Call them growing pains.
But despite the Broadway’s second-straight year rented to capacity prior to fall term, officials face a few lingering concerns about Portland State’s newest housing complex.
Approximately 168 students moved their lives into the 10-story, $47.5 million campus housing project Sept. 17, almost a year to the day since the building first opened.
The Broadway nearly erased the backlog of student housing needs when PSU unlocked its pristine doors last September. By December, the building was riddled with vandalism, violence and a bad reputation.
“We were behind the ball from the very beginning as far as the things we had control of,” said Scott Nine, assistant director of Residence Life. “We literally got access to the building the day before people moved in.”
The brand-new building passed from vacant to brimming in one weekend. A majority of Broadway’s 383 studios were occupied by first-time students unfamiliar with living on their own, Nine said. Residence Life moved its offices there from Montgomery Hall while resident assistants familiarized themselves with the state-of-the-art housing.
Then someone vandalized the metal elevator doors.
Nine said administrators feared a repeat offense if the expensive material was replaced, so they researched other options. Meanwhile, the graffiti remained.
“Some people maybe took that as a sign that we didn’t care about it,” Nine said, adding that the building’s unused condition made blemishes more apparent.
Statistically, the Broadway was actually quieter than other student housing last year. Records show 119 incident reports filed there between September 2004 and the end of May 2005, with 78 follow-up conduct meetings. The Ondine, by comparison, reported 161 incidents and 120 conduct meetings. The West Hall had 127 reports and 77 meetings in the same period.
But the Broadway’s troubles became well known following two serious altercations involving knives, one on Sept. 22 and another early Christmas morning. The December incident sent one resident to the hospital with stab wounds to the chest and thigh, inflicted by their guest and a kitchen knife.
Already requiring personal access cards for doors and elevators in the building, the university’s response was largely on the public relations front.
"I think the assault itself was more visible because it was a knife attack," said Lt. Craig Whitten of Campus Public Safety. "New students come to campus and tend to be very trusting."
Whitten said his department worked closely with Residence Life to educate Broadway residents about the dangers of letting strangers into the building. Officials also discontinued service to the computer lab and offices of the second floor in a bid to prevent unauthorized access from that public area.
Graduate student and Broadway resident Ty Forquer said the security-heavy housing still feels more genuine than the dorm environment he experienced in Michigan.
"It is a bit of a pain," he said. "But I understand the reasoning. If you want to be safe you have to make sacrifices somewhere."
PSU is somewhat unique, Nine said, in that it weighs misconduct on a case-by-case basis, giving involved parties a forum before taking action. Even then, educational services are as common as reprimands. The university did evict some residents with "multiple issues" last school year.
In the end, Nine said the building will only be as secure as the people living there.
"We’re not going to be in the position to tell people that they can’t have guests," Nine said. "We never want to lose that option of human judgment."