Staff Editorial: Still waiting for a student space plan

When students want a spot to meet up during the day, do some reading between classes or get together to recount the previous weekend night’s debauchery, they can only really choose among a few campus spots: Gelman Starbucks, Ivory Tower basement, the first floor of the Marvin Center or the single bench next to the GW Deli.

Don’t let the choices overwhelm you.

The University wants to improve student morale and foster a sense of lifetime Colonials pride with efforts such as forming the Center for Student Engagement. But it is missing a simple solution that students have been calling for this year: a community space on campus.

There aren’t too many more ways for the Student Association, the Marvin Center Governing Board and The Hatchet’s editorial board to say this: Students need a place for students where they can forge what will be the memories that make their college experience.

It is almost intuitive to expect that, on a college campus, students will have a university-oriented space to call their own. This space should include club meeting rooms and a lounge, a coffee shop or a relaxing area where students can hang out.

In the latest effort to develop a plan for community space, Marvin Center Governing Board chair Dylan Pyne is seeking to add new furniture to Columbian Square to attract more students and turn the area into a student hub.

Pyne has previously asked for space on the fifth floor and the fourth floor, and now, because he is uncertain that any of those requests will be heard, he has been reduced to asking for couches.

Students deserve more than couches in a food court.

Pyne’s efforts have come on the heels of persistent loss of student space on campus. First the University abruptly closed The Fishbowl in September, which was lamely counter-balanced by a few small meeting rooms in the basement of the Marvin Center.

Then the Hippodrome, billiards area and WOW Café and Wingery were closed on the Marvin Center fifth floor. And student advocacy for a community space was clearly disregarded, as the entire floor will be replaced by administrative offices that students orgs might be able to use after 7 p.m. Even if that option works, that’s a only meeting place for orgs to do work. What about a place for all students to relax and bond?

With a setup like that, how can we call the Marvin Center our student union?

When students today look back on their college experiences, they likely won’t remember the Marvin Center as a place other than where they spent their freshman year’s dining dollars. The University has had repeated chances to make it more than that, but it has instead failed to sufficiently take into account the student leaders’ advocacy on this issue.

Now, campus space is almost gobbled up. Administration, please don’t ignore these last-ditch efforts to salvage any area for student space.

Whether the University addresses it or not, students will not stop calling for community space on campus. The only difference is, in the future, the University might not have the square-footage to do something about it.

Students are still left without that fundamental area that can serve as a hub for the entire campus. It is truly infuriating to see this eternal student complaint ignored despite persistent student advocacy. It is also insulting in light of the fact that there have been opportunities to fix this problem.

When students look back on their time at the University, they could fondly remember how all of campus gathered together to study, hang out, hear different student performances and hold events.

But right now, alums will only remember how they stood closely packed together at the Gelman Starbucks.

Sure, the University attempted to revamp J Street by putting in Metro Diner and installing couches and chairs. But this effort did not go far enough, as it is hard to relax in between students eating their greasy burgers and fries. And the same is true for the basement of Ivory Tower.

Students aren’t asking for much in seeking a place to get together. All we really want is to be like many other colleges.

As the possibility for student space diminishes, it has become increasingly clear how out of touch the University is on this issue.

And all it has to do to fix that is tune into what students are saying.

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