24-hour student spaces could counter UMass’ rowdy reputation

The University could do more to lose the ‘party school’ tag

By Manas Pandit, Collegian Columnist

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a jewel in the crown of state-wide higher education. The University possesses a commanding reputation for academic, extracurricular and athletic excellence, both nationally and in our home state. At least, that’s what the administration would like you to think.

The reality, though, is a little bit different.

UMass absolutely has a reputation for excellence and achievement — its position as an undergraduate research university is nothing to be scoffed at. However, one must acknowledge that UMass is quite well known for it’s, let’s say, vibrant social scene.

This is not a bad thing at all. I would argue that it’s important for a residential university to offer a variety of social options, to accommodate the large diversity of personalities present in any particular class.

However, UMass’ national reputation as a “party school” can lead to people taking the school less seriously than they perhaps otherwise would. Recognizing this, the administration has been actively trying to shed our “ZooMass” tag for at least the last decade, reviewing the student code of conduct surrounding underage drinking and maintaining a police presence to curb celebratory on-campus riots.

Its efforts have not been unsuccessful either. UMass, while still very socially active, is a far cry from what it used to be when the reputation for rowdy and raucous behavior first formed.

I’d argue, however, the University isn’t going far enough. In fact, there are quite a few steps that are substantially simpler than beefing up police resources, like keeping the library and other student-focused buildings open longer hours on weekends. While not a panacea for the perceived partying problem, this move would at least give students the choice between going out and getting some much-needed work done.

The early closure of campus buildings locks us as students into one choice for how to spend our weekends.

There are, of course, some obstacles to implementing what I’m suggesting. Given that the library is staffed by a large number of students, finding staff for the later shifts on the weekends could be problematic. This is true, but UMass is not limited to our student body to find workers. A financial argument could also be brought up, stating that UMass would have to spend in excess to pay wages sufficient to attract workers for the extra shifts in question. These arguments are superficially impressive, but as soon you realize 30 of the highest-paid public employees in the state of Massachusetts work for UMass, budgetary concerns seem insincere.

Additionally, as far as buildings with classrooms go, an argument about security issues could be raised. This is a much stronger counter-argument. Security concerns are real, but there are many ways to work around them.

One way would be hiring additional security workers for places like South College and setting up a sign-in system, like the one implemented in residence halls. Again, a budgetary counter-argument could be made here, but those simply ring hollow in light of what we know about UMass’ finances. Even foregoing any expansive investments into new security systems, the University could simply compromise on a few key buildings being kept open, including the library and the Student Union, while others remain as they are.

The ideas here are not some trailblazing first iteration of a 24-hour study space. Hampshire College has a 24-hour ‘Airport Lounge’ in its library, open every day of the week, giving students an option to study at any time during the day, even on weekends.

Ultimately, if the University truly wishes to rid us of our “party school” tag, its slacking off at the moment. There are a lot of steps the administration could take, and what remains to be seen is whether or not it actually commits to taking them.

Manas Pandit can be reached at [email protected]