College Space, Policies Fail Student Groups

It's no secret that there's a shortage of space for student offices on campus.

The University only has enough office space--whether in the Yard, in river Houses, Vanserg or the Quad--for one out of every four student groups, according to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.

An explosion of groups scramble to be slotted into the basements of Holworthy and Thayer Halls. Many of them assume they are on a waiting list and expect to be given an office as soon as the next space opens up.

There is no such list.

Organizations that seek space often find themselves at the mercy of an idiosyncratic assigning process overseen by Epps' office. Administrators simply do not have enough space to go around and instead weigh the value of individual student groups, leaving many organizations homeless--forced to operate out of student dorm rooms or other organizations' offices. Those who have offices say their space is often inadequate.

Even Epps agrees: students deserve better.

Winners and Losers

Epps and Coordinator of Student Activities Susan T. Cooke file each space request as it comes in. As soon as a group clears out of its office or an alternate space opens up, Epps and Cooke go to work to assign space to groups that they deem deserving.

When filling offices, Epps says he considers a group's consistency, its productivity and the quality of its contribution to the campus as factors in his decision.

"It doesn't go solely by size, and it doesn't go solely by when they got their request in," Cooke says.

That was not the impression the staff of the Harvard Book Review got when they approached Cooke for space this September.

"She said there was a waiting list, and she'd put our name on it," says John F. Coyle '00, the Review's editor-in-chief. Coyle, who is also a Crimson editor, says he assumed his publication would move up the list as spaces became available--"first come, first served."

Because he assumed there was a waiting list, Coyle never thought to ask what the selection process was.

"The Dean's office never explained to us exactly what the criteria are for determining office space," Coyle says.

The process of acquiring space in the Yard begins when an organization writes a letter to Epps requesting an office from the College.

According to Cooke, the letter should outline the purpose of the group and how office space will benefit its activities.

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