ASG, Residential Services consider dining halls for student meeting space


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Associated Student Government and Residential Services are working to open dining halls after operating hours for student use. Administrators will have to update dining hall security before they can be used as meeting spaces.

Jordan Harrison, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government and Residential Services are working on an initiative to open up several dining halls to be used for student meeting space after normal operating hours, pending the evaluation of additional security and staffing measures.

Chris Harlow, vice president of student life, said ASG received responses from some dorms expressing a need for more communal space. ASG informally surveyed students and did walkthroughs in 29 residential buildings.

“One of the things we heard was a lack of community space in some buildings,” the SESP sophomore said. “In Allison, there’s this great big first floor lounge, so lack of useful space wasn’t something we heard in some buildings, but in others like Sargent, for example, they really lack a large, open community space where students can not only hang out and relax but also be able to use for studying.”

McCormick freshman Korri Hershenhouse, a member of the ASG student life committee and the head of the dining hall project, said at night, dining halls are a large unused campus space. So, ASG asked students if they would be interested in using them as meeting spaces.

“We thought about dining halls because they’re kind of a large source of untapped space at the school,” she said. “We contacted students in residential halls and we asked them via an informal survey that was emailed to them through their residential hall listserv what hours they would use it, would they use it, what they would use it for and why they would use it.”

Several security concerns would have to be addressed before the idea can be implemented, said Paul Riel, executive director of Residential Services.

“One is the ability to restrict access to the cooking areas and the servery where the food is prepared,” he said. “There’s some work on putting in some television cameras that we think would be important for monitoring the rooms at night.”

Riel said Elder and Willard dining halls already have a lot of the internal security needed to open after hours, but Sargent and 1835 Hinman dining halls present more challenges. He added that they would also need to consider extra cleanup to prepare dining halls for meals the next morning.

Due to the upcoming renovation of Kresge Hall, meeting space for student groups will be limited, Riel said. He said he hoped a pilot would be started next fall.

“We acknowledge that with the Kresge renovation going on and some other renovation programs happening, spaces on campus are really more and more at a premium, so we think using dining halls is a way to soften that demand on space,” Riel said.

(With Kresge renovation set to begin, some professors concerned about move)

Hershenhouse said administrators have considered this idea for a few years, and ASG has been working on implementing the initiative for about two months. She added that members of ASG already have feedback on when students would like the dining halls to be available.

“They would like it open from about 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on all of the weeknights and either open until an earlier hour on the weekends or not open at all on the weekends,” she said.

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