CMC Students, Administrators Spar Over Living Room Access

Disagreements between students and administrators at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) emerged over the last few weeks regarding access to and use of the new glass Living Room at the school’s recently opened Kravis Center.

Students complained about limited access to the Living Room in light of what several students perceived as a lack of 24-hour-accessible spaces for study and socializing on campus. Although administrators extended the accessible hours for the Living Room, some students still pointed to policies that they say reflect a lack of trust between students and the CMC administration.

“If I was the administration, my biggest concern with [the Living Room is that] if you leave it open 24/7, it’s not going to be a study space—it’s just going to be beer pong central,” Associated Students of CMC (ASCMC) Junior Class President Connor Barclay CM ‘13 said. “On one hand, I think the administration tries to get away from [our] party school reputation. I think on the other hand, it isn’t doing as much as it could to be proactive about providing [late night] study spaces.”

Although all residence hall lounges at CMC are considered study spaces, some are dual-purpose, according to Dean of Students Mary Spellman, which means that they can be used for registered parties. Barclay said that this dual use means that those spaces are not always conducive to studying.

“Saying that you have a study space is very different than providing a space that is actually conducive to studying,” Barclay said. “I would really just love to see administration be really proactive and really trusting of the students. I think if expectations are made very clear, CMC students will abide by those [expectations].”

The issue of access to the Living Room emerged earlier this semester, when technical difficulties forced the school to install a padlock on the space in place of a malfunctioning card reader, according to Vice President for Administration and Planning Matthew Bibbens CM ’92. As a result, for a short period of time the space was open only for business hours, which run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This caused pushback from some students, who expected the space to be open at all hours of the day and night.

“There were so many questions,” ASCMC President Jessica Mao CM ’12 said. “We were promised 24-hour [access, so] why isn’t it open? Why is it padlocked?”

“Why aren’t we making it accessible for students to study more?” Mao added. “People want that.”

Bibbens said that the Living Room shouldn’t be seen primarily as a space for students to study late into the evening.

“The Living Room itself was not specifically designed as a study space so much as a public space that could be used for studying or reading the paper—just sort of for informal public use,” he said.

According to Mao, tensions eased after an e-mail was sent to CMC President Pamela Gann about the issue.

“There was a lot of pressure that came off, and solutions were addressed,” Mao said.

In an e-mail to the CMC student body, Vice President for Business and Administration Robin Aspinall and Vice President for Student Affairs Jeff Huang responded to student complaints.

“We have recently received a number of questions and requests related to the access hours to the Kravis Center and the Living Room,” Aspinall and Huang wrote in the e-mail. “At the same time, it is a large and complex facility with respect to its accessibility and building systems, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation as we continue to integrate the Center into our campus life.”

Aspinall and Huang also indicated in the e-mail that hours for the Living Room would be extended to midnight on Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Mao and Barclay said that despite the extended hours, it is difficult for students to find study space past 1 a.m. on campus. According to Barclay, the limited hours at Honnold/Mudd Library, which services all of the Claremont Colleges, add to the number of students searching for late night study spaces

“This consortium has five elite liberal arts schools, so if anything we should be open five times as much as the average [small liberal arts school], which would be 24/7,” he said.

According to Mao, other study spaces that have been available in the past on CMC’s campus were not accessible this year.

“Two of the study lounges in Auen [Hall] and Fawcett [Hall] got converted to quads, [and] that pushed people who would have studied in there into other spaces, and [they] are crowding them more,” she said.

Along with several other students, ASCMC senators, and Residence Advisors, Mao has formed a task force to draft a memo to CMC’s President, Vice President, and Dean of Faculty that will include their recommendations for the future day-to-day accessibility of the Living Room.

“I do think that the administration is trying to give us more access,” Barclay said. “I think they’re headed in the right direction, my only complaint is that we’re doing it too slowly.”

Bibbens said the administration would work with students to find a solution.

“We’re trying to sort through these issues,” he said. “We’ll get there, and we’re working our best to get there as soon as we can.”

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