Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Can Go to Bobst, But You Can't Stay Here

As appears in today's issue of the New School Free Press

With finals and other end-of-the-school year hubbub right around the corner, it will soon be time for students to begin their annual camping out in the University Computer Center. So, I decided that for the next 17 hours, I would stay at 55 W. 13th St., first in the UCC, and the rest downstairs in the Student Activity Space (SAA) or the lobby.

Recently, the University Student Senate passed a bill that makes the lobby and SAA open 24 hours from Monday through Thursday, with extended hours during the weekend.

Hendrick Cho, chair of the University Student Senate, said, “Since the beginning of the school year, many graduate students have lobbied to keep their buildings open 24 hours for the purpose of studying.”

I arrived just after 5 p.m. on a Monday, and the UCC was already jam packed with Lang students working on essays, Jazz kids using the printers for whatever reason Jazz kids would use a printer for, Parsons folk doing confusing Parsons things, and one girl who seemed to be watching a making-of documentary of The Pursuit of Happyness.

When I’m at the UCC, I’m typically so focused on my work that I never stop to look around, but now that I’ve got nothing but time, I take a glance. Most people look frustrated and dejected, those eating glance suspiciously around so as not to be caught, and everyone slouches like Hans Moleman.

Around 7 p.m., my back begins to ache for the first time due to said slouching, and the feeling of being stuck in this giant room with gloomy artwork creeps in (I mean, have you ever *really* looked at the giant mural right by the K and L sections in the corner? It looks like the mind of an insane person). It was also around this time that someone began to talk loudly, and even with headphones on, it was rather annoying. Now I know how the rest of those working in the UCC feels when us New School Free Press people are closing the newspaper…

As the hours went by, so did my iPod battery life. I began my stay with Radiohead, followed it with the Smiths, moved over to the Kinks, and the rest is a musical blur that only my iTunes’ “Recently Played” will ever know.

A little after 10, the place is still pretty packed, mostly with Parsons’ students working on Macs. I keep waiting for something exciting to happen, like someone pulling a fire alarm or screaming, “Die!,” but then I remember, I’m in a computer center. On a Monday night. Nothing exciting ever happens in a computer center on a Monday night.

For temporary relief from boredom, I looked through the previously saved documents on the computer I’m using, M02. The first thing I find is an analysis of A Streetcar Named Desiree that is neither entertaining nor interesting. After wading through some bad student scripts, I find a letter someone wrote to NYU, which is where, I guess, they want to transfer to. Traitor!

At 11:30, the UCC closes, and while most students go home, some go to the SAA or work on the desk in the lobby.

For the next few hours, things remain quiet. Students either work on their laptops, sketch out drawings on large sheets of paper, or watch television in the SAA, including an E! True Hollywood Story on Will Smith in which I learn more about the Fresh Prince’s beginnings than any person should know.

I ask a few students why they’re here, and most give essentially the same answer: "I live far away.” “I have an early class tomorrow.” “I have work to do.” “It’s easier to stay here."

At 2 a.m., things finally get interesting. The security guard working the lobby comes into the SAA to tell us that the building is shutting down. If this had been a few hours earlier, people would have been in an uproar, but at this time, most people seem too tired to really care. But, there are a few who are upset, myself included.

We gather around the security guard, and explain that students received e-mails (and those hideous pink flyers around campus) saying that the lobby and SAA are supposed to be open 24 hours.

The security guard doesn’t seem to know quite what to answer with. A few times, I hear her say, “Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on” and “This is so confusing.” Next to her, the midnight security supervisor was explaining to some students that he didn’t know why those e-mails were sent, something about a fire warden not being there, and other non-answers.

On my way out, I ask the security guard on duty what it’s like working the late shift, and she says, “Babe, it’s not easy.”

A few days later, I received an e-mail from Gabrielle Sbano, the Assistant Director of Security, who wrote, “On the night you were present…[the midnight security supervisor] incorrectly interpreted that e-mail to mean that the first floor would be closing this week, and that it would be open 24 hours starting on April 27 as well.”

Sbano added, “I spoke to him the other night and he understands now that the first floor will be open 24 hours a day for students.”

In short: my plan to stay all night was disrupted because a security supervisor couldn’t correctly read a rather simple flyer or e-mail, making students either walk to Bobst if they wanted to continue to work or take the subway at 2 a.m.

Kate Griffin, a member of the USS and one of the students who had to leave the building, told me, “As a newly elected senator, I really feel like the students need to be better represented.”

She added, “The university needs to live up to its promises.”

By the time this article is published, the 24-hour cycle will be in affect for both the SAA and UCC, but on that early Tuesday morning, nearly a dozen students weren’t able to finish their expected stay, their homework, or their wondering of what spending nearly a full day at Arnhold Hall feels like. For shame, New School. For shame.