'90s dorm room is electronically hip

September 05, 1994|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writer

An article in Monday's Sun about college students and their high-tech equipment incorrectly reported when a UMBC student arrived on campus. The student, Alyson L. Fulwood, moved in Friday, not last month.

The Sun regrets the errors.

When 17-year-old Alyson L. Fulwood moved into Room 378 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Chesapeake Hall last month, she was ready.

She had just bought an IBM personal computer for $1,300. While she writes her school papers on that, she will be able to listen to her new stereo, complete with compact disc and tape player. She also brought the TV she received as a high school graduation gift. All of her appliances are plugged into two electronic surge protectors and 25 feet of extension cord.


"I bought all this stuff for relaxation," says Ms. Fulwood of Mitchellville in Prince George's County. "I need to be able to relax and be at home."

The cost of equipping her dorm room is about $2,500, she says. After she and her roommate decide how to decorate their place, there will be even more bills.

"I have a scholarship for UMBC," says Ms. Fulwood, "so my parents didn't mind buying all this stuff for me."

Whether their parents mind or not, many of the approximately 220,000 students who arrived at Maryland colleges last month say they are spending between $500 and $3,000 -- usually their parents' money -- to turn their Spartan dorm rooms into homes.

"I might have gone overboard on things," concedes Kimberly Kerno, a 22-year-old Towson State University senior from Crofton who estimates she spent $500 equipping her room. "But that's how much I had to spend to decorate the room and make it how I want to live."

Individual tastes vary, but most students are going off to college with similar kits: a computer with printer, a mini-refrigerator, stereo, desk lamp, alarm clock and, in most cases, their mother's towels. Once at school, they'll purchase bicycles, $250 worth of textbooks, calendars (Ansel Adams photography and scantily clad models are hot) and clothes (this year, anything with sunflower prints is in).

Still, nothing is more popular than the latest technological gear. Six-outlet electronic surge protectors, also called "power strips," extension cords and wiring for the global computer network have become staples of modern dorm life.

Jim Kellogg, a manager at the University of Maryland College Park book store, says that during the first few weeks of school he sells as many as 200 surge protectors a day.

"Technology is where it is right now," says Robert J. Somers, the pony-tailed manager of the campus store at UMBC. "The computer vendors' plan is to get kids in their Macintosh, in their software, and have them stay in that software for the rest of their life."

In an era when college dorm rooms seem like shrines to the integrated circuit and the microchip, many classic works of art, especially those by 19th century French Impressionist painter Claude Monet, are back in style. Some attribute the infatuation with Monet to a fall 1991 exhibition devoted to the artist's work at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where students snapped up many of the 18,000 posters sold during the show.

"It's kind of comforting to have those paintings around because they're so beautiful," says Pattie Murphy, a junior at Towson State.

And while they love technology, some undergraduates apparently have soured on television. A few well-equipped students have even resolved to go without.

"I don't think I want a TV," says Rosanna D. Best, a freshman at the Johns Hopkins University who will be bringing a Macintosh computer, a refrigerator and a stereo to school. "I don't think I need that kind of distraction," she says.

Others, however, can't resist. JiEun Kim, a Hopkins junior from Northridge, Calif., says she went without a television during her first two years at school but is giving in this fall when she moves to an off-campus apartment.

"I've tried to live without one," she says. "But really, it's for my friends." Some undergraduates are so dependent on technology that they will risk being fined to have the appliances they want. Local colleges regularly cite students for using electric hot pots or microwave ovens, which are considered fire hazards. Espresso machines, too, have become popular items to smuggle into dorms.

Some schools have bowed to the demand. Towson State recently began allowing students to rent "microfridges" -- half-sized refrigerators with miniature microwave ovens on top. The machines rent for between $110 and $130 per academic year.

Still, some purchases are better left until after a student moves in -- even if that means spending their own cash. Most parents, for example, don't really want to know their child has purchased a $150 video game unit, says Dave Taylor, a 19-year-old Towson State sophomore whose roommate bought one.

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