45 a night -- for who wish to caucus.

This is in contrast to the other state Board of Regents' universities; the University of Northern Iowa will have six of its residence halls open during the caucus period, and Iowa State University will rent out a floor of its Wallace Hall at $19.50 a night to students interested in returning to caucus.

Officials say they are in a unique position among regent schools and that such options aren't viable for the UI, which has neither the staff nor the room to accommodate extra students during the break.

"Other schools have more residence halls open during the break period, or they have vacancies where they're able to house people," said Stange. "We don't have any empty beds."

Others thought there isn't a demand for the dorms to remain open.

"So far, we haven't had a lot of interest from students," said Carolyn Kiser-Wacker, an assistant to the director of Student Services who, as did Stange, felt that some of the pressure for the dorms to be open during the break was coming more from outside sources, such as political campaigns.

Even if they university were to open more dorms during the caucuses, many students said they wouldn't use the service because there are simply other things they'd like to do during their winter break.

"I don't usually go home on the weekends, so during break is my time to stay home," UI freshman Taylor Casey said.

Others cited travel concerns.

"I live almost four hours away, so I probably wouldn't drive back to caucus," UI freshman Lisa Greenfield said.

But some, such as UI freshman Ben Meersman, felt that the lack of housing options complicated things for returning students, who must either find other lodging options or, like Meersman, make a round trip on caucus night.

"It's really an inconvenience for me," said Meersman, who plans to travel from his home in the Quad Cities to caucus in Johnson County. "But I care about the cause."
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE