New Study Spaces Task Force Proposes High-Level Changes

Responding to the concerns of many students about the need for more study spaces, the Claremont McKenna College Senate created a new Student Study Spaces Task Force (SSTF) this semester to explore the issue in further detail. The task force is composed of Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College executives Jessica Mao '12 and Aditya Pai '13; ASCMC senators Carly Lenderts '14 and Gordon Algermissen '14; and 2011-2012 Resident Assistants Greg Zahner '12 and Mark Munro '12. "I have heard a lot of frustration from several students who find the spaces available to be too crowded or limited in hours," said Mao. "The spaces in the proposal are ones where students should have increased access. Several other institutions allow 24-hour access to classrooms and a 24-hour library space. We're a top academic institution, but lack these qualities of our peers."

The SSTF submitted a proposal on Tuesday, December 6, to Dean Jefferson Huang, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Dean Gregory Hess, Vice President for Academic Affairs, which suggests how study spaces on campus can serve to satisfy what they identify as six primary student needs: a 24-hour (1) individual study space, (2) group meeting space, (3) group study space, (4) computer lab space, (5) outdoor space and (6) an informal gathering space.

Identifying and detailing the proposed use of six spaces--the Hub, Frazee, the Living Room, the Kravis Center terraces, classrooms and the Crocker Reading Room--the proposal seeks to ameliorate the difficulties CMC students have recently encountered with procuring appropriate study spaces. The SSTF also suggests measures to increase the efficiency of printing in computer labs and ways to increase the availability of information to the CMC student body regarding hours of the study spaces.

The proposal recognizes the advancements made in the Hub over the past year, but points out that it is not being fully utilized by the student body. The Hub is most often used during the weekdays, when students can get meal replacements, snacks or socialize with friends. But, as the Hub grill only serves food after 8pm on weekends, the space is nearly empty for much of the day, excluding mealtimes. Thus, in the short-term, the proposal suggests that an expansion in the hours of operation would lead to students making better use of the Hub over the weekends as an informal hangout space. In the long term, the proposal suggests that the Hub should be accessible to students 24-hours a day through key-card access. Furthermore, as the Hub lags significantly in terms of food and aesthetics in comparison to its counterparts across the five colleges, the proposal suggests renovating the Hub as part of next summer's North Mall Renovation Project.

In its proposal, the SSTF questions the effectiveness of Frazee, the newly created study space on campus, in creating a comfortable and suitable study environment for CMC students. In particular, the proposal sites the 'chair room'--the room adjacent to the Hub Store--as an inconvenient answer to increased study space. In the short-term, the proposal suggests the conversion of the 'chair-room' into a 24-hour conference room for students by removing all the chairs and adding a table. The SSTF suggests that with this change, the room would be more useful as a group meeting space or a group study space. The long-term proposal suggests the elimination of the walls between Frazee's two rooms to create a much bigger study space.

The Living Room does not currently serve as an appropriate study or a lounge space as the tables are too short for studying to take place and limited access to the building itself prevents students from taking full advantage of its resources. The proposal suggests that it is necessary to increase the accessibility of the room to 24-hours a day.

The SSTF also cites limited access to the Kravis Center terraces as seriously inconveniencing students and preventing use of the space for group meetings, group studying, or more social student interactions. The proposal suggests that day-time access to the second and the third floors should be granted to students every day of the week. ID card readers and security cameras will ensure that students are safe and treat the building respectfully.

According to their proposal, the SSTF assert that there is no group study space on campus where group collaboration can take place. The library and the reading room have restrictive noise rules, making them excellent places for peaceful studying but less great for rowdy meetings. Meanwhile the dorm lounges and the Hub are too noisy. The proposal suggests that classrooms in Kravis Center, Roberts, and Bauer be available for students to work in a group after-class hours. Currently, the Dean of Students Mary Spellman and Registrar Elizabeth Morgan are looking into this while Assistant Dean of Students Eric Vos and Dean Huang are also looking into the matter.

The Crocker Reading Room does a good job of providing a quiet, individual study space to students. The proposal suggests that the Presidential Collection on the second floor be moved elsewhere in order to allow for an extension of hours and access to the reading room. By moving the collection, students would be able to appreciate the collection at a more secure place and there would be no need for student monitors outside the room. The monitors could be reallocated to supervise the Ducey weight room, which would ensure that the student monitors are still employed. The proposal highlights this particular recommendation as it has a few costs for the college, with many benefits for the students.

To the SSTF, printing remains the main problem in the computer labs. Many students rely on the availability of computers at labs like Poppa in order to quickly print reading and study materials; more often than not, however, students arrive at a lab only to find that no computers are available for a simple print job. The proposal notes that these circumstances lead to one of two things: students leave unsuccessfully or interrupt students already at work. To remedy the problem, the proposal suggests the creation of 1-2 'printing stations' in Poppa lab - computers designated for students who come in solely to print. This would solve the problem by allowing students to get in and out quickly, while preventing any additional equipment from being added to the lab.

Perhaps most important in the SSTF's recent proposal is what they cite as the underlying reason for why the Kravis Technology Classroom or Frazee are underutilized: a general lack of communication. The proposal seeks to address the communication gap between students and the administration and suggests that the "Student Gateway" page of the CMC website include a detailed list of study spaces with availability and hours of operation.  Rather than sending out school-wide emails regarding the hours for a particular study space, the information could be consolidated in an easily accessible and readily available format on the school's website.

SSTF hopes that with their proposal comes a marked change in how the CMC administration will assess and evaluate the existing--and potential--study spaces on campus. It is clear that procuring appropriate study space for college students is a high priority issue, and the SSTF hopes that their initiative will draw the attention of both administration officials and the CMC student body to this reality.

The full text of the proposal is here.