News | Student Life

University Senate works to solve space crunch

  • Peter Bohnhof / Staff Photographer
    NEED SOME SPACE? | Samantha Sokol, BC ’16, and a Spectrum senior staff blogger, and Noah Morgenstern, CC ’15, study in Hamilton.

This semester, University senators are trying to alleviate the space crunch that limits students’ studying options during finals season.

The senate has been examining ways to increase study space on campus this semester after data from April’s quality of life survey and personal student complaints made it clear that the issue was a priority, University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC ’16, said.

The long-term solution that the senate is considering is to allow students to study in academic buildings after hours. However, discussions remain in an early phase, and Henrich said that senators are looking at a variety of alternatives in the meantime.

“We’re more looking at what spaces we would want to have available before contacting Public Safety on the matter,” he said. 

Heinrich said spaces that have been discussed include Hamilton and Lerner halls. 

While opening up academic buildings after normal class hours would address the inadequate study space, these buildings are inaccessible to most students right now. Certain faculty and staff members have swipe access to Hamilton, but the majority of students do not. Public Safety feels that unregulated access to these empty buildings would be unsafe for students, and the senate agrees. 

“Allowing free and unrestricted student access to classrooms or unstaffed buildings after normal business hours is not an appropriate and safe use of University facilities,” Daniel Held, the executive director of communications for facilities, said in an email.

Heinrich said he understands the problems, emphasizing that the lack of custodial and Public Safety staff in buildings after hours makes it clear why students are currently not permitted to have late-night access. Still, Columbia students continue to register complaints about study space, and some feel that opening academic buildings could help ease constraints on crowded campus libraries. 

“Although it’s easier to concentrate in the library, I often stay in my room to avoid wasting the time it takes to find an open seat,” Candace Richardson, CC ’14, said. But Richardson also said she was unsure if she would want to use academic buildings at night. “I don’t know that I’d feel completely safe without security guards on duty in certain buildings,” she added.

Marc Ferracci, CC ’15, said that he was not as concerned by the idea of swipe access without security. 

“I understand that Columbia cannot afford to keep all libraries open 24/7 during finals, but it would be extremely helpful if we could get swipe access to academic buildings—where no guards are needed—in order to create extra study space,” he said.

University Senator Jared Odessky, CC ’15, who sits on the Senate Libraries Committee, stressed that the issue is twofold.

Not only is the senate attempting to gain access to inaccessible buildings, but it is also pushing for a more efficient use of resources in the currently accessible libraries, he said.

“While most of the libraries function within one university-wide system, individual schools contribute furniture and pay for infrastructure costs in ‘their’ library spaces (i.e. Arts and Sciences for Butler, Business School for Watson), generating unofficial domains of ownership,” Odessky said in an email. 

The senate is drafting a proposal to Columbia College Dean James Valentini, who, Odessky says, “has been more than willing to work with us” to make study space in Butler Library more efficient. 

The senate’s efforts are part of a larger trend to address space issues on campus, such as changing the undergraduate access policy to Watson Library during finals and the promise to revamp Lerner for this semester’s finals period. When it comes to non-library spaces, Odessky said the problem is more complicated but that senators are not giving up just yet. 

“We are working with individual building managers, the registrar, and Public Safety to overcome the hurdles currently in place,” Odessky said.

news@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ColumbiaSpec

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