Administration books camp in Old Union during finals week

July 26, 2012, 2:25 a.m.

During spring quarter finals week, Old Union hosted Digital Media Academy (DMA), a technology camp for high schoolers, rather than accommodating Stanford students hoping to study for exams. Finals week ran from June 8 to June 15. As all rooms were locked off during the camp’s visit, Stanford students were unable to access Old Union to study.

According to Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student Unions, accommodating outside requests for the use of Old Union is not usual for operations during the school year. Summer programs and camps that start early are usually placed in other buildings.

“Summer conference programs always start after Commencement,” she said. “Because [DMA] started earlier, it should have been scheduled at Tresidder Union.” In response to DMA’s placement in Old Union, which is against what is considered standard policy, Smith-Laws explained that “it was a hiccup, a glitch in the date, and it will not happen again in the future.”

However, Stanford administration does not have direct control over room reservations made in Old Union spaces. Reservations for meeting rooms in the Old Union are ultimately coordinated through the ASSU room reservation system, which the ASSU Executive manages. Anyone with a Stanford ID can reserve meeting spaces and the system does not actively report student reservations to the administration.

The administration only realized DMA’s reservation conflicted with finals week after the program’s use of the building had already been confirmed. According to Smith-Laws, when the mistake was brought to her attention, the University immediately sent out an email notifying students of the situation, and attempted to remedy the loss of space by making other buildings available for students to use as an alternative.

“That’s the situation we were faced with, and we tried to open Tresidder for later hours,” Smith-Laws said. “We tried to offer things like free coffee and snacks, we tried to make it right in some way.”

Smith-Laws further stresses that Old Union’s policy to operate in the interest of students will not change in the future, especially when planning for the use of the building during the school year. She emphasizes that the building will prioritize student interest and activities.

“Since 2007, this has never happened. It wasn’t because we changed policies,” she said. “We’re very protective of the [Old Union] spaces, and student access to it,” she said. “It’s part of my job to protect the interest of the students, and we apologize for making this mistake. It won’t happen again.”

However, according to former ASSU Senator Dan Delong ’13, the onus is on the ASSU to take measures to reform the room reservation system that controls the use of student spaces in Old Union.

“A lot of people thought that it was strange, that [Old Union] rooms were blocked off, especially given that it was finals week,” he said. “I hope that this year’s ASSU Executive will make a priority to make changes to the room reservation system.”

Smith-Laws is pushing for the money from outside programs to contribute to updates and renovations for student spaces. “We hope to modify, update and create more spaces for students to use,” she said.

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