By William Kay || Contributing Writer
I’ve always been fond of the phrase “Don’t let your memes be dreams” to be quite compelling, and several F&M students recently took this maxim to heart, posting a series of dank memes on the Protest Tree regarding recent changes in the hours at Martin Library of the Sciences. Before this semester, Martin would close at 2 A.M., and now that closing time has been moved to 12 A.M. A quick search of my email inbox shows no all-student communication from any College official regarding this change. Naturally, the memes of production kicked in, and the Protest Tree was adorned with comics blaming the College’s $8 million budget crisis for this abrupt change.
The Diplomatic Congress held a hearing on the issue this past Thursday, September 12th on the issue, where College Librarian Scott Vine and Vice President & Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett both provided insight into the issue.
A point of emphasis in Mr. Vine’s commentary was that this change has nothing to do with the budget crisis; it doesn’t save very much money. Mr. Vine humbly and rightly took ownership of the lack of communication to the student body at large, while noting that orientation teams and tour guides were informed of the change to pass the information along. The main reason for this change, Mr. Vine says, rests on two prongs: first, the issue of unanimity across College facilities was important, as the 2 A.M. closing is a leftover from the 1990’s College schedule; second, the issue of student wellness and the question of true productivity after a certain hour. Dean Hazlett doubled down on the wellness argument, with both administrators highlighting an ongoing debate in higher education on this point.
Now that the facts are laid out, you should know that I serve as Parliamentarian for the Diplomatic Congress. The perspective that follows is mine and mine alone, and in no way reflects the official position of the Diplomatic Congress or any of its members.
I drafted two versions of this piece: one seething with rage and another hushed with apologetics. This final draft is something in between, where I believe that we need an increase in discussion on this issue before reactionary tendencies take root.
On the one hand, what greater impact on the student experience is there than the inability to study at a time and place most convenient to them? Each of us has had the experience of that paper that just needs a final touch, the lab report we need to finish, or the play that needs to be read; our apartment or our dorm is often not the most conducive place for this work to be done. Students choose Martin not just because it is the sciences library, but precisely because it is open two hours later than Shad. The question of whether or not work should be getting done at that hour, combined with the College’s encouragement of healthy sleep habits is irrelevant; it is precisely the rigor of F&M’s academic environment, one that the College touts to donors and prospective students alike, that demands these hours of work, and we must be given the resources necessary to maintain it. As one public commenter during the Diplomatic Congress’ hearing stated, there is a question of student autonomy and choice in how and when they study. Is this enough to stop students from making bad choices?
On the other hand, there are genuine concerns regarding student health and wellness. Is keeping Martin open those extra two hours actually enabling that unhealthy culture of overwork at F&M? To me, this seems a move from the College meant to send a message of self-care and wellness in good faith. Is this choice, while seemingly difficult to rectify on the surface, actually one in the best interest of the student? In my opinion, the answer is yes. While I value the ability of the individual students to set their own schedule, the Monster Energy-fueled binge of calculus may not be the healthiest thing, and this may be a first step in helping to end that. But perhaps, if this is truly the main reason for the change, the College needs to be doing more. As was discussed in the Diplomatic Congress hearing, we need to address this issue as a student body. Whether that happens via different buildings having extended hours, or partial hours in the library meetings, this is an open conversation.
So, to the College community at large I pose this question: what say you? Submit feedback to administration, Diplomatic Congress, and your friends in the dining hall. This is your issue, always. Take ownership of it.
Senior William Kay is a Contributing Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org