By MADHURA NADARAJAH
Many students love UT’s small population because it brings a sense of community to the campus. Constantly seeing familiar faces around campus adds a feeling of comfort, whereas at larger schools, many of the students are complete strangers to one another. However, one of the downsides of having a small student population is that it typically means a relatively small campus. UT is no exception and is perhaps much smaller than one would imagine given its adjacent location to downtown Tampa. Nevertheless, UT’s small size and location are appealing characteristics. That was until students felt that the campus’ petite size was encroaching on their comfort zone — their dorm community rooms.
While it may not be obvious, there is a difference between general community rooms (found in the general public) and dorm community rooms. The purpose of a general community room is for a group of people to have a room to meet, and exchange ideas expressive of their group. For instance, Alcoholics Anonymous might rent out the basement of a church to discuss sobriety methods. Dorm community rooms are slightly different because their targeted audience is the dormitory’s tenants; moreover, the purpose of a dorm community room is for the students that live there to hang out and debrief. For example, each of the twelve residence halls on campus contain a community room usually equipped with couches, TVs, pool tables, and a kitchen.
However, due to UT’s small size, the school must repurpose rooms to fulfill the needs of various groups. Therefore, students may find clubs using the Brevard Community Room or find Greek Life groups using the McKay or Jenkins’ community rooms.
It is understandable why organizations want to use dorm community rooms. Dorms, as opposed to classrooms, offer a lackadaisical ambiance that is well-suited if the organization is hosting a more relaxed event. Nevertheless, the groups who utilize these rooms do not realize how much of a hindrance they are, especially if they are hosting a private event.
Speaking on the matter, freshman biology major Blake Adam Roberts was upset because he felt like a stranger in his own dorm building. “The [organizations like fraternities] kick us out of our community space,” Roberts said. “It’s almost like they have no regard for who lives in the building. We can’t watch the TV in there because some groups take the remote or cover it up, other groups don’t let us in the room at all.” Additionally, Roberts touches on the inconvenience it causes: “Some of us use the facilities to prepare food and we can’t when things like this happen.”
How can residents feel comfortable in their residence halls when they get kicked out of it or can’t even use any of the equipment? Moreover, this feeling of discomfort is more blatant in the dormitories that have open layouts. For instance, McKay’s lobby and community room mesh together; therefore, the presence of organizations using the space is stronger.
While it is easy to put the blame on the organizations, I believe this is a problem the school administration should aim to fix. For example, there should be more regulation centered around the types of rooms organizations can reserve and the frequency of their reservations. Perhaps UT should permit that organizations can reserve only non-dormitory rooms such as any of the available classrooms or event rooms like Fletcher Lounge in Plant Hall. Or even allowing organizations to use the outside portion of dorm community rooms, as Roberts mentions, “I’d like to see that in the future the school limits the use of our dorm to clubs to the outside volleyball court and courtyard [in McKay].”
Additionally, UT should consider limiting the frequency that a dormitory community room be requested. For instance, Brevard’s community room could only be requested five times for one semester. Moreover, many of the problems that dormitory tenants are facing are with the groups that hold inclusive and private events such as fraternities and sororities. While these Greek organizations have right to host private events, they should do so in places that will not draw non-member attention. I believe enacting limitations such as these will bring a compromise that dormitory tenants will like.