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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

An uncomfortable situation around campus

Published: November 21, 2014
Section: Opinions

Of the many issues around campus, I should not have to be complaining about the furniture and room amenities. However, as I sit in a chipping wooden chair probably older than myself, I wind up thinking that it’s time to finally put this issue to rest. The Brandeis campus, as accommodating as it is, simply needs new furniture.

Go to the library and you’ll find a mix of older chairs, newer chairs and stiff desks, lacking the proper ergonomic designs to be conducive to studying for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong, they do have their purposes; if you wanted a nagging backache, you know the best place to go. This problem is by no means confined to the library however; it’s a campus-wide epidemic.

Common areas, classrooms, libraries, lounges and residence halls around campus all contain outdated and just plain uncomfortable furniture. It’s not easy to pay attention in class or study effectively in a lounge when you’re worried about the chair crumbling beneath you. Although it may not bother some, uncomfortable furniture at the very least makes some people fidgety and can inhibit their concentration.

Many students and even some professors find themselves unhappy with the room amenities around campus. Just the other day, one of my professors sent an email to the class asking how we thought the administration could make the room better, at one point even joking tongue-in-cheek that the best course of action, demolishing the building, would be out of the question.

Many of the minor residence hall lounges contain sticky, disgusting and more importantly uncomfortable chairs. For example, the basement lounge in Massell’s Shapiro Hall contains a set of chairs and couches that either are too stiff to sit on or collapse in on themselves when you sit on them. This fact, plus the various tears and rips in the cushions, make it an unpopular destination. Those who wish to study either have to move back into isolation in their rooms or into the not much better off Shapiro Lounge.

Even the residence hall rooms themselves lack modern, sturdy furniture. Just the other day, I witnessed facilities carrying a bed, which was dented right down the middle, out of a residence hall. The amenities are literally falling apart under us. Although nobody was hurt, collapsing beds are no laughing matter.

In a time when modernizing the campus through endless cycles of new construction is commonplace, perhaps all we really need is a simple upgrade in the furniture. The SCC library and the Mandel Atrium next to the Olin-Sang connection are prime examples of more popular areas to study and hang out when the need arises, because they have newer and ergonomically friendly furniture. It’s easy and relaxing to go to these places and study.

It shouldn’t cost the price of building new structures to boost campus morale when it can be accomplished by simply upgrading the amenities. In larger classrooms, for example, installing better audio/video systems so that all students can understand the lectures along with adding more comfortable chairs and desks will suffice. The costs of doing so will also be significantly less than totally tearing down the building and putting another one up, as my professor suggested.

In the residence halls, the issue is more urgent: At least half of the desk chairs on my floor are chipping and falling apart, which can be a safety hazard. More of a safety hazard would be having a bed that can so easily be bent down the center. Let me be clear, I’m not advocating the replacement of all desks, desk chairs and beds across campus. What the administration needs to do is to conduct a basic inspection of these amenities and replace them if they’re not up to par. A chipping desk chair is not up to par. A bed that could be bent down the center was obviously not up to par.

It may seem as though this is a non-issue to many, and I agree that it should be a non-issue, but the problem is just so rampant on this campus that it has become an issue. Being uncomfortable is one thing, but having unsafe furniture is a whole different beast, which can eventually cause a significant problem.