By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Finally, action. After years of student complaints, the new president of the University of Texas at Dallas has ordered the school to fix security problems at Waterview Park, the nation's largest private dorm.
Dr. David Daniel said last week he will improve lighting, add more emergency call boxes and hire 10 additional officers to patrol the complex--a 62 percent increase in the UTD police force.
Jesse Schneider, a Waterview resident, applauded the decision. "All three suggestions are very good ideas," says Schneider, who will graduate in May 2006. "Our lights in this outside hallway hardly ever work. And since this isn't a secure apartment complex, that isn't good."
Daniel acted after a panel appointed by former UTD President Franklyn Jenifer issued a preliminary investigative report last week. The UTD Advisory Commission on Residential Housing reported that full-time student enrollment at the school increased by almost 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. During that same period, the UTD police force added just one patrol officer. The panel recommended the university hire additional patrol officers, improve lighting and increase the number of emergency call boxes.
Though the commission's final report is not due until September 1, Daniel ordered that steps be taken immediately to act on all three recommendations. "If there were important and obvious and positive steps that we could take, then there was no reason to wait to take action," says Daniel, who began his presidency on June 1.
The changes follow a story in the Dallas Observer in April on Waterview ("The Dorm From Hell") and its more than 1,200 apartments. The story stated that there have been 10 rapes reported at the complex over the past three years but that officials routinely failed to inform students. Many residents said life at Waterview was a nightmare of poor lighting, black mold, broken toilets and leaking ceilings. Several UTD officials disputed this picture. They said crime was not a problem, security was adequate and living conditions were fine.
Daniel's actions and the findings in the preliminary report suggest the UTD president and the investigative panel--made up of former Waterview residents, UTD students and officials, business persons and officials from other universities--did not buy that picture of Waterview.
While many Waterview residents welcomed the initial steps, several said the university also must address the substandard living conditions and poor maintenance.
"They need to hire more workers at Waterview and clean the place up," says a sophomore resident who asked to remain anonymous. "I moved in after the [Observer] article was written, and my apartment was still a frickin' mess. None of the faucets in my bathroom worked correctly. And I had to put a light in the living room since there was no ceiling fan or light in there. They should have been spending their time fixing these problems."
University officials promised to address the full range of problems at Waterview.
In some cases, the actions of the UTD president have gone beyond what the commission recommended. For example, Daniel has asked UTD Police Chief Colleen Ridge to develop a plan to open a security office in Waterview. The UTD chief said installing a security office in Waterview is something he and Chief Ridge spoke about months ago. "The goal is to have students feel a more direct access to police within their community," Daniel says. --Kelsey Guy
Dialing for Dollars
Perhaps you don't listen to WRR-FM (101.1), the city-owned-and-operated radio station that spins classical gas and broadcasts Dallas City Council meetings. You're certainly not supposed to pay for it, since WRR is an enterprise fund, which means it's designed to be self-sustaining, funded only by money made from selling local and national advertisements, T-shirts, CDs, coffee mugs and other gift-shop junk. In other words, WRR's supposed to make money for the city. Instead, according to the Office of the City Auditor, it's making money for the guy who runs the station, general manager Greg Davis.
According to the city auditor's April 29 performance audit of WRR, Davis was paid $89,683 in commission income he didn't deserve. The money, according to the audit, came from interest made on station income that was placed in a bank account, where it apparently earns money not for the station or the city but for 20-year city employee Greg Davis.
And that's on top of his annual salary of more than $101,000.
WRR, says Assistant City Auditor Paul Garner, "apparently did not have good managerial oversight, or they would have found this long before we did."
It likely wouldn't have mattered anyway. Not only did Davis not have to pay back the money the auditor claims he owes the city, he also received slightly more than $2,500 on top of the disputed $89,000. City Manager Mary Suhm claimed Davis was actually underpaid--and cut a $2,500 check herself, all but closing the issue before the city council was able to address the auditor's report two months ago. It was Suhm who, as assistant city manager in 1994, hired Davis despite having never even interviewed the man, whose résumé contained a fudged work history, as reported in a 1996 Dallas Observer story ("Static Quo").