Space wars episode II: Students weigh in

The engineering and arts faculties are the largest at UW, but that doesn’t translate into more student space — even with the shiny new engineering buildings every few years. Most faculties have a student lounge, usually near their society’s office, but that’s not enough for some in terms of adequate social and study space.

Arts students want lounge space

The arts faculty doesn’t have a true lounge to call their own. Technically the main floor area of Arts Lecture Hall is the arts lounge —  hence, the couches —  but as Plants Ops has designated that space as a “hallway,” the Arts Student Union (ASU) cannot put up any screens to communicate events like the screens in the SLC.

“Lounge space is basically non-existent for the arts faculty,” Dylan Ball, former ASU exec, said. There are some lounge spaces — the Modern Languages café and another café in PAS — but both are small for the faculty of approximately 6,000 students.

“This issue is not that there isn’t enough space on this campus, the issue is how the space is used,” said Ball. He and fellow ASU exec Renish Kamal said there is debate about what social space is. The ASU wants to see strict lounge space for arts students, not a cafeteria and not a “hallway.”

The arts faculty is planning an expansion and the ASU lobbied hard to secure student space in those buildings.

“If you build a new building on campus, I’d be very surprised if it turned out to be student space,” said Ball on the perspective of a new student building.

Skepticism about the value of a new building built specifically for students has been fueled by the Fed Hall debacle. The ASU wants to see current space utilized more effectively, for example transforming unused classrooms to lounge space.

“Building a new building on campus, that doesn’t solve our problems,” said Ball of the prospect of a student building not tied to a faculty. Ball and Kamal were specific that they want to see arts space, not just cross-faculty space.

Engineers are seeking study space

The Engineering Society (EngSoc) has gone against the grain regarding the space needs from the rest of the university. Last year’s president and former Feds board of directors member, David Birnbaum, said engineers are covered in terms of social space, it’s more study space that they’re after.

“I think we have a decent amount of social space compared to what I know of from other faculties,” Birnbaum said. “Engineering students aren’t interested in more social space, they want independent and group study space,” he said.

Last semester, EngSoc was working on making classroom schedules available to students so they could be utilized for studying when the rooms were otherwise unoccupied. Birnbaum also said engineering students were set to get a good amount of study space in E7, currently being planned for construction.

Birnbaum said it is a misconception that engineers have an abundance of space. “I agree that we get a lot of space, but it’s a lot of labs and lecture halls,” he said. The space issue should be addressed across the university, not just faculty-specific space, he added.

Going from needing more space to getting more space

It’s not just faculties that are looking for more space: WPIRG was recenly moved into a smaller office in the SLC. Their previous office sat empty for months before Feds moved desks in and deemed it study space. The last Feds GM saw a motion passed to change an SLC study room into a clubs library, which sparked a long debate.

ASU and EngSoc have lobbied their faculty deans to secure space in new buildings. Clubs who wanted a library fought for it.

Student groups seem to agree that though there is a lot of space on campus, it’s underutilized. If students want more space, they have to fight for it. The university is aware of the issue, but if the space is for students, students need to speak up.