DULUTH (AP) -- Forget about square footage and proximity to bathrooms, two trusted but old-fashioned measures of quality dormitory space.
In 2001, college dorm rooms are judged by a different standard: wattage, megahertz, baud rate -- and don't forget electrical outlets.
"Power strips are a must," said Scott White, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
For those fearing the good old days of college life are gone, rest assured that some things don't change. Liquor bottles and black lights remain a top decorative item and authentic, government-issue road signs can still be found on Twin Ports campuses.
Posters, from entertainers to athletes to the Playboy bunny, remain popular. And although some rooms sport new small-scale furniture seemingly designed for dorms, others feature worn hand-me-down chairs and couches.
"When you go into student rooms they've still got posters on the walls, of movie stars, sports figures, whatever," says John Weiske, director of residence life for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where 2,800 students live on campus in four residence halls and five apartment complexes. "But the biggest change since I went to college is that every room has at least two computers, one or two stereo systems, computer games."
To see what's happening, take a peek inside Tom Mega's dorm room at UMD's Lake Superior Hall.
Only 11 feet by 14 feet, 5 inches, it contains jumbo dorm refrigerators, two study lamps, an orbital fan, microwave, sandwich griller, cordless phone, one laptop computer, one desktop computer, a printer, icicle lights, "rope" lighting and two clock radios.
Then there's the entertainment system: a 35-inch TV flanked by a five-speaker digital "surround" sound system (with separately powered subwoofers), digital decoder (that's to split up the sound to make it more lifelike), VCR, DVD player and CD player.
Although Mega's got more gear than most of his peers, Twin Ports college students agree that in the new millennium, a core of electronic goods is essential to happiness in higher education.
"A game system of some sort, a stereo and a computer system," said Rael Edwards, 20, a UWS history major from Wild Rose, Wis., ticking off her essentials.
"I've got a 27-inch TV, a VCR and a PlayStation," Edwards says.
Asked what three things she couldn't do without, Shannon McGinnity, an 18-year-old College of St. Scholastica freshman, named all electronic items.
"My computer. I'm constantly online," she said. "AOL (America Online) ... has become my new best friend." It's also good for homework, she points out.
"A stereo. You can't just sit in a quiet dorm and study. You need to stay motivated."
"An answering machine. It's communal living. You need to keep in touch with people."
The cordless phone is pretty essential too, said McGinnity, who is from Shoreview. "They give you an old-school kind of phone but no one uses them."
It's a far cry from 15 to 20 years ago, when area residence hall directors were attending college.
Back then, most college dorm-dwellers would have killed for a private phone of any type.
"You used to see people talking to their boyfriends on the phone down the hall," recalled Betsy Kneepkens, Scholastica's director of residential life and housing. Now, "people walk around the dorm talking on cell phones."
John Weiske, Kneepkens' counterpart at UMD, concurred that the volume of electronic gear has skyrocketed.
In his college days, "If you had a TV in your room it was rare. If you had a stereo in your room, it was rare. Those were luxuries, not necessities. Back in those days we had a TV lounge on every floor."
These days, there's no need for a mere TV lounge when you have a home theater in your dorm room.
On a recent night, Mega and his roommate, John Jacobs, had half a dozen friends over. They were watching "Coyote Ugly" on DVD, made all the more realistic by the digital surround sound.
The phone rings and Mega picks up the old dorm phone, the cord draping across some of his visitors. Whoops -- old-school faux pas.
"Why don't you use the cordless?" suggested pal Nina Goetz. Good idea, says Mega, switching over to the 2.2 gigahertz cordless unit and taking his call into the hallway.
The fun doesn't stop once the sun rises.
"During the day guys are playing video games," says Mega, describing a virtual electronic hockey league in which entire seasons are played. "John and I aren't even here half the time."
The entertainment system represents about $7,500 worth of fun, figures Mega, a freshman from Roseville pursuing a pre-med curriculum. Sounds like a lot for a college student, but Mega says it's something he bought in pieces and worked hard on earning over three years.
"I have to live here," Mega said. "This is what my room was set up like at home. I just tried to make it like it was at home."
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