Organizations seek Marvin Center space

One of Help Initiate Peace’s greatest challenges is finding space on campus to hold meetings and events. With 35 members and a small, shared office, student group leaders are constantly searching for rooms.

“We’d like to use (the Marvin Center) more if we could, but we can’t,” Mariya Isayeva, the group’s president. “(The) Marvin Center gets booked over a year in advance.”

Isayeva said her group, which tries to promote diversity, tries to meet in classrooms when it cannot get Marvin Center space. However, groups can only schedule classroom space a week in advance.

Help Initiate Peace is not the only student group affected by limited Marvin Center space. Bylthe Purdin, chair of the Marvin Center Governing Board, said she has received numerous complaints from student groups about difficulties booking rooms. The MCGB helps determine how Marvin Center space will be used and serves as a liaison between students and building officials.

The Marvin Center has seen an increased demand for the use of meeting rooms and major event spaces over the past year, worsening the situation for student groups. Although officials said they try to give student groups priority, outside organizations or University-sponsored events often utilize the space.

From July to October of 2003, the Marvin Center hosted 200 more conferences from outside organizations and University groups than in 2001, said Michael Peller, managing director of the Marvin Center and University Conferences.

The Marvin Center has hosted about 1,000 outside groups and 1,900 University department events since July, and about 1,660 student group meetings since September. There were about 1,420 student group meetings in the Marvin Center at this time last year. Peller said he could not comment on how many outside and University events were held in the 2002-03 academic year.

Hosting outside conferences generates revenue for the University; academic departments and outside organizations can pay hundreds of dollars per conference. GW officials said they expect to earn about $450,000 from space rentals this year. The money is used for Marvin Center operating expenses and repayment of debt, such as maintenance, utilities and construction.

Although space rentals generate money for GW, Purdin said conferences interfere with student presence in the building.

“It does not bolster a sense of GW community when there are more people in business suits and tags running around than stressed out and hungry students,” she said.

A group can reserve the space in the Marvin Center up to two years in advance. Groups are permitted to use all of the available areas which include 14 third and fourth floor meeting rooms, J Street’s Columbian Square, the Grand Ballroom, the Continental Ballroom, the Hippodrome, the third floor Amphitheater and Kogan Plaza, which is under Marvin Center control.

Graham Murphy, executive director of the Out Crowd, said 40 members of his organization regularly attend meetings every Monday at 8 p.m. in the Marvin Center. He said the group books a room a year in advance for every Monday of the year.

Conflicts often arise because student groups compete with each other and not necessarily with outside organizations, Peller said. Non-student groups usually book space on weekdays, while student organizations demand more space on weekends and weeknights.

“The problem is not that there is not enough space in the Marvin Center to feasibly book, the problem is student groups often are unaware of all the scheduling policies,” Purdin said. “What needs to happen is more student awareness to policies and about how to schedule so students know exactly what they need to do, and they do not come into a problem right before an event.”

Larger student organizations often take advantage of booking space one or two years in advance, making it difficult for some smaller organizations to reserve rooms for events.

“For a lot of the smaller groups who don’t have all the resources it’s hard to be on top of things like scheduling, especially since the life span of some student groups is only about two years,” Purdin said.

Officials they recommend student organizations book Marvin Center space as early as possible or reserve academic space when needed. Students can e-mail sched@gwu.edu with their requests for classroom use.

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