Social spaces should cover the bases

By Kam Burns

It’s a typical Monday morning and I’m getting work done in the CoLab before my class in a couple hours. With coffee in hand, a fully charged laptop, and a lengthy study playlist, I’m ready to get to work. Suddenly, I’m interrupted by a Facebook Messenger notification—but it’s not on my computer. It comes from the person at the table next to me, who has opted not to use headphones. It happens again—and again—and I turn my volume up while shooting him the occasional glare. A few minutes later, his friend joins him, and the two begin to loudly debate whether or not he should get the new iPhone. After 10 minutes of trying to tune out the conversation, I get up to find another seat.

While I am tempted to single this guy out as singularly disruptive, I can hardly blame him. At a college where more than half of students live off campus, there are virtually no social spaces for those students to gather. Many students use the library as a place to catch up with friends, largely because there is no better option. This can be disastrous, especially in the weeks leading up to exams, when it’s near impossible to find a seat. It’s infuriating when, two days before a big test, I have to circle the library several times, walking past tables full of students chatting loudly and goofing off, before finding a place I can sit and work. And even outside of exam season, it is still often difficult to find a place to study quietly.

Emerson has attempted to correct this issue, but with limited success. The off-campus student lounge in Piano Row cannot comfortably seat more than 30 students at a time. The Dining Center requires students to spend money, and other on campus eateries require a meal plan, which are technically accessible, but not exactly welcoming. It’s no wonder then that the Iwasaki Library is a go-to for most students to socialize, myself included.

But as the semester winds down and exams draw near once again, I can’t help but feel the confines of this small space. It’s frustrating having to squeeze between two strangers and put on over-ear headphones just to comfortably study for exams in a space ostensibly designed for studying. Likewise, it’s irksome trying to find a place to spend time that doesn’t disturb others trying to do the same.

Emerson continues to invest in property, most recently spending $24 million on a Common-facing condo building. This will benefit the students who live on campus, but off-campus students, who comprise more than half of our student body, still spend much of their time in and around Emerson. It would be nice to see Emerson use that space to invest in those students as well— creating more social and study spaces for students struggling to find room on a cramped campus. When making considerations for new campus spaces, dorm rooms shouldn’t be the only places the college thinks about. Even a small room akin to the existing Quiet Study Lounge in Piano Row would help fill a void that exists for off campus students.