Student organizations struggle to find meeting spots
Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) have been suffering from a delay to obtain academic rooms for their meetings over the last few weeks. There are more than 400 organizations listed on the StUDent Center portal, but around 300 of those are currently active according to Erik Spence, the student events coordinator.
Spence handles all the room requests for Trabant, Perkins, graduate groups, RSOs, club sports and Greek organizations. He said he usually tries to respond quickly to requests and that it makes no sense to have one person in charge of placement for all the groups. The Registrar, however, is in charge of allocating the academic classroom spaces.
“I think it’s that there are many student groups and too many requests, and the university has increased the student population size,” Spence said. “But I don’t think there’s enough staffing in the office that does the classroom spaces.”
Spence said he started receiving room requests for fall on April 1. Since he can work remotely over the summer, he also obtained all the requests submitted during that time. It was not until Aug. 23 that Spence received the first room confirmations from the Registrar.
“I forward student room requests to the Registrar and they assign rooms to them, which are then sent back to me, and I notify students of the assignments,” he said. “It’s always with the understanding that once class schedules have been set, they can fill our spaces as long as the requests are for weekends or nights.”
An exception to this rule is if a club requests an executive meeting sometime earlier in the day. However, Spence has jurisdiction over what student organizations can and cannot do.
As of Sept. 11, Spence said there were 800 combined requests — a mixture of both meeting room requests and event requests. Many of the student requests are still pending due to the disorganization of the documents.
“I think [the Registrar is] trying to fill the rooms as they’re needed,” he said. “So somebody who requested back in April won’t hear back right away, but somebody who requested something in August is hearing back faster because their meeting is sooner.”
Although it makes sense from a practical point of view — the registrar is behind on requests — it does not make sense regarding wait times for rooms, he explained.
Spence said he only has immediate control over room assignments in Trabant and Perkins. He can view all the spaces and requests that go through for both the student centers and academic spaces, but he cannot book the academic rooms directly.
The problem with this is that the technology in those rooms are not free to use with the exception of a one-time use for an interest meeting. The academic rooms have free technology because they are maintained by the university.
“It costs $163 each day to use one of our projectors,” Spence said.
Most student organizations, depending upon the size, receive a capped allocated budget of $800.
Because of the delay with the academic spaces, Events Services ran out of spots to hold interest meetings for the RSOs. Spence suspects that there was a greater amount of changes to classroom assignments this year.
There are around 50 active Greek organizations on campus, and they all require academic spaces. Some of the Greek organizations have housing, but those buildings are not equipped to be able to hold meetings, Spence added.
Spence said Events Services is losing available spaces in both student centers. Trabant lost two offices to the Orientation and Transition Office. A third office will be allocated to a new center for student veterans later this fall.
Perkins lost offices in the basement and on both the second and third floors. As part of the recent renovations, The Gallery — the large glass meeting hall — is being turned into an esports venue and the Swing Club can no longer use the Scrounge — the main lounge area on the first floor— due to the floor being changed, Spence added.
Rebecca Kosher, a senior marketing and operations management major, is the president of of Lazarus Rising, a community service organization that takes weekly trips to places such as libraries and shelters to help people with job applications and resume writing. She is also the director of public relations for the UDress Magazine, the university’s student-run fashion publication.
Kosher needed to reschedule the meeting for Lazarus Rising as Spence was unable to get her a room until the day of the first meeting.
“We received an email from Erik Spence that there was a delay because of so many room requests,” Kosher said. “We can’t really tell people we’re having a meeting if we don’t have a room.”
When applying for room requests, students must submit an online form through the Registrar. Kosher thinks the system could use some amending, particularly more detailed information about the rooms being offered.
“If not floor plans, just some more detailed description about the room,” Kosher said. “Just the room number means nothing to me.”
The Review reached out to the Registrar to confirm whether it handles the academic allocation for RSOs and was deferred to the Schedule Office, an office within the Registrar. They confirmed they are in charge of the academic allocations.
However, neither the Registrar nor the Schedule Office are mentioned in the RSO policy on the Student Centers website.
“I feel bad the students have to take it upon themselves to get change, but I think it’s really good that they are noticing a problem and are coming together, going to the newspaper and going to their professors and advisors,” Spence said.