The end of the semester is always packed with performances by student organizations and academic departments alike. Due to the lack of campus space available, performers sometimes resort to desperate measures to book the space that they need.
“I got so desperate one time that I was like, hmm, maybe I’ll try booking like the pool,” junior Julia Martin, president of Celtic, a student organization focused on Irish culture and dance, said. “I almost booked the field — it was so tempting.”
Celtic is not the only group who has had issues with reserving spaces. The Opposite of People (TOOP), the Ballet Performance Group (BPG), Sihir, and Louvre are but a few student groups that have had problems with reservations this year.
People are looking for solutions.
The Students Association (SA) is conducting a project to learn more about student groups’ needs regarding reservations and space on campus, according to first-year Senator Elijah Bader-Gregory.
The project was prompted after the SA had a discussion in January with Assistant Dean of Student Life Operations Laura Ballou where they discussed the problems that student groups have been facing. Through this project, SA seeks to understand student needs and convey these needs to Dean Runner.
Alongside Bader-Gregory, junior SA Vice President Sybilla Moore and senior co-chair Alex Fegler are meeting with performing groups campus-wide to learn more about each group’s experiences and needs.
The CT joined Vice President Moore in her meeting with Celtic to learn more about SA’s project and Celtic’s experiences.
Moore opened the conversation by asking about Celtic’s rehearsal schedule and their experiences in finding spaces to use, and gradually shifted the conversation towards Celtic’s thoughts on what could be improved, both in the reservation process and campus spaces themselves.
Martin said that many students take space management into their own hands. “There’s like a black market for space,” Martin said. “Occasionally we get emails like, ‘this person’s not having rehearsal, who wants it?’”
The topic of Todd Union took center stage during the second half of the meeting when Moore asked if Celtic would like to be able to use spaces in Todd Union or Sloan for rehearsals or performances if they were available.
Martin expressed interest in using both of the buildings, however commented that she had never seen Todd Union available for reservations, to which Moore explained that Todd Union is not on VEMS. However, according to Assistant Dean Laura Ballou, Wilson Commons Student Activities (WCSA) has submitted requests for expanded use of Todd Union.
The SA also met or plans to meet with groups such as Bhangra, Louvre, Vocal Point, Royals Dance Team, and SALSEROS.
The search for solutions for the lack of space goes beyond SA, however. Dean of the College in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Jeffrey Runner said in an email that the main issue with space is that groups try to schedule their big performances all within the last month of the semester. He suggested that groups consider changing their performance schedules to put their performances at other times during the year, when there is more availability.
“In my view, the academic and the student life components of the experience are central to a student’s education,” Runner said in an email. “Skills, competencies and a sense of connection to peers and the University can be developed through participation in student clubs and organizations, as well as in academic activities.”
Runner said that the University is working to create a “new master plan” regarding space on campus, which will include discussions on student groups’ growing needs for spaces that can accommodate them effectively.