By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
On Tuesday at 10 a.m., about 50 Waterview residents participated in a sit-in at the management office of the complex to protest conditions. Waterview is managed by FirstWorthing, a private company. One of those present was Laura Rashedi, former Student Government Association president. "We want residents to know the reality of the way we live, and we want it to change, and we will do whatever it takes to get things changed," she said. If there is no change, she said, "the next step would be to do this during freshman lease signings."
Asked for comment on the sit-in, UTD spokeswoman Jenni Huffenberger said, "It's needed and important that students be able to sit in and air their grievances...I think there will be changes in terms of maintenance issues and making students feel more safe in the environment."
Many residents say life at Waterview, the nation's largest private dorm, is a nightmare of black mold, broken toilets and leaking ceilings. In interviews with the Observer, UTD officials painted an entirely different picture. They said crime is not a problem and that they are proud of conditions and maintenance. Robert Lovitt, UTD's senior vice president of business affairs, called Waterview "one of the best success stories in the United States." Lovitt, who has overseen Waterview from the beginning--its first residents moved in in 1989--will retire at the end of this month.
Robert K. Utley III, the Dallas developer who built and still manages Waterview, told the Observer the complex has provided his family with $10 million in profits and will generate tens of millions of dollars in additional profits for UTD over the next 25 years. Utley said security and maintenance have long been inadequate, but he blamed the international students' way of life for creating many of the problems at Waterview. "Because a lot of the foreign students cook fish and curry, it's embedded in the walls," he said. "We have to rip the carpet out at turnover."
Jenifer described Utley's comments as "insensitive at best."
"Mr. Utley certainly was not speaking for me or any member of the UTD administration in making such regrettable remarks," Jenifer wrote in his letter.
Jenifer said the head of the investigative commission will have no direct connection to Waterview or the UTD Police Department. The other members will include faculty members, students and staffers. Jenifer promised to appoint the panel within a week and said Dr. Daniel wants a preliminary report by the end of June. --Kelsey Guy