Scripps College will open select classrooms in the Bette Cree Edwards Humanities Building as study spaces in response to student feedback, according to an email sent to students last Thursday by Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson.
Humanities 104, 105, 201, and 203 will be open to students after 7 p.m. on weekdays and during the day and evening on weekends, accessible via ID card swipe.
This is a new initiative for the college, which some students have argued has been plagued by a dearth of communal study spaces on campus.
The administration said Scripps already has communal working spaces available for students, including the Motley, residence hall recreation rooms and courtyards, and the Student Union, but admitted expanded classroom hours were a necessary addition.
“The impetus for the decision was feedback from students that they would like to see more study spaces on campus,” Johnson wrote in an email to TSL. “The primary goal of the additional space is to increase the ‘footprint’ of available study spaces, especially during late evening hours. Opening these additional spaces provides our students with more options.”
Many students have attributed this change to a TSL opinion column published in December titled “It’s Not Me, Scripps, It’s You” by former Scripps student Tiara Sharma. Sharma wrote in a message to TSL that, although she considered the recent study space additions “a step in the right direction,” she felt it was ultimately “weak.”
“Unlocking four classrooms (which should have been ours to claim in the first place) during the nighttime does not constitute a meaningful ‘expansion of study spaces,’” she wrote. “These classrooms are not lounges; they are still isolated from one another and will inevitably serve the same purpose as browsing rooms: confining students within small, quiet units of space.”
Sharma noted that the college has 11 residence halls in comparison to just four academic buildings, a phenomenon that she believes does not align with Scripps’ mission to center “active participation in a community of scholars.”
Sharma said the lack of communal spaces on campus, both academic and otherwise, was central to her decision to transfer to Brown University.
“The reason Scripps social life is so stratified and insular can be attributed entirely to the lack of communal spaces to socialize and venture outside of your clique,” she wrote.
Johnson wrote that she does not know “if we were aware of Sharma’s opinion piece” during the decision-making process on this project.
Michelle Wang SC ’20 said she thinks the administration did not give due credit to Sharma when announcing the changes.
“Tiara was the one to call them out on it,” Wang wrote in a message to TSL. “I feel like if Tiara hadn’t written that column, nothing would have changed.”
Current students seem pleased with the changes.
Amy Buswell SC ’19 said she believes the study space options previously available to students were not always sufficient.
“Sometimes the recreation rooms or Motley are used for social spaces and it can feel like you’re monopolizing the room when you try to do work there,” she said. “I think the new study spaces will be more accessible and a more neutral space for studying.”
Buswell said that although certain departments or classes on campus have a sense of academic community, she does not believe Scripps has an overarching academic community.
“I think the new spaces are definitely a step in the right direction, and I’m really glad the administration made the change,” Niyati Narang SC ’20 said.
She thinks more work needs to be done, however.
“I would say that classrooms aren’t enough. I think further upgrading the Student Union would be another good addition,” she said.
Sharma does not have faith that the recent change heralds further developments to come.
“There [is] no communal space at Scripps that [is] indoors, yet open, comfortable, central to campus, and conducive to either studying or socializing. And no matter how many classrooms the administration unlocks, this won’t change,” Sharma wrote.
As for potential future plans to expand communal study spaces available to students, Johnson said the school will be “evaluating the use of current study spaces in order to determine if additional spaces are needed.”