24/7 Student Space
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Finals week is around the corner — just over two weeks away — and this likely means some students will be studying into the early hours of the morning.
Study sessions can go around the clock, but only in certain places on campus — the Towers Center and Redeker Center — are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For some students, extending Rod Library hours to 2 a.m. during finals week doesn’t quite cut it.
“A 24/7 space in the Library, especially around this time of the year [and during finals] would certainly be useful,” said Tre Goodhue, junior history major.
Jacob Kaul, junior supply chain management and finance double major, agreed that a late-night space could be useful. He said he works sometimes as late as 2 a.m., so he’s often up studying in the early hours of the morning. Furthermore, his off campus residence has its share of distractions.
“I live with a lot of guys… so yeah, there’s not a lot of quiet time,” Kaul said with a laugh.
Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) has pursued the possibility of a 24/7 space multiple times over the years. Tristan Bernhard, incoming NISG vice president, said those pursuits tend to run into some of the same roadblocks.
“I’ve heard this kicked around a lot,” Bernhard said. “And it always naturally gets kicked around, and then where it kind of hits a wall a little bit is when people start realizing money.”
Bernhard’s ticket, which includes incoming NISG president Jamal White, campaigned in February on the prospect of “gauging student interest” in a 24/7 student space on campus. Bernhard said his priority is fiscal responsibility, and the cost of staffing a supervisor to cover a space like the Rod Library or Maucker Union around the clock is significant. Bernhard said the cheaper option would be to extend Rod Library or Union hours during finals week, as well as midterms.
Currently, Rod Library’s hours are extended from midnight to 2 a.m. the Wednesday and Thursday prior to finals week as well as Sunday through Tuesday of finals week. The Maucker Union closes at midnight during finals week, which is consistent with regular hours.
Bernhard said Maucker Union could potentially be the best option to house a late-night study space in some capacity.
Mike Bobeldyk, director of student life and event services (housed in the Maucker Union), said if the Union housed the space the goal would be to close most of the building and confine the space to a subset of the Union. Bobeldyk said he’s open to the possibility of a 24-hour space, but stressed that the serious talks have yet to happen on that issue.
“You want to make sure you can create a safe space, and this building [the Maucker Union] is really open. So how do we try to shrink the footprint of the building to make sure we’re not having to manage the entire building?” Bobeldyk said.
A sensible option, Bobeldyk said, would be incorporating a 24-hour space into the plaza level of the Union (the level which houses the Center for Multicultural Education). This space is small enough, he said, that it has the potential to reasonably ensure a safe study space, while the rest of the building could be blocked off.
Bobeldyk said there is room for a low-cost option for the 24/7 space, if the right space could be utilized without the need for supervision.
“If you took utilities out, and you didn’t have to manage it, there’s very little cost to do it,” Bobeldyk said. “So, I think as we go along, one thing we could consider — and talk through with NISG — is if we can manage a safe environment, let’s say without supervision. Is that something that we can try potentially this spring yet prior to finals? That might be an option worth talking about.”
Bobeldyk said there are a few spaces within the Union that are open without direct supervision. One such space is the Northern Iowan offices.
Another issue is identifying the resources students would need in the 24/7 space, Bobeldyk said.
“It’s one thing to have a 24/7 space, but what are you looking to have within that?” Bobeldyk said. “So if it’s a combination of computers, printers, … a snack machine, what are students looking for?”
Kaul said he’d like to see plenty of table surface area and computers. Goodhue said he’d like printers and plenty of outlets in his ideal 24/7 space. Goodhue is confident on-campus students would utilize a space like the Union because of its more central location.
Dylan Larson, junior management information systems major, said he couldn’t see himself using the space.
“I live off campus, so I’m not sure it’d be useful to me,” Larson said.
Bernhard said more information needs to be gathered. He’s not sure if the students are simply unaware of the current 24/7 spaces — Redeker Center and the Towers Center — or whether there is a need for something different.
“The Towers Center and the Redeker Center — we think those are being underutilized,” Bernhard said. “So we’d like to find out to what extent those are being underutilized. Because if it’s an awareness issue, then I think we go about it much differently than if students are aware those resources are there and just really, really prefer the Library. At that point, we need to probably be diverting more student funds to that issue.”
Bobeldyk said building managers in the Union run rough headcounts in certain spots at various times during their shifts.
“Depending on the night of course, because there are certain activities or events, the number of students in the coffee house area — the main seating area [in the Union] — by 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock really nosedives,” Bobeldyk said. He said this doesn’t necessarily imply there is a lack of student need for extended hours or a 24-hour space.
Bernhard said a student survey conducted two years ago identified that students preferred the Rod Library for a 24/7 student space location.
“At the end of the day, a big thing that me and Jamal want our administration to be known for is making a difference without stretching the budget or putting financial burdens on students,” Bernhard said. “We just really want to take that to heart with this issue. But, as always, when there is a student need that is something we need to address.”
Bernhard said he’s looking to assess student need for a 24/7 space come the fall semester.