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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Journalists investigate dorm

SMU students’ work in Dallas Observer
 Journalists investigate dorm
Photo by Jessica Savage, The Daily Campus
Journalists investigate dorm

Journalists investigate dorm (Photo by Jessica Savage, The Daily Campus)

Fifteen journalism students in Dr. Craig Flournoy’s spring investigative reporting class spent the semester uncovering substandard living conditions at Waterview Park, the nation’s largest private dormitory located at University of Texas at Dallas. The result was a 5,500-word cover story published on Wednesday in The Dallas Observer titled, “The Dorm From Hell.”

The story revealed that more than 3,000 UTD students living at Waterview Park – the sole source of housing at UTD – are forced to deal with violent crime, inadequate security and poor maintenance, despite paying rents that exceed market rates.

Initially, the students focused their investigation on the 10 rapes that have occurred at Waterview Park in the last three years and the failure of UTD police to inform residents.

For example, though one student confessed to having drugged and raped a fellow student at Waterview Park, UTD officials allowed him to return and finish the semester while living in the complex.

After further research, students discovered two more red flags in addition to the high crime at Waterview Park: the complex’s ambiguous financial situation and poor conditions. To cover all three layers, students divided the work into three parts: crime, conditions and business.

Juniors Kelsey Guy and Cecilia Lai reported on UNT crime, and interviewing an indicted rapist was the easy part.

Prathat Rajamani, who confessed to drugging his victim with chloroform and then raping her, agreed to speak with Guy and Lai.

“Talking with him was very creepy because he was so polite and eager to help with our story,” Guy said.

“He said he confessed because he didn’t understand his rights,” Lai said, adding that Rajamani told her he has lived in the United States for eight months.

Rajamani, who now attends Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, has been indicted by a Dallas County Grand Jury and could face life in prison.

After Guy and Lai asked and were denied crime reports from UTD police, they filed several Freedom of Information requests to obtain UTD crime reports. They are still waiting to hear the Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision.

Meanwhile, seniors Hill Fischer and Julie Derham were knocking door to door at Waterview Park to speak with residents about living conditions. One resident referred them to the website – – where they found over 1,000 detailed complaints about Waterview Park’s living conditions.

“Any student who complains about their living situation should go out to Waterview,” Fischer said. “It looks like a prison.”

Fischer and Derham wrote the narrative portion of the story from the residents they met at Waterview Park.

When junior Kindal Wright and senior Genevieve Barr began questioning the class’ findings, they found UTD campus officials uncooperative and unwilling to release public information about campus crimes.

“It was like those good ole’ boys clubs you hear about,” senior Genevieve Barr said.

During one interview with UTD’s top business official Robert Lovitt, Barr said he snickered at the questions she and Wright asked and patronized their presence.

“I knew what he was doing; he was trying to intimidate us,” Wright said.

His response only added fuel to Wright and Barr’s interview. Both interviewed Lovitt twice, saying that the perseverance and patience Flournoy demanded helped them get the information.

“You need tenacity in this business to go after the information,” junior Austin Payne said. “People try to slow you down, stop you or dissuade you, so you have to keep pushing.”

Students hope the story brings about changes at Waterview Park and for the students living there.

You can pick up a copy of “The Dorm From Hell” from any Dallas Observer stand or online at

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