One of the most salient issues currently facing General Studies students is space—more specifically, how the extra space left in Uris Hall will be used after the Business School moves to Columbia's new Manhattanville campus. Once Manhattanville opens, Columbia must evaluate the needs of all students in Morningside Heights, including General Studies students, when divvying out the newly available space.
The School of General Studies has a special interest in securing spaces in Uris—in particular, spaces for a student center and a day care center, which are some of the priorities of the Morningside Student Space Initiative.
There are nearly 2,400 students currently enrolled at GS, most commuting daily to campus. The number of GS students who commute to campus every day is far higher than that of any other undergraduate school at Columbia. Commuters have an even greater need for student center space. Lerner Hall, which has been designated an unofficial student center by many, clearly does not meet this need. There is barely enough space for club events, let alone sitting space for students.
Uris Hall is already being used as a pressure release valve for the numerous GS students who need a comfortable place to study. Uris Library is less than 300 feet from Lewisohn Hall, the administrative building for GS, so it is the natural choice for GS students desperately seeking space for studying, meetings, and group work. This burden would be significantly lightened if space in Uris was converted into a proper commuter lounge for GS students.
Because the trip home can only happen at the end of the day, commuter students need resources like locker spaces, microwaves, and nap rooms for when our days begin at 5 a.m. and end at 1 a.m.—essentially, a "landing place" at school. For commuter students, these spaces are necessary to thrive in and out of the classroom.
Such a space would also relieve students of a large amount of financial stress. The cost of food in New York City, for example, is outrageous. A simple amenity like a microwave in a commuter lounge could allow students to bring their own meals to campus and not spend $100 per week (if you're thrifty) on food.
Another unique aspect of GS is that we have many students with families. This makes child care accessibility a clear priority for any GS student who values diversity in our school. Annual tuitions at child care centers near Columbia range from $8,000 to $30,000—and, ironically enough, space is limited.
Our goal is simple: We want to decrease cost and increase capacity. Administrative fundraising to subsidize child care costs is crucial to reaching that goal.
More importantly, though, we need to secure space in Uris for a day care. To be sure, I don't take the amount of work necessary to execute this goal for granted. Still, you would be hard-pressed to convince me that any amount of work isn't worth the payoff of improving students' lives. I encourage dialogue about how to most efficiently and effectively implement a sustainable system for funding.
Lack of resources for child care impairs quality of life and access to Columbia education for GS students. It eliminates many students' ability to thoroughly and fully engage with the Columbia community while they study here. Building a day care in Uris wouldn't just help GS students with families—it would also honor the overarching diversity present at Columbia and optimize everyone's quality of education.
Simply put, a university that aims to put the different facets of the human experience into conversation with each other cannot afford to leave students with children or commuter students behind.
Columbia's identity as a globally diverse university can only be fully realized with a significant investment in child care and a space in Uris for the student body at GS to socialize. In doing so, the administration will live up to Columbia's ideals and demonstrate that we truly are the only genuinely global university in the world.
The author is a General Studies junior majoring in political science. He is the current GSSC academic affairs representative and the GSSC University senator-elect.
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