Study Space on Campus

DEPARTMENT(S): 
October 23, 2019

A committee was formed to review available study space on campus and identify potential spaces that could be made available.  The committee included:

Alison Collard De Beaufort, Lauren Guerrero (Students)

Donna Levin, Curtis Abel, Marc Printz (I&E Center)

Kris Sullivan (Academic Affairs)

Jim McLaughlin (Student Affairs)

Lori Ostapowicz-Critz and Anna Gold (Library)

Eric Beattie (Facilities)

Current available spaces were discussed to understand the attributes that make study spaces work well.  Individual preferences vary, what may work well for some students (i.e., the noisy atmosphere of Campus Center), may be intolerable for other students.  It was agreed that providing a variety of different options is beneficial.  The following attributes students look for in choosing study space were discussed:

  • Individual vs. group study (5-6 people is the typical maximum group size)
  • Quiet study vs. group conversation vs. some background noise
  • Time of day:  daytime, evening, late night hours of availability
  • Type of furnishings:  tables and chairs vs. casual lounge seating, moveable vs. fixed. White boards.
  • Type of space:  Large open spaces vs. tech suites
  • Characteristics of space:  good lighting, good seating, power + wifi, white boards, flat screens, windows to the outdoors
  • Timing of the semester:  Demand for study space increases during exam periods and expanded hours and spaces are already provided in some locations (Library, Campus Center, Rec Center, classrooms).

Several aspects were taken into account when considering whether different spaces on campus could readily be made available as study spaces.  The location should be convenient and near the center of campus (space at Gateway was not considered).  Obviously classrooms are not available during the day and generally are scheduled through the evening, but could be considered for late night study space.  Rooms that are scheduled for meetings and events are difficult to make available for study on a daily basis, particularly if the furnishings would have to be changed.  Preferably, spaces for evening and late night study would be in buildings that students already have card access to enter, Salisbury Labs, Stratton Hall, and Higgins Labs allow all students 24/7 access.  Morgan Dining is a challenge to make available after closing because the space must be cleaned and made ready for the next day. 

The committee identified several possibilities for new study space.  These options have been separated into two categories, Step One proposes spaces that could be implemented immediately and at no significant cost to the University.  Step Two proposes spaces that would require expenditure of funds to purchase new furniture and/or some renovation of the space. 

The committee proposes to implement Step One at the beginning of B-term and monitor the use of these new spaces.  We propose reviewing the need for additional space after B-Term, and if warranted develop a request for capital funding to purchase furniture and/or modest renovation to space (provide power, improve lighting, etc.) for additional spaces if demand for additional space continues.

Step One:

  1. Riley Commons – The large room on the lower level of Riley Hall, currently used for scheduled events, and to support student productions in the Little Theater.  As an indication of the current amount of use, in the month of October, Monday through Friday, there are seven events scheduled in the room before 5:00pm.  The rooms is currently vacant significant portions of the day.  The Events office will look to manage scheduling of the room going forward to maximize its availability for study space with a focus on Monday through Friday daytime 8:00am to 5:00pm.  Tables and chairs are currently available in storage closets adjacent to the room, and going forward the room will be furnished for study.  Initially the room will be furnished to seat approximately 50 people, significantly more capacity is possible as demand warrants.  Modest funds from the current capital budget will be used to purchase white boards for the room.
  2. Goat’s Head – Presently the Goat’s Head opens at 5:00pm.  The committee proposes to open the space for study Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 3:00pm.   No changes to furnishings would be required, and the space seats approximately 150.  There are plans being considered that may expand the hours of operation of the Goat’s Head dining service one to two years from now, which, if implemented will eliminate its availability as dedicated study space.  Morgan Dining Commons is used by some students for study space when it is open for dining, so the Goat’s Head’s study value would not be completely lost.
  3. Salisbury Labs classrooms 402 and 411 – Scheduled for daytime and evening classes, and some evening meetings, that typically end by 8:50pm.  The committee proposes to open these rooms for study Sunday through Thursday from 9:00pm to 3:00am.  Each room has seating for approximately 60, with tables and chairs in a study-conducive environment.

Step Two – which could be implemented after a trial period to determine the success of Step One, would require funding and time to purchase and replace present furniture with study-conducive tables and chairs.

  1. Library – Begin to support the furnishing, carpeting, and facility upgrades to convert space now used for print collections.  The Library’s 4-year plan proposes adding up to 100 seats including quiet, group, and individual seating.
  2. The Wedge – Replace and/or augment existing high-top tables to improve and increase seating capacity for study.  Could be used for daytime, evening, and late night study.
  3. Recreation Center – Replace and/or augment existing furniture in the Quad entrance common space area.  Could be used for daytime and evening study.
  4. Foisie – Additional seating on the second floor.  Could be used for daytime and evening study.
  5. Outdoor seating – Identify and furnish more spaces to accommodate study activity when weather is conducive.
  6. Additional Classrooms – Some additional classrooms could be refurnished to provide late night study options.

The committee believes the Step One recommendations are a positive first step in providing additional study options for students.  We recommend Step One be implemented at the beginning of B-term, and that ways to communicate the availability of spaces continue to be explored with SGA, the office of Marketing and Communications, the Library, and I&E.   One possibility is development of an online “space scout” app that would help students learn about the variety of study spaces available (for example see SmithScape,  https://smithscape.smith.edu/smith/) and/or an app that would enable students to search in real-time for available study spaces.