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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Put the student back in Usdan Student Center

Published: October 20, 2006
Section: Opinions

Last weeks article in The Hoot, Student Space: the final frontier, bemoans the lack of space for student clubs. It mentioned the fact that Usdan has become an office building, and suggested converting the basement and angular lobbies into spaces for students. I couldnt agree more with the suggestion that Usdan, which is a student center and not an administrative center, could be put to better use. However, in the appeal to give student-run organizations the space they deserve to carry out their role in maintaining student morale and social life, I suspect this author was thinking of Undergrads. Grad students, who represent approximately 30% of the (traditional) student population, have no dedicated space on campus.

The Undergrads have the Shapiro Student Center. Although it is often booked in advance, it is better than nothing. While many organizations have only one venue that they must share, one venue is better than no venue. Grads, and our governing body, the Graduate Student Association (GSA), used to have a very limited amount of space in Usdan. We lost that in June, when most of the officers were away for the summer. For those officers who were here, there was little warning and no opportunity to weigh in on where our equipment, furniture, and supplies would be moved and how we would carry out our role in maintaining Grad student morale through supporting the Grad Student Community without this space.

We understand that the decision to take away our space was necessary to take advantage of a window of opportunity for renovation construction. However, some of our possessions have been stolen as a result of their placement in insecure locations. This all is especially hard to take in light of a promise made to us when we gave up space in Shapiro Student Center a few years ago because we were promised space in the Winer wing of Usdan. Last year, the Winer wing was on the table during many meetings between GSA officers and Brandeis Administration, and we again heard the promise that it would be ours.

Currently, the Winer wing is not under construction, but it is being occupied by Communications. Although this office needs to be somewhere, it does not need to be in Usdan. There is a danger of squatting. Space in Kutz, which is an administrative building, will be opening up when Student Support Services can move into the renovated Usdan at the end of the current construction over the winter break. Although Student Support Services is an administrative unit, they work directly with students. They have a justifiable right to space in Usdan. Their relocation will be one step towards putting the student back in Usdan Student Center. Communications is an administrative unit that is much farther removed from supporting students;

other than the right established by occupancy, they have no right to be in Usdan. Especially when Grads, who are STUDENTS and a significant part of the raison dtre for university administrative units, have no space.

Some of you may ask, What about dedicating space in Kutz for Grads so that Communications doesnt have to move? Kutz does not meet the needs of the Brandeis Grad Student Community. Kutz is an administrative building. In addition, it is strongly affiliated with the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences, which is only one of the three graduate schools here at Brandeis. It is located at almost the opposite end of campus from the International Business School, a graduate school whose members are vital to the Grad Community. Basically, Grads from all three schools will not perceive space in Kutz as theirs. If they do not see it as theirs, they will not use it. What is the use of unused space? What is the use to the GSA officers, who work hard to promote Grad Student Community, if Grads from all schools dont visit?

Beyond that, I have to wonder what Undergrads would do if they were asked rather, ordered to give up their space in the Shapiro Student Center and move to another academic or administrative building in order to accommodate displaced administrative units? Would the Undergrads Student Union accept that they had to give up their office in Shapiro SC and have to wing it, with no adequate place to conduct their business and have secure storage for their equipment? I doubt they would be asked, or ordered, to do this, but I do not think that they would be pleased if they were in our shoes.

Grad students elevate Brandeis from a college to a world class research university. We contribute to Brandeis competitiveness with elite schools in Boston. Despite our important research and teaching contribution, many Grads do not even have individual office space in which to conduct these activities. Most of our peer institutions have individual and common dedicated space for Grads. Many have an independent graduate student center.

We are asking for space on campus that will serve our needs. Its time for Brandeis to think about Grad students. Its time to give us the space we were promised. Its time to put Grad Students back in the Usdan Student Center.