Robo-reshuffling causes confusion

by Richard Lazarus | 7/25/03 5:00am

In the last week and half, a massive reshuffling of student office space in Robinson Hall has affected nearly all of the student organizations housed there. The reshuffle in Robinson, which houses more undergraduate student organization space than any other place on campus, is the biggest in years. It has provided some organizations with much-needed space -- but also left many of them grumbling.

The move was designed around grouping similar publications together, according to Pat Connelly, the director of the Collis Center, who oversees Robinson.

Print publications, most of whom share a production space, have been moved to a suite of three rooms on the second floor, next to the Aegis, which lost one of its rooms, and The Dartmouth, which leases its space separately, from the College.

The Pan-Asian Council and LGBTQA resource rooms have both been moved to the first floor from the second. DTV has moved into an under-utilized room in the College radio station offices on the third floor.

Student Assembly has been moved across the hall on the first floor. Class Council and the Programming Board now share a first-floor office. The Coed Fraternity Sorority Council have lost their Robinson space.

The Dartmouth Forensic Union, which leases under an agreement not covered by the Student Activities Department, and the Dartmouth Outing Club were unaffected by the move. Also, at least one other organization was given a small amount of storage space.

The reshuffle was instigated by a Committee on Student Organizations working group called the Robinson Space Allocation Committee. In an annual process that had been "on hiatus" until just last year, according to Connelly, student organizations must reapply to the committee for their space every year.

Advertising the process, devising the applications and some of the moving responsibilities fall to the Collis Center, which is part of Student Activities.

The committee is made up of student representative from PB, COSO, the Assembly, the Collis Governing Board and the media organizations, according to Connelly. Connelly also sat in on the meetings, according to committee member and Student Assembly President Janos Marton '04.

Student organizations applied for space during about five weeks around March, Connelly said.

Applicants included around 15 organizations that did not already have space, varying from the Chinese Dance Troop and the Campus Greens to Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Golden Key Society, according to Marton.

The allocation committee announced their decisions on May 21, late in the Spring term.

Their aim was to maximize the use of space, rewarding productive, growing organizations and reallocating under-utilized space, Marton and Connelly said.

Student publication especially were in need of more space. Seven different publications share the space, and COSO employs two interns whose job was just to keep the room running.

"It's a good thing. I think it's a smart move on COSO's part," said Jack o' Lantern Editor-in-Chief Cal Newport '04. "It makes more sense, and we needed the space."

But other organizations are not as pleased. GLBTQA's new space is on the first floor, away from the relative privacy that their second-floor space offered "more closeted members" of the group, said Andy Foery '04, a group member. The move prompted a queer community-wide discussion of how best to organize with the new space.

"We're trying to deal with it. But right now the place is like a big fishbowl," she said.

Still, the group is happy with having two, separate rooms, said GLBTQA Co-head Liz Tunick '05.

The Pan-Asian Council, an umbrella organization for several Asian groups, is also happy with their space. "It's more homey," Serena Chang '05 said of what was the Assembly offices. She also noted that PAC had only been in its old space a year, not long enough to put down firm roots.

Most of those involved in physically moving the organizations from old spaces to new ones have been grumbling about the poor planning and inconsistency of the process.

The original goal to complete the move in only two days was completely unrealistic, said COSO Publications Intern Nick Duquette, who also writes for The Jacko.

The move, which began last Wednesday, actually took more than a week. None of the unused furniture that was going to be removed from Robinson has actually been removed, and none of the student organizations know who is responsible.

"There's a big, purple cabinet on the 2nd floor," said Duquette. "I don't think that's going anywhere ... If you've got a use for it, take it." (The cabinet has now been helpfully labeled with a sign reading "Move me.")

The largest problem with the move was that several organizations made no effort at all to move their files or equipment, probably due to decreased numbers and activity during the summer. The move was also badly timed, beginning in the middle of the day, during prime class time.

But poor organization was also a factor. It even seems blitzes meant to inform The Aegis of the need to vacate a particular room were answered by an '03 who then left campus, informing no one in her organization of the move.

The original idea behind the reshuffle was to create a media space on the third floor, according to Marton. But the debate team, with its independent space, refused to move, leading to the current arrangement.

Although Foery said she was annoyed at having to justify the existence of her organization every year, the committee is unlikely to do a major reshuffle again in the next several years unless the Forensics Union gives up its space, Marton said.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!