Under the Couch faces changes in Campus Center

Photo by Samta Brahmbhatt

On Sept. 9, 2018, the president of the Georgia Tech Musician’s Network (GTMN), Heath Murphy, sent out an announcement to the organization’s official mailing list informing members that the new Wenn Campus Center complex would not include space for Under the Couch.

As a result, the announcement claimed, Under the Couch would not exist after it closed in 2020 for the renovations. Currently, the GTMN coordinates with the Student Center to run the Under the Couch, a music lounge and practice space venue on the second floor of the Student Center.

As part of the same email, Murphy announced that he would be sending out a petition following the GTMN meeting on Sept. 10.

As of writing, the petition has over 1,800 responses from current students, faculty members, prospective students and alumni. Each response to the petition affirms that the signer agrees that “Under the Couch should be included in the new Campus Center with no diminished utility from its current state.”

Murphy, who has been a member of GTMN since 2016, said the new Campus Center complex would not contain Under the Couch, but that GTMN would instead have “practice spaces, but that there would not be a stage or lounge in the same regard.”

“There’s never felt a [sic] space on Tech campus that’s like ‘Oh yeah, that’s for music,’ with the exception of Under the Couch,” Murphy said.

With regards to the Campus Center plans, Murphy explained that he thinks “it’s kind of more of the same. They tend to, rather than dedicate a music space or something like that, they would just convert something else into a room that works,” Murphy said. “The alternative that the Student Center has pitched to us and that is in their current plans is a general-use, smaller theater … but that doesn’t really work for the style of performances that we put on.”

Murphy emphasized that Under the Couch has a unique quality as a space managed by students.

“With Under the Couch, the people that I have managing the space want to do it. We get to choose — we buy the lights; we set up the speakers. All that stuff is designed by Musician’s Network and that’s part of the enjoyment of it,” Murphy said.

Lindsay Bryant, Ed.D., the Student Center director, explained the process behind the Campus Center planning process.

“During the Spring semester, we met with probably over 200 different students, faculty and staff. Different organizations, we did specific meetings, so MN had a specific meeting to talk about their space. We talked with student groups to see what the needs were,” Bryant said.

According to Bryant, the Student Center heard from GTMN that the organization needed four areas available in the new space. “When you think of their space, four areas — four purposes that it solves, and kind of what they need. The first one is practice space,” said Bryant. “The second one is recording, which they will still have in the new space. The third is a venue, like a stage and everything, and then a lounge.”

According to a set of plans for GTMN space in the new Campus Center shared by Bryant, the organization will have access to a small practice room of 100 sq. ft. as well as a large practice room of 300 sq. ft. which will be attached to a recording and control booth. According to the document, the practice space will have integrated A/V for recording and will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Bryant also said that the Campus Center will have general-purpose venue and lounge space. “The venue space will be reservable and can be used by anyone, as well as lounge space for everyone,” said Bryant. “Within this space, there will be more options, too — we’re having a large theater, which will seat about 298 which will have a stage in it. There will be a little theater which will seat 150 but you can also clear off the floor and so it’s just one big area.”

According to Bryant, students will be able to reserve the new venues the same as always via the online Event Management System, and student groups will not be charged for reservations.

When asked how the new Campus Center will meet the same needs as Under the Couch, Bryant stated that “it fills the first two that I talked about very well. Obviously with the recording space and then the practice rooms and then the lounge and then the venue. I think that there are going to be several different opportunities for venues.”

Evan Gillon, undergraduate student body president, said that the Student Government Association (SGA) will be working to help mediate the process to ensure student group needs are heard.

“SGA’s role is ultimately to advocate for the best interests of the entire student body, which includes supporting the interests of niche communities and communities in need,” Gillon said.  “The Musician’s Network is indeed one of these communities, and we are searching for a solution that allows them to fulfill their purpose, while also allowing the many other performing arts groups to achieve theirs. We are currently having these conversations with Student Organizations, Student Center administrators, and other Campus Center planning groups.”

On Monday, Sept. 24, Bryant and her colleagues visited the GTMN general meeting to hold a Q&A session, where students were able to raise their concerns.

GTMN is a Tier II student organization, placing it on the same tier as the SGA, and other high impact student organizations.