March 22, 2016

Cornell Students Continue to Discuss Willard Straight Hall Meeting Space

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Students discussed the allocation of meeting spaces in Willard Straight at a final policy forum hosted by the Willard Straight Hall Student Union Board of Directors yesterday.

There is high demand for room reservations in Willard Straight because of the building’s central location and accessibility, according to Interfraternity Council President Blake Brown ’17.

“This is a student union, so the place where we would represent student voice and advocate for students would be in the Straight,” he said.

Student Assembly President Jordan Berger ’17 agreed, saying that “for a lot of organizations, it’s tradition to have meetings here.”

This high demand has led to problems such as conflicting meeting times and little availability for additional programs, according to Kristen Crasto ’17, Director of Public Affairs, and Shikha Patel ’17, Director of Policy and Regulation of the board.

“As the number of student organizations has grown, the number of needs has grown, so it’s come to our attention that this is a big problem,” Crasto said.

Tamara Heath ’17, a member of the Residential Student Congress, expressed her frustration with the current system. Despite the group’s weekly reservation, she said other organizations often book the room at the same time and they are forced to leave.

Members of the IFC, the Student Assembly, Residential Student Congress and Class Council proposed various ideas to improve the system and determine whether certain groups should be given preference over others.

Berger argued that meetings that are open to the public should be prioritized because they draw people that pass by and engage them in issues they may not have otherwise known about.

“I think especially with governing bodies that are trying to empower student voice, that there is something to be said about them being the hub,” he said.

Students also discussed whether attendance and meeting size should affect room reservation.

“If we do have a head count, you would be able to judge better whether or not that group should actually have that space,” said Andrew Semmes ’19, president of the class of 2019 Class Council.

To increase availability for last-minute programs, Semmes proposed scheduling weekly meetings in the earlier days of the week, and allocating one day for only programming.

However, simply shifting meeting times could be problematic because of students’ and faculty’s time restrictions.

“It’s not just as easy as asking students to switch,” said Berger.

Crasto said she believes educating students about how the reservation system works is important because it is fairly complicated, and she said she plans on putting this information on the board’s website.

The board will meet after spring break to discuss policy changes in further detail, and afterwards student organizations will be able to vote on the policies.