In typical Tech fashion, the Yellow Jacket gods have decided this week should be the week of no sleep. Two tests and a paper in addition to actually attending class will definitely see to that. Contrary to most students, I actually enjoy going hard in the paint for a week or two and then catching a breather before the next round of assignments; the race against the clock is thrilling. However, I can’t stand the ongoing competition to find the perfect spot to study on campus.
I remember, during my first semester at Tech, how stretched on space central campus was. Without Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC), the only truly viable option was the library. Due to no fault of its own, the space provided in the Library East and West commons was simply insufficient to serve such a large student body’s study needs, not to mention the increasing demand for electrical outlets. The opening of the CULC promised to alleviate this problem, but the bright, shiny newness of the building drew large crowds and both the Library and CULC were just as crowded as ever.
Now in its second year of operation, the CULC, and coincidentally the library, are both as crowded. Whether because of increasing enrollment numbers, higher utilization rates or both, some effort needs to be made to help expand the amount of usable space for Tech student.
There are potential short-term solutions. One of the biggest issues I see with the utilization of space occurs when a few students use a space designed to accommodate many. It is infuriating to see a single person hog an entire table intended for four or more students. While I concede that studying requires some room to spread out, there is plenty of space at even the smallest group-sized tables for at least two students to work. Working to include more individually-sized tables or desks would help alleviate this problem.
In the CULC, I appreciate the effort made to differentiate group and individual studying. The addition of small, movable, single-person desks is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the desks are somewhat limiting in terms of space; there is enough room for a laptop and maybe a third of a textbook. While working, students need the ability to reference a computer, a textbook and potentially a notebook on top of that. The individual desks on the second floor of the Library West commons are a perfect example of the size of desk individual students need. The inclusion of such large desks will undoubtedly require a compromise on the part of interior design and may restrict how much the furniture in the CULC can be moved around, but this is a needed compromise to better serve all the student wishing to use the space for academic purposes.
Another option is to encourage students to use the Student Center as a study place. At this point in time, there seems to be little student interest in using the Student Center for such purposes, especially after hours. This could be because of the lack of food options past 7 p.m., but I believe it is more because of the fact the center doesn’t have zones dedicated to academic pursuits. In their current form, the Student Center Commons and lower levels of the main center feel more like a food court and the lack of outlets and study-sized tables make studying more difficult.
While feeding students is an important function of the Student Center, it would be advantageous to have a space where students can work comfortably. The space behind the information desk on the second floor, between the computer lab and Under the Couch is an example of a step in the right direction.
More space like this is needed. Though I know of no current initiatives to expand the Student Center, I want to make sure the future planners of such a giant project keep in mind the vast possibilities we would have on the academic side of things. Isolated space, study nooks and even a bean bag room (as we’ve seen in the CULC) are all possibilities to make the student center space more usable outside of the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. lunch hours.
Regardless, students can help many of these space problems. Don’t be afraid to share your table. Be aware of how much space you are using and make sure you aren’t needlessly taking space away from the one student walking aimlessly around looking for a spot. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask to sit at a table with someone. Even if it is awkward at first, it’s a great way to meet someone new and get some highly-coveted table space.